A Relationship Cut Short

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Alexis Pentzer
  • 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

It is on quiet nights, with the echo of hurried footsteps, where trust between team members is built and maintained.


It is a kind of trust that takes a long time to build, especially for military working dogs and their handlers. This is what makes it all the more heartbreaking when such a relationship is lost.


A K-9 assigned to the 9th Security Forces Squadron, MWD Gandy B-449, passed away in early March due to medical complications.


The 9th SFS held a memorial ceremony for Gandy, April 3 here at the Independence Theatre.


Gandy was 2 years old when he was placed in the military working dog program June 2019, at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. He officially started serving early 2020 and joined Team Beale, June 10, 2020. Gandy passed on March 9, 2023, due to mesenteric volvulus, twisting of the bowels.


Gandy and his handler, Staff Sgt. Nicholas Willet, were teammates since the beginning of December 2022. During their short time as partners, Willet’s goal was to create an impenetrable team by establishing trust with each other. That goal was cut short when Gandy began to experience medical complications two weeks before they were set to begin patrolling together.


The day of Gandy’s passing was unexpected. The trainers said that he was behaving normally before showing signs of discomfort in the afternoon when he began vomiting and had difficulty lying down.


The trainers took him to the vet at Travis Air Force Base while Willet, who was on leave, was notified about the situation. At Travis, Gandy was seen for imaging and then moved to UC Davis for surgery where it was discovered that his condition had worsened.


“I was about 45 minutes out when [I got the call] that we’re going to have to put him down,” Willet said. “I wouldn’t have been able to make it in time and that is probably my biggest regret.”


Willet paused for several moments before going on to say how Gandy was only five years old and how he will always keep him in his thoughts.


“They know your quirks and you know their quirks,” Willet said. “It's true, what they say, emotion really does travel down the leash.”


Willet describes how the trust-building process between a handler and their MWD isn't restricted to working hours. The handlers always make sure to include playtime and walks. Even things like grooming and housekeeping around the kennels help to build their relationships. The trust that is built between a K-9 and a handler is crucial to their working relationship.


The sudden passing of a military working dog in service rarely happens. When MWDs pass it is usually after they are retired. Gandy’s passing was a shock to the MWD flight.


The 9th SFS K-9 handlers train their dogs in law enforcement, including how to detect explosives and drugs. It is only through consistent training and having a strong passion and respect for dogs that the handlers are able to cultivate such trust and relationships.