A U.S. soldier who brought a stray dog home from Afghanistan recently made the heartbreaking decision to put the sick pup down.
"Probably one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make in my life," Iowa National Guard Staff Sgt. Brian Van Fleet told KCCI-TV.
Van Fleet said the mixed-breed dog, Odie, was one of several strays that would follow the soldiers around during their yearlong deployment.
"They'd come out on patrol with us," Van Fleet said. "A lot of times during those stressful situations, a lot of those dogs were right next to us."
Odie, in particular, would not leave Van Fleet alone. "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."
In 2010, Van Fleet paid a few thousand dollars to ship Odie to Johnston, Iowa, where the hound helped him reassimilate.
"He's helped me immensely, even more than any therapy could," Van Fleet said.
But a year ago, Odie developed a skin rash that spread to his kidneys. Veterinarians were unable to fight the infection, and Van Fleet made the difficult decision to euthanize his furry companion.
According to KCCI-TV, Odie was buried at Camp Dodge, headquarters of the Iowa National Guard.
"He was a comfort factor," Van Fleet added. "He was something familiar that I knew I could trust."
- Iowa National Guard