Airman Kyle Smith and his dog, Bodza the German shepherd, had a very special relationship. Bodza was a skilled military dog, but he also shared a special bond with Kyle that was undeniable. Kyle and Bodza were deployed to Kuwait and Kyrgyzstan together and when they finished their tour of duty, Kyle did everything he could to adopt his best friend.
He was finally able to bring him home and they enjoyed an amazing friendship and love over the years that so many pet owners can relate to. When Bodza turned 11, however, Kyle discovered there was something wrong, as the dog was in terrible pain. He found out that Bodza was suffering from an incurable spinal cord condition.
The decision to put the dog down was heartbreaking, of course, as he cradled his dog in his arms, surrounded by his Air Force brothers and loved ones. Kyle wept as he said his goodbyes to Bodza, trying to keep his emotions in check as best he could.
His boss took note of how emotional this moment was and told someone “Get the American flag.” Photos show Bodza, draped under an American flag, when he was paid his final military respects.
Kyle told the Today show: “There’s no way I could’ve walked out and not been with him. I knew it was going to be a roller-coaster of emotions, but I had to be there. I wanted to be there.”
Of his touching send-off, Kyle explained: “For him not to get the proper retirement, I felt like this was special and justified. All these dogs get little to nothing in return, but all they want in life is for you to be there for them and let them know that you love them.”
He added: “Even before he was actually going to sleep, I was holding him, and I was losing it. You know it’s going to happen and you can try to prepare for it, but you know it’s gonna hurt.”
Regarding the painful decision Kyle had to make about ending Bodza’s pain, he said: “I could tell he was going to be in pain and it was starting to really affect his quality of life. I felt like it was the right choice.”
The Today show explained Kyle’s role in training dogs for the military, noting: “Smith is an instructor for military working dogs specializing in ground combat. He trains every Air Force dog team in the continental United States at a center in El Paso, Texas. Bodza was the first dog he worked with after joining the military — he adopted him after the dog retired from military service two years ago.”
Kyle explained how special their relationship was, telling Today: “Bodza was the start of my canine career, so when I look at that photo, I think of every moment from day one.”
Among the many comments on the Inside Edition video about this touching and sad loss were those who were truly moved. Comments included: “Now this goes to show how much we love animals. This is so sweet. I’m sorry for your loss” and “What a wonderful tribute and farewell to a beloved pet! I salute this dog and his owner.”