By Ann Rowland
Thanks to Mission K-9 Rescue, the American Humane Society and the generous donations of private citizens, another service member has been reunited with the military service dog that he had to leave behind in Afghanistan. A whistle and a clap is all it took for Belle, a 3 year old yellow lab to run to U.S. Marine Sgt. Sam Wettstein. The reunion took place Sunday at San Diego’s Lindbergh Field. Now, the void that Sgt. Wettstein has been feeling since leaving Belle behind has been filled.
For seven months Wettstein and Belle worked side-by-side in Afghanistan trained to detect IED’s. Wettstein told NBC7 San Diego “She gives a certain change that I’m supposed to focus on and realize what it is. It’s different for every dog.”
It is estimated that military service dogs like Belle save 200 lives each. However, the bond that is developed between trainer and dog goes both ways. Having Belle gave Sgt. Wettstein someone to focus on and to care about when he was missing his wife and family. “Having that kind of a relationship with a dog, you get this bond,” he said.
Jessica Wettstein, Sam’s wife, is excited to welcome Belle into their family and she is thankful that her husband had Belle with him during his deployment. “Obviously it’s hard not to worry when they are in that kind of situation, but having a companion I think definitely helped,” Jessica told NBC7 San Diego.
Kristin Maurer of Mission K-9 Rescue was there when Wettstein and Belle were reunited and feels strongly that these brave and dedicated dogs deserve to be brought home and reunited with their handlers.
“It’s a beautiful sight. These guys deploy together – they’ve been through something that we will never understand. These dogs protected them day in and day out. They were their battle buddy and vice versa, so they have a deep bond,” Maurer told NBC7.
Sgt. Wettstein and Belle will now spend some time relaxing and getting reacquainted. “I was missing a part of me. I was trying to fill a void and now that void is filled,” Wettstein said.
If you would like to learn more about Mission k-9 Rescue please visit http://missionk9rescue.org/.