War vet reunites with K9 partner: 'He was my best friend'
SEATAC, Wash. -- After five tours in Afghanistan, a retired marine flew home Thursday to a rousing reunion with his very first partner. There was tail wagging, ball throwing and big, sloppy, wet kisses.
"I'm really nervous," former Marine Sgt. Deano Miller said as he waited at Sea-Tac Airport.
He's been waiting four years. Four years to be re-united with Thor, the friend that kept him and his colleagues safe every day of their 2010 tour in Afghanistan.
"I'm just so excited," Miller said. "I didn't think this was ever going to happen."
Thor is an explosives sniffing expert and Miller was his very first handler. Together they led patrols through Afghanistan, usually on point, searching for improvised explosive devices, IEDs. The pair ate together, slept together, patrolled together.
"I love that dog," Miller said.
After they completed that first tour in Afghanistan, Miller came home, but Thor had to go back.
"He was my best friend, he was my everything, I didn't go anywhere without him, and then when I had to leave him I felt like I abandoned him," Miller said.
Thor has done five tours and has had four more handlers after Miller. Now Thor is retired -- he left Afghanistan in October, and flew home Thursday from North Carolina to be re-united with his first partner.
Miller was nearly speechless as Thor walked off the escalator with a volunteer from Mission K9 Rescue, Kathileene Anderson, who brought Thor home. A mass of cameras, people, and the long flight left Thor unable to settle. But after Miller took him for a quick walk outside to a dog-friendly area at the airport he was ready to chase a ball, mouth his favorite stuffed animal and pay attention to his first friend and last home.
Miller and his fiance live in Tacoma with their two other dogs, Tevin, a Siberian Husky and Doug, a yellow lab/golden retriever mix like Thor. Miller's fiancee Tomi Gallegos says they're all ready for him.
"He has his own kennel and food bowl, water bowl, we're not worried about dog beds because they all sleep in our bed anyway," she said.
Volunteer Anderson was tearful at having to leave Thor behind, saying it was an honor to help two heroes reunite.
"I feel like it's a miracle," Anderson said.
The American Humane Association paid for Thor's flight home. The organization estimates that each military working dog saves the lives of approximately 150 to 200 service members.