Soldiers say goodbye to K9 hero by draping him with American flag

Bodza, an 11-year-old German Shepherd, led a full and important life, and his warriors will never forget him. He served in the United States Air Force as a bomb detection dog, assisting soldiers in Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, and Kuwait. The devoted dog risked his life numerous times to ensure the safety of American soldiers. And his unflinching efforts will never be forgotten.

When he succumbed to his sickness, he received a hero’s farewell!

Bozda had a special relationship with one particular soldier. Alex Smith is his given name. Since 2012, the two have collaborated. And they formed a close friendship following a security deployment in Kyrgyzstan.

“I enjoyed working with him because he taught me a lot – patience as a rookie handler and how to recognize that this profession is not solely about you,” Smith told The Dodo.

“Bodza was an endearing and kind dog,” Smith remarked. “We had horse stables directly adjacent to our obedience yard, and no obedience could be performed while [the horses] were out. He’d continuously run the fence line.”

Unfortunately, the courageous dog was diagnosed with a terrible spine condition in 2016. “His hind limbs ceased to function, and he could barely stand, let alone walk,” Smith explained. “He was unable to cope with the strain on his body, and using the lavatory was a chore.”

Smith brought Bodza to a facility in El Paso, Texas, where he is now employed as a military dog handler. He was greeted there by other soldiers who had previously worked with the obedient K9. It was time to say good-bye to Bodza.

“I had Bodza in my arms when he passed,” Smith explained. “It was a whirlwind of events. It was simply insurmountable.”

“He was smiling as he was put to sleep,” he continued.

All those there recognized that Bozda deserved a hero’s farewell in his current state. As a result, they’ve decided to drape an American flag around the dog’s torso.

And the image of the soldiers giving their final farewells to this beloved military dog quickly went viral. And it’s not without justification. Bodzi’s story will impact not only K9 handlers who have worked with dogs overseas, but also all animal lovers and real Americans everywhere.

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10 Mental & Physical Health Benefits of Having Pets

Pets are family members. Like humans, they need love, health care, and attention. But pet parents’ relationships with their pets are not one sided. Pets give so much back in return, improving the health of our minds, bodies, and hearts.

The benefits of having pets are plentiful — and scientifically proven. Pets help their humans live longer, happier, and healthier lives mentally and physically. The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) gathers the latest information on the positive health effects of companion animals. These researchers help make the case for adding a pet to a household.

From reducing the risk of heart attacks to alleviating loneliness, these furry family members are contributing to healthy communities.

Let’s talk about those benefits.

Better Mental Health

Pets can contribute to positive mental health through emotional work and practical work. The emotional work can be described as alleviating worries, stress, and depression. You may have noticed that your pet wastes no time noticing and springing into action when you are upset or sad. Their intuition is what makes them great support and therapy animals, and animal-assisted therapy is effective in treating PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

Then there’s the practical work that comes with caring for a pet. This means making sure their individual needs are met. Developing a daily routine of walks and feeding times can help pet parents with mental health conditions feel a sense of purpose that affects other areas of their lives.

The Data: Pets and Mental Health

A 2016 HABRI study explored the role of pets in the social networks of people managing a long‑term mental health problem.

  • Pets were found to contribute to a stronger sense of identity in pet owners with mental health conditions, including reducing negative perceptions of a mental health condition or diagnosis.
  • Pets provide a sense of security and routine in the relationship, which reinforces stable cognition.
  • Pets provide a distraction and disruption from distressing symptoms, such as hearing voices, suicidal thoughts, rumination, and facilitating routine and exercise for those who care for them.

Better Physical Health

Every little bit counts when it comes to physical health benefits, and those daily walks really add up for dog owners. Since they are more likely to meet the criteria for regular moderate exercise, dog parents have lower instances of obesity.

Your heart is one of the biggest spots to see the full benefits of pet ownership. Just the presence of animals has significant impacts on blood pressure, with pet owners having a lower resting blood pressure than people without pet babies.

Cat parents aren’t left out of the healthy heart race. A feline friend in your home reduces your risk of death due to cardiovascular diseases, including stroke and heart attacks. According to the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), people without cats have a 40% higher relative risk of heart attack than non‑cat owners.

The Data: Pets and Physical Health

  • Approximately 60% of dog walkers met the criteria for regular moderate and/or vigorous leisure‑time physical activity compared with about 45% for non‑dog owners and dog owners who did not walk their dog in a 2005 Michigan Behavioral Risk Factor Survey.
  • In a study of adults over the age of 50 with mildly elevated blood pressure, the presence of a pet dog or cat had a significant impact on blood pressure, with dog ownership being associated with lower diastolic and systolic blood pressure compared to people who did not own pets.
  • A study of over 2,400 cat owners concluded there was a significantly lower relative risk for death due to cardiovascular diseases, including stroke and heart attack, compared to non‑owners during a 20‑year follow‑up.

Healthier Aging Process

Research has shown that older adults get social and emotional support from their pets that combats loneliness and depression. Aside from promoting exercise and reducing stress, pets also assist in the treatment of long‑term diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Pet companionship is also key for hospital and cancer patients. When coupled with animal-assisted activities, pets help patients with pain management and in interactions with doctors and nurses. Those patients also responded better to treatments and reported improvements in their quality of life.

The Data: Pets and Aging

  • Results of a study of older adults who live alone suggest that pet ownership may act as a buffer against loneliness.
  • Results of a one-year study that examined the impact of animal‑assisted therapy (AAT) on patients with chronic pain demonstrated that, following AAT, patients reported reduced pain, discomfort, and stress. Additionally, stress among nursing staff was found to decrease significantly following AAT.
  • A study of older adults with mental illness living in long‑term care facilities concluded that AAT reduced depressive symptoms and improved cognitive function.

When we look at the data on mental health, physical health, and aging, it’s clear that pets contribute much to people’s lives in these areas, as well as being the loving companions we’ve always known they are.