The bonds that men develop in combat are like no other. They span thousands of miles, multiple generations and are an everlasting sign of brotherhood. As an Army veteran, Alexander Reimer is no stranger to this bond. However, for this war veteran, the pact doesn't end at humanity, it also transcends species.
Alexander first met Howard when they were deployed to Afghanistan in 2012. Howard is a rescue dog that was saved from the Howard County Pound in Indiana and went on to become the first pit bull to be certified by the military as a working dog. Reimer (a former Army specialist) and Howard were members of the 82nd Airborne's TEDD team. TEDD (Tactical Explosive Detector Dog) teams are unlike traditional military working dog teams in that the dogs handlers are normal infantrymen who have undergone training in working with dogs.
During their deployment, Alexander credits Howard with saving numerous lives, including his own. According to Alexander, Howard alerted him to a van full of explosives.
"He saved not only my life, but there were weapons in that van that night that could have been turned on us."
After Alexander's deployment ended, he handed Howard off to another handler who was immediately redeployed with the hero service dog.
Reimer hasn't seen Howard since 2013, but now 2 years after losing touch with him, Alexander has located his former partner. Howard is currently owned by Hoke County NC Sheriff's deputy Deon Fuller, who told WRAL,
"As of right now, I’m saying Howard is my dog and he is home with myself and my family."
Alexander had a friend go to check on Howard and he was disgusted by what he saw. When Howard wasn't locked in a tiny kennel, he was tethered to a tree with only a steel chair and a water dish around him. According to Alexander:
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"Howard was locked up in this kennel with no blanket, food, water or anything. He also had kennel rash, missing hair on his elbows in poor shape and obviously neglected. My friend had snapped some photos that you have seen of his tattoo number and him locked in the kennel with nothing."
Since finding out all of this, Deon has been contacted and offered money to put Howard back with me in a home where he will be loved and spoiled and well taken care of. Deon responded to our offer and pretty much has told me and many others such as Mission K9 Rescue and Operation Releash (non-profit organizations), tough luck and he is providing another type of service now (Therapy Dog), which by the pictures you can see that Howard is not providing this man any type of service and instead is being neglected and not living out a life as a war hero or any dog for that fact should.
Alexander isn't taking this news lying down. In a testament to the dedication and loyalty service members have for one another, Alexander has started a Change.org petition called Bring Howard The War Hero Home. He has also started a Facebook page called Bring Howard Home which has over 24,000 followers to date.
I dream about the times that me and Howard had together. The rough times and the good times. And it's just tough knowing your best friend is out there tied to a tree and not being taken care of to the best of their ability.
Applying the human concept of ownership over any form of life is akin to slavery. These creatures aren't our property, they are our friends and companions and should be treated as such.
Johnny Liberty is a researcher and investigative journalist. You can follow him on twitter @LibertyUnltd