Staff Sergeant Reunites With His Former K-9 Colleague

Nevena Nacic
by Nevena Nacic

A retired military dog named Blek, got reunited with his former colleague Staff Sergeant Thomas Watkins, who used to be his handler at a duty station. 

Blek, who was named after the old English term for “black” or “inky” had quite a reputation among the handlers. Trainers who worked with the canine described him as challenging and tough to manage. 

But everything changed when Blek met Watkins. 

In an interview, Watkins told Good Morning America about his experience meeting Blek for the first time.

“That was the issue that they were having,” said Watkins. “And so my kettle master pulled me in his office and was like, ‘Hey, man, I know you’re a new handler. But I feel like you’re up to this challenge.’”

As the master predicted, Watkins and Blek bonded immediately.

“We just connected right off the bat,” Watkins told the Good Morning America. “We truly understood each other… Another handler was out there with me, and he was like man like, ‘I just never seen this dog be so affectionate towards someone.’”

Since the day they met, their relationship has grown stronger, making them suitable to carry out missions as a team at the station. 

It’s such a beautiful experience, especially when you get a dog that has issues…And then you connect with that dog, and you get that dog to where they need to be. It’s such an awesome and rewarding experience,” explained Watkins. 

“The rest of the two and a half years that I worked [with] him from deployment to secret service missions all over the world, we had no issues whatsoever,” he added. 

Unfortunately, the time Blek spent with his handle ended when Watkins got transferred to another station. Blek was left behind to work with other handlers who found the task challenging. 

According to Carlton Isaacson, a former military dog trainer, things weren’t looking good for Blek.

That’s when Project K-9 Hero got interested in Blek’s case. According to their site, this non-profit organization wants to honor military working dogs and police K-9s in retirement. The organization’s purpose is to provide assistance with medical costs, adoption, rehabilitation, food, and end of duty services to provide the best quality of life and to give these four-legged heroes the retirement they deserve. 

Speaking highly of the non-profit, Isaacson said the project “was a game changer” adding, “They were able to provide him everything that he needed to be safe.”

Thanks to Project K-9 Hero, Watkins was able to adopt his old four-legged friend.

I’m so thankful for those guys out there that they were able to take him and hold him until I got to a place where I can truly take care of him and allow him to just be a dog on his retirement,” said Watkins.

In addition to allowing him to adopt Blek, Project K-9 Hero had another surprise for Watkins - the organization will cover all of Blek’s food and veterinary care costs for the entirety of the dog’s life. 

Talking about his feelings about this special reunion, Watkins said: “I am overwhelmed with happiness. That dog is dear to my heart and he made me the handler and trainer that I am today…It looks like [Blek] hasn’t skipped a beat. He’s happy. He looks healthy and I am just glad to be here right now.”

“I’m so thankful for that dog, and that’s why I’m excited to actually bring him home with me to live out his life.”

It’s heartwarming to see these two heroes reunited and ready to face new adventures together, as a team. 

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Nevena Nacic
Nevena Nacic

Nevena is a freelance writer and a proud mom of Teo, a 17-year-old poodle, and Bob, a rescued grey tabby cat. Since childhood, she had a habit of picking up strays and bringing them home (luckily, her parents didn't know how to say NO). When she's not writing for her fellow pet parents, Nevena can be found watching Teo sleep. To her defense, that's not as creepy as it sounds!

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