Soldier says goodbye to his best friend, a dog he rescued in Afghanistan

DES MOINES, Iowa — A soldier who brought home a stray dog from Afghanistan recently made the “hardest decision” he has ever had to make by putting down the sick dog, according to a report from KCCI.

Odie, a mixed-breed dog, was one of several strays that would follow National Guard Staff Sgt. Brian Van Fleet and his fellow soldiers during their deployment in Afghanistan.

“They’d come out on patrol with us,” Van Fleet told KCCI. “A lot of times during those stressful situations, a lot of those dogs were right next to us.”

Odie would follow Van Fleet everywhere he went.

“There’s no way to express the type of companionship you have with a dog in a combat zone,” he said. “That dog was part of the team. He was out on patrol with us like anybody else.”

Four years ago, Van Fleet spent thousands of dollars to ship Odie back home to Johnston, Iowa.

“He’s helped me immensely, even more than any therapy could,” Van Fleet said.

Last year, Odie developed a skin rash that quickly spread to his kidneys. Veterinarians were unsuccessful in fighting the infection and Van Fleet made the difficult decision to euthanize his best friend.

Odie was buried at Camp Dodge, headquarters of the Iowa National Guard.

“I was right there holding him,” Van Fleet said. “He was a comfort factor. You know what I mean? He was something familiar that I knew I could trust.”

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