Airmen honor military working dog Aslan

“You were a good boy Aslan, rest easy my friend.”

Aslan was a fitting name for a military working dog at Malmstrom Air Force Base.

“He looked just like the lion,” said Senior Airman Keith Retuyan, Aslan’s handler since February. He was referring to Aslan the lion in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia.

Aslan, 8, was euthanized on May 29 when his health failed and on Friday, the Malmstrom security forces community honored their fellow airman. For his years of service, Aslan received full military honors.

Retuyan, 25, completed the military working dog course on Feb. 8 and was assigned to Aslan.

Despite the seriousness of the job, Aslan was very playful, a “huge goofball,” Retuya said. “He was 8 years old and veer really realized how to run with his big paws.”

Aslan loved to work and loved to play.

“With me being a newer handler, he made the job that much easier,” Retuyan said.

Very few truly understand the bond between a working dog and handler, Retuyan said, and during Friday’s ceremony he choked back a few tears.

Coming into the job, Retuyan knew Aslan had a stomach ulcer that had been operated on during the winter months. He knew he’d be Aslan’s caretaker.

The German Shepherd needed special food, medicine and bathing to keep his surgical wounds clean. But then he started throwing up a lot and declining rapidly.

“The very last time we went to the vet, I had a feeling, I had a sense,” Retuyan said. “He wasn’t Aslan anymore”

When the decision was made to end Aslan’s misery, it was “very, very difficult,” Retuyan said. “It was probably one of the hardest things of my military career.”

All of the dog handlers and other members of the unit came to say their goodbyes to Aslan. “We all had a moment with Aslan,” Retuyan said.
Retuyan and Staff Sgt. Jordan Caldwell escorted Aslan to Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota for a necropsy. Caldwell is the 341st Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler instructor.

The other dogs in the kennel have noticed the loss as well.

Retuyan said they seemed more lethargic and it used to be that Aslan would howl with the first nibble of food hit the bowl, but now that familiar sound is missing.

Suzy, his former kennel neighbor, seems mopier like she understands what’s happened, Retuyan said.

At 8 and 9 respectively, Aslan and Suzy were the senior dogs in the kennel.

“The dog is going to love you more than it loves itself,” Retuyan said. “They love you more than anything.”

The loss is certainly felt, but Retuyan said it’s been heartwarming to see the support and kind responses to Aslan’s passing.

Aslan was a single purpose, explosives detection dog and had one of the strongest bites in the kennel, Retuyan said. During exercises, he’d find everything the trainers planted.

Aslan was born Jan. 6, 2008 in Germany and entered training in 2009 at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. He was assigned to the 341st SFS in 2010 and performed more than 9,500 hours to installation security, while also serving the state of Montana with more than 25 responses to bomb threats and a deployment to Iraq. Aslan also supported federal and local law enforcement agencies throughout the country in explosive detection missions supporting presidential, foreign and domestic dignitaries, according to the Air Force.

Retuyan said if he could describe Aslan in one word, it would be happy.

“I’m just happy he’s not suffering anymore. Aslan never saved my life in a real world situation, but he definitely touched my life,” Retuyan said.

“I’m honored to have him as my partner, especially his last one,”Retuyan said. “You were a good boy Aslan, rest easy my friend.”