North Texas

North Texas Army Veteran Mourns Loss of K-9 Combat Partner

Darrin Beheler and Dino served three tours together in Iraq and Afghanistan

A North Texas Army veteran is mourning the loss of his K-9 combat partner.

The two were deployed together for several tours of duty in the Middle East.

Dino was more than a loving pet and a constant companion for Darrin Beheler of Arlington.

"I just knew he was special," Beheler said.

They were inseparable for 10 years, at home and on the frontline.

"Green Berets are still walking this Earth because of that dog," Beheler said.

The former U.S. Army Special Forces communications sergeant agreed to partner with Dino in 2009 after other handlers turned the dog down.

Dino had a slight aversion to floors, his paws would sometimes slide apart on some surfaces.

"I took him out to the obedience yard one day and started playing catch with him and just doing some basic obedience stuff before we went to school and that was it," he said. "I came in and said, 'He's mine. You guys are crazy.'"

The pair was deployed on three tours of duty to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Belgian Malinois was airborne with the Green Berets, jumping from planes with Beheler into combat zones, clearing the way for troops and detecting possible roadside bombs and other dangers.

"How many people's lives did that save? Hundreds? Soldiers, civilians," Beheler said. "There's 25 to 30 like me that are still around because of what he did."

Dino retired in 2013 after he got hurt in Afghanistan.

He came home to Arlington with Beheler where he trained, but also played and relaxed in the living room.

It was two weeks ago Dino that began to vomit and couldn't keep food down.

Beheler took him to an animal clinic for help.

The 15-year-old had contracted the bacteria infection Leptospirosis, according to Beheler. A closer look also revealed small tumors had formed on his spleen.

Dino lost movement in a leg.

"The last night I knew, 'I can't let him go out like this,'" said Beheler, becoming emotional. "I let him go Friday morning."

But before the final goodbye, one more mission.

"I came home, showered, shaved, put on my military gear," he said.

There was a gesture of honor and gratitude from one soldier to another.

"I put a flag over him," he said. "I just wanted him to feel like he was going into combat one more time."

Beheler said Dino would be cremated, so that when Beheler passes both would receive full military honors together.

"The friendship that you build through combat is one thing, but then you add to it living with the animal until it passes, it's incredible," Beheler said.

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