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Heroic MWD Popeye Reunited with Former Handler in Las Vegas

Last week, American Humane had the honor of bringing home retired Military Working Dog Popeye to his former handler and best friend, U.S. Army veteran Michael Steponovich. The reunion, which took place at The Mirage in Las Vegas, brought together Mr. Steponovich’s friends and coworkers, marking the emotional day with camaraderie.

Mike and Popeye.

Former U.S. Army Specialist Steponovich worked with military K-9s as a dog handler for six years. During his last year-and-a-half of service, he was stationed in Korea where he worked with Popeye. In January, the two were separated, which was hard on both friends. As Mr. Steponovich, who goes by Mike, worked to build the next chapter of his life in Las Vegas, he was informed that Popeye was suffering from severe separation anxiety – chewing at his tail until it had to be docked to prevent infection.

“When I had to leave him, it was really emotional –  you never know when it’s going to be the last time you see your dog,” Mike said of their separation.

Thankfully, Popeye was given the opportunity to retire early and is once again spending his days with his best friend.

“Having him back in my life is going to be absolutely amazing. I am so excited to just show him the area, take him on my adventures, and do stuff here in Vegas,” Mike said after the reunion. “Just having him around day-to-day is going to be amazing.”

American Humane Veterinarian Dr. Lesa Staubus traveled to Las Vegas to ensure Popeye’s health and safety during his journey home. American Humane has worked alongside the U.S. Armed Forces for more than a century. Whenever retired MWDs need assistance getting back home, American Humane is happy to help reunite these brave service dogs with the people who care most about them – their former handlers.

Dr. Lesa Staubus with MWD Popeye.

Retired MWDs often have medical issues stemming from their physical jobs. American Humane works on reunifications and helps provide free specialty and preventative medical care to make retired MWDs as healthy and comfortable as possible during retirement.

To learn more about American Humane’s work alongside the U.S. Armed Forces, and to support our efforts to reunite retired MWDs with their former handlers, visit www.AmericanHumane.org/military.

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