Nero, a Belgian Malinois, who is a C.W.D. (Contract Working Dog) who served our country without fail for 7 years in Afghanistan. He was given no breaks, limited medical care and tirelessly assisted with saving lives by detecting mines while on patrol.
Nero worked with multiple handlers, 15 hours a day or more, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for 7 years. Nero was so good at his job that the Afghan's quickly became familiar with Nero and his ability to search out the mines while on patrol that they put a bounty on his head. Thankfully, they failed and Nero lived long enough for retirement with Judie.
Nero's first several months back in the states were a time for recovery and healing from injuries sustained while in Afghanistan. When he first landed in July of 2014 it became obvious to Louisa from Mission K9 Rescue that Nero, at 47 pounds, and a bloating stomach he needed surgery to relieve his bloating stomach immediately, a condition called Gastric Dilation Volvulus.
After recovering from the surgery, Nero was not out of the woods yet for the necessary medical treatment, but he was on his way to his new home in April of 2015 to be cared for and spoiled, as he should be. Judie has had experience with Military and Contract Working Dogs and knew of the stresses their bodies and minds go through; so she immediately began working with Dr. Lisa Elgerd of Timberview Clinic in Gainsville, FL to evaluate Nero's overall mental and physical health.
It was with Dr. Lisa Elgerd that the severity of C.W.D. Nero's medical condition came to light. He had a stretched esophagus that was so bad that it was practically ruined. The vet also pointed out to Judie how Nero's ribs had been broken multiple times over the years. In addition, he had multiple myeloma (a form of bone cancer). Judie's heart sank...she had no idea what this dog had been through, but she wanted to ensure his life with her was far better.
After a couple of months with Judie on medicine to aide digestion, prozac for PTSD and chemo for the cancer, Nero's attitude and confidence came back. Judie continued working with Nero to learn how to care for him mentally and physically based on his direction. Judie said, "With CWD and MWD adoptions, you have to be patient and learn quickly what suites them best." Judie learned that he couldn't eat meat and had to "slurry" his food, which he loved. Judie said "Nero loved blueberries, I'd mix up plain Fage Yogurt (lowest in salt - salt is not good for dogs), blueberries." Judie patiently fed Nero his food while he sat up so gravity could handle the movement through his distressed esophagus. She learned to care for his paws, because he didn't like his paws to be touched, but he would allow his nails to be trimmed by Dr. Elgerd and his feet to be sprayed after being outside (he was allergic to the asphalt and grass).
Nero became a dog who wanted to play, but having worked all his life he really didn't know how. When Judie would get him a toy he'd take the toy and hide it, as he was afraid that it would be taken away. His favorite toy was a stuffed duck, Judie said "while he might destroy all other toys, the duck he'd always make sure was ok and tucked away. These poor babies have done without and coming here is like a big candy store and they want to grab what they can and keep it."
Nero was very sensitive to inflection in voices, and tended to Judie's cat that was blind and terminally ill. Even as a retired Contract Working Dog he was attentive.
Judie got to be with Nero for a year and a half before the difficulties and stress of his war life caught up to him. On their way back home from Georgia, where Nero had some cancer treatment, he began to bleed internally. On their way back home, Judie saw that Nero was in distress and called a 911 operator to arrange quick treatment for him at Warren Robins Animal Hospital in Warren Robins, Georgia. When they arrived at the animal hospital a policeman picked up Nero for the vet to evaluate and these amazing people who Judie and Nero never met before cared for Nero and helped him pass over.
In the end, Judie is uncertain what exactly caused Nero's death but she said if there is one thing she can hold onto is that he didn't go through the pain of bone cancer. "He was able to let go and had a peaceful death compared to what could've happened with bone cancer."
"I'll never get over losing him.... Once you adopt these dogs, they'll follow you from room to room like you are their mission."
God Bless C.W.D. Nero for his service to our Country, Judie for her undying devotion to these service and working animals.
Stephanie Weaver provides memorial portraits to honor working and service animals and their owners at no cost to the owner.