A bomb sniffing combat dog named Mike survived two tours of duty in Iraq, which makes it all the more tragic that the nine year old Belgian Malinois was shot to death on US soil.
According to local media reports, Mike escaped from the yard at his home. His owner, retired Army Ranger Matthew Bessler. Bessler is a 20 year veteran who served six tours in Iraq with the 10th Special Forces Group.
A cyclist and concealed carrier claimed that Mike, along with a couple of other off-leash dogs, attacked him as he rode his bike. After trying to fight off the dogs with his bike, the cyclist says he was forced to shoot Mike in self defense.
A neighbor whose window was open at the time never heard barking before the gunshot, something Bessler finds disturbing.
“If Mike were to go toward somebody or feel there was a threat, he would start barking first,” Bessler said, adding that the 2-year-old pitbull-Lab mix had been known to chase some people, but that “that just wasn’t the persona of my dog.”
“If the guy was actually fending the dogs off with a bicycle, (Mike) would have really been barking, and there was no barking. All there was was just a shot. The guests who were at the house, they said the same thing. There was no barking. It was just a gunshot.”
Bessler trained and handled Mike since he was a puppy. After Mike’s second tour in Iraq he stopped responding to some of his training and was diagnosed with canine PTSD. He and Bessler retired to Wyoming where Mike was repurposed as a service dog for Bessler, who was also diagnosed with PTSD.
Bessler is questioning the cyclists story. He has his story,” he told a local newspaper. “I know my dog. I have my story.” Bessler plans to have an autopsy done on Mike to determine more about what happened.
No charges have been filed against the cyclist. “Essentially, if you feel your life is in danger or threatened by an animal, you can act against it,” Park County Sheriff Scott Steward told the Powell Tribune.
Asked to recall memories of Mike, Bessler said only:
“I mean, it’s way too soon. I mean, it’s every time I see him everywhere that I go. Because he was, he was with me almost everywhere I went and he was always playing and he was always … he always wanted to play and everybody loved him. Everybody could pet him.”
Bessler added jokingly, “nobody had problems with him unless they had a ball.”