Soldiers of the 92nd Security Forces Squadron at Fairchild Air Force Base paid their respects Thursday to one of their own.
Lucky, a military working dog, survived five tours of duty in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan.
He succumbed to cancer last September at age 10, surviving two previous diagnoses of the disease.
Several dozen service members gathered for a morning memorial service in the base community center.
An orange box with Lucky’s ashes sat next to his portrait atop a travel kennel.
Maj. Garon Shelton, squadron commander, said Lucky saved countless service personnel, sniffing out explosives and securing their missions.
Lucky had a reputation as the hardest-hitting among the seven to eight dogs stationed at Fairchild. “He could take anyone down to the ground,” Shelton said during the service.
He became a media star following his survival from two previous bouts of cancer and received a Hometown Heroes award from the American Red Cross in 2010.
He was in Kyrgyzstan completing his fifth tour when his latest handler, Staff Sgt. Chris Fall, discovered a new tumor on his rear left leg last Aug. 20, five days before their return to Fairchild.
The tumor grew quickly. Lucky was moved to a veterinary center at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, where he died Sept. 30, Fall said.
“It was pretty tough,” Fall said of Lucky’s death, acknowledging the close relationship between military working dogs and soldiers.
“He’s in doggie heaven,” Fall said. “He’s probably running around all day eating doggie bones.”
A Belgian Malinois, Lucky was known for his keen nose and no-nonsense tenacity. The dog was cool under fire and could close on a fleeing suspect with a burst of speed, traits that run deep in this favored sheepdog breed.
Lucky underwent training at age 1 at the Department of Defense Military Working Dog School at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
Military dogs train throughout their careers with their handlers.
Lucky arrived at Fairchild in July 2003 and worked with nine handlers during his career.
In 2008, Lucky sniffed out an explosive device fastened to a generator at a forward base in Afghanistan, averting potential disaster.
In another incident, Lucky and a squad of soldiers survived an improvised bomb attack on a road in Iraq.
During his time at Fairchild, Lucky provided protection for presidential, vice presidential and congressional visits. Lucky was also called out on 31 emergency events locally, including bomb threats.
The soldiers said Lucky, like other military working dogs, was absolutely fearless and would sacrifice his life for them.
At Fairchild, Lucky befriended a female Malinois, Dakota, who was at Lucky’s memorial service. She was described as Lucky’s girlfriend.
All of the working dogs are recognized when their careers end, either through a retirement ceremony or a memorial if they die on duty.
During the service, Chaplain Capt. Craig Nakagawa said, “This dog was capable of love and therefore had a soul.”
Sadly, Major Shelton said, cancer was the “final and only battle he would lose.”