This Hero Dog Survived Two Tours. Then When He Died His Partner Could Barely Contain His Tears

As any pet owner knows, the bond we have with our animal companions can be a powerful emotive force. But when it comes to working dogs that have been responsible for saving your life as well as the lives of countless others, the owner-animal relationship takes on a whole new importance.

Meet Rico, a heroic canine who served with the U.S. military as part of the Marine Corps for a number of years. Dogs like Rico have been patriotically serving their country since long before the Second World War, when such service was officially recognized.

Even with the technology we have today, a dog’s sense of smell is still more accurate. And so German Shepherds like Rico are often trained to detect bombs, weapons, gasses and drugs for the military. In addition, military dogs may also be taught how to track and attack the enemy for use in combat.

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While some 2,500 dogs serve the U.S. military today, Rico was part of about 700 chosen to serve abroad. Indeed, Rico served two tours in Afghanistan where “dogs are among our most effective counter measures against terrorists and explosives,” said Dr. Stewart Hilliard, chief of military war dog evaluation and training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

While oversees, Rico lived through more than 30 firefights with the enemy and worked hard to protect his wartime partner, Marine Staff Sgt. Russ Beckley Jr. “There was not a moment when it wasn’t his mission or his goal to be by my side. I was everything to him, and he was everything to me,” reported Beckley Jr.

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Indeed, as partners and individually both Rico and Beckley Jr. enjoyed extremely successful military careers. Rico served in over 240 missions, while Beckley Jr. – who was injured in combat – was awarded the Purple Heart in 2011 for his bravery.

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And because of their incredibly deep bond, when the pair returned home from war Beckley Jr. made sure that Rico would be available to visit during family reunions between missions. Then, during his retirement, the dedicated doggy went to live with Beckley Jr.’s parents Tammy and Russ Beckley Sr., in Saugatuck, Michigan.

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That was in 2012. Four years later, in 2016, Rico was 12-years-old and beginning to feel his age dragging down on him. And so Beckley Jr. made a point of coming home to see his faithful four-legged friend after a year apart.

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The pair enjoyed a loving reunion, full of heartfelt cuddles. But, with Rico now in such ill health, the Beckley family made the tough decision to have the heroic canine put down. But, before they did so, they made time for one final goodbye.

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Treating the patriotic canine with the respect he so deserved, the family shared their heartbreaking final words for Rico in front of large crowd of people outside their home. “For a time we were unbeatable, nothing passed among us undetected,” Beckley Jr. began, as a weary Rico laid by his feet.

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Following speeches from both Beckley Jr. and Beckley Sr., Rico followed them both back inside the house. It was then that the dog peacefully slipped away while surrounded by the loving support of his family.

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“Mainly I was thinking about how loyal he was to our family. To my son. To myself. And to our country. He just kinda melted into my arms and we had a very nice goodbye,” reported Beckley Sr.

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“I thanked Rico. For everything that he’s done for me. And I told him that I loved him,” added Beckley Jr. And the heartwarming tributes didn’t stop there. The family also arranged for Rico to have a proper military funeral.

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The send off was important to the Beckley family, which has a long tradition of serving in the Marine Corps. Indeed, four generations of Beckleys have served in the Marine Corp, or five if you include valiant Rico.

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As the family lowered the American flag to half mast, a crowd of grateful onlookers paid their respects. A homemade memorial for Rico served as a reminder of his life spent serving his country with honor.

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Then wearing their dress blue Marine uniforms, Beckley Sr. and Beckley Jr. carried Rico’s coffin out of the house. In true military fashion, they draped an American flag over the tiny casket as a mark of respect.

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Although the day was clearly hard on Beckley Jr. and his family, the soldier was able to find some comfort in the thought that when his time comes they will all be reunited. “I can just imagine one day, seeing my great grandfather, my grandfather, my father and my mother, standing there with Rico. And we will all be together again,” he said.

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As Beckley Jr. chatted to reporters, his voice wobbled and his eyes welled up with tears. It was clear to see the impact of loosing Rico and how much he loved and respected his loyal dog.

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Beckley Sr. described Rico as “one of the best things that ever happened to [him].” He also honored the dog for looking after his son in Afghanistan. “He was there when I couldn’t be,” he said. “He made an incredible impact on our lives.”

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Following the emotional service, the family drove 38 miles to the city of Grand Rapids, where Rico was cremated. The Beckleys have since revealed that they plan to find a special place in their home for his ashes – somewhere Rico will never be forgotten.

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