A Veteran Adopts the K9 He Served with in Afghanistan

Deborah Hansen Contributor
A Veteran Adopts the K9 He Served with in Afghanistan
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Serving in the military requires discipline, persistence, and patience. All three of these traits were recently on full display by U.S. Army veteran Joe Steenbeke when he and his fiancée, Stephanie, started the process to adopt Tess, another veteran, albeit a furrier one, from time served together in Afghanistan.

The backstory goes a little something like this. Tess, a Belgian Malinois, and Joe, his handler, spent a year together in the Middle East with the Tactical Explosive Detective Dog program. They were so devoted to each other that Joe had Tess’s ID number tattooed on his arm. After serving overseas both Tess and Joe returned home to the United States. Tess had to report for duty once more on the home front with the Connecticut National Guard. Ultimately, however, the special canine retired earlier this year.

Throughout the process, Joe was trying to figure out a way to reunite with Tess by adopting her. Although the K9 adoption process may seem straightforward, it was anything but that. It took mountains of paperwork, unwavering persistence, nearly 6 years of patience, and assistance from U. S. Representative Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.). Ultimately the motion was passed. Joe and his now-wife Stephanie traveled to Newtown, Connecticut to pick up Tess and take her to their home in Culver, Indiana in early February to meet her new family.

“I’m just happy to have her back,” Joe said. “Of course, she’s going to think she’s still working. Just like veterans that have to transition into civilian life. If you can call it that for her.” As she settles into her new life, she will have Joe’s cat, Onyx, and fellow K9, Wyatt, to make her feel at home, at least until baby Steenbeke arrives later this month.

At the end of February, Joe told Tag The Flag how Tess is adapting to her new life of leisure. “Tess is doing amazing! She is getting along with our house very well. She is already best buddies with Wyatt. She still loves to play and horse around,” Joe said. “The only mission she is on is searching for a good indestructible toy, because she is still able to destroy toys very quickly. She loves spending time with my wife Stephanie and cuddling with both of us in bed.” From all of us at Tag The Flag, happy K9 Veterans Day. We salute both Joe and Tess for their service to our country.

Cover Photo: South Bend Tribune