After five years of trying, an Indiana veteran has been reunited with his military dog.
Joe Steenbeke, 28, found out Jan. 23 that adoption papers had been approved for Tess, an 11-year-old Belgian Malinois, WXIN reported.
Steenbeek is a former Army tactical explosive detector dog handler, and he was paired with Tess, his bomb-sniffing partner, in Afghanistan, from May 2012 to February 2013, the television station reported.
Steenbeke got the news from U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., by cellphone.
“I had to stop, catch my breath and sit down a minute,” Steenbeke told the South Bend Tribune. “That dog can still make me emotional at the drop of a hat.”
Steenbeke suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, but he fondly recalls his time with Tess.
“Not being with her, I feel like I am constantly going through a huge emotional roller coaster,” Steenbeke told the Tribune. “I feel like it’s a part of me missing because I don’t have her around.”
Walorski’s spokesman, Jack Morrissey, told the Tribune that her office contacted officials with the U.S. Air Force who run the Military Working Dog Program to “put the Steenbekes on their radar, make sure the proper documentation and paperwork got to the right people.”
Steenbeke became the golf coach at Ancilla College in July, the newspaper reported. While the effects of PTSD continue to be an issue, Steenbeke is comforted by the idea that his best friend in the military has returned.
“She’s already helped me so much,” Steenbeke told the Tribune. “And she hasn’t been here.”