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Kirtland salutes four-legged hero

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Col. Ted Brueker, 377th Security Forces Group commander at Kirtland Air Force Base, pins a medal on military working dog Boris during a retirement ceremony Tuesday. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

The military retirement ceremony at Kirtland Air Force Base had just about everything one would expect for a hero leaving the service.

The commanding officers were there. The retiree was presented with a badge and certificates from President Donald Trump and the chief staff sergeant of the Air Force. The retiree’s peers were there.

But the retirement ceremony at Hardin Field on Tuesday afternoon wasn’t for an airman.

It was for a 9-year-old German Shepherd named Boris.

Col. Ted Brueker, 377th Security Forces Group commander, told those attending that a retirement ceremony for a military working dog may seem odd.

But the honoree was no ordinary dog.

Brueker said Boris, who began as a military working dog at Kirtland in August 2011 after being born in the Netherlands, had more than 85 drug finds.

“That’s more than 10 a year,” Brueker said. “That’s pretty significant.”

Senior Airman Shane Black transmits the final call for military working dog Boris during the retirement ceremony at Kirtland Air Force Base. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Former handler Staff Sgt. Austin Clark said Boris loved hunting drugs.

“He loved marijuana. But I don’t think he’s going to be smelling it anymore,” Clark said.

Clark was his handler for 17 of the drug finds during their two years together.

“Some dogs take off like a shot when they’re searching for drugs or narcotics, based on their training,” Brueker said. “We think the secret to his success is that he’s always been deliberate and methodical in his approach.”

Senior Airman Pablo Gonzalez said Boris has been responsible for stopping 48 security breaches at the base. He also deployed to Afghanistan in 2012.

“Boris worked eight years straight. That’s a lot longer than most dogs work, especially with the heat illnesses he had,” said Senior Airman Shane Black, his last handler.

Boris will be living with Clark now that he’s retired.

Boris is retiring because of health reasons. Black said Boris had mouth cancer and fully recovered from it. But Boris suffered from heat-related illnesses, which began to affect his work.

“His endurance has been definitely compromised,” Brueker said. “Finally, his kidneys are just wearing out. It’s time to let him just enjoy the years he’s got left. He’s earned it.”