Retired combat veteran dog buried with military honors after being shot to death

Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Bessler receives an American flag during a Nov. 11 memorial service for his dog that served with him in Iraq and then as a service dog after the two were discharged in Powell, Wyo. (Photo: Carla Wensky/The Powell Tribune via AP)

A former dog was remembered as loyal and brave as it was buried with honors after it was shot and killed by a bicyclist who said the animal had attacked him.

The ceremony on Wednesday in Powell, WY commemorated the life and service of Michael, a 9-year-old Belgian Malinois that reached the rank of major in the U.S. for his work sniffing out explosive devices in Iraq with his handler, Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Bessler of Powell.

Michael later became Bessler’s service animal after the two were discharged and helped Bessler deal with injuries from his service.

Bessler spoke of the dog during the ceremony as his “brother, protector, co-pilot and best friend,” the Powell Tribune reported.

Bessler said the dog was loyal, heroic, intelligent, personable, brave, resilient and dedicated.

Michael was shot by the bicyclist on Oct. 10 on a country road near Bessler’s rural home.

Matthew Bessler

The bicyclist said he felt bad that Michael had died but insisted he had acted in self-defense after Michael got out of his fenced yard and attacked him.

The Park County Sheriff’s concluded the facts supported the cyclist’s account.

About 100 people attended the memorial service.

The Rev. Megan Nickles of St. John’s Episcopal Church said the dog knew Bessler better than anyone.

“They lived, slept and worked together in a powerful partnership, serving their country, their , their special forces and their brothers in arms,” Nickles said. “The work Mike did with Matt spared countless lives.”

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