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Once the Belgian Malinois adapted to life outside of the Army, he became a much-loved family member.
When Stephanie Brunkow met Jordy, she didn’t see a loving, patient, and kind family dog. What she saw was a retiring soldier with a stern look in his eyes who didn’t seem like he wanted to leave military life behind.
“It just made my stomach drop. I’ve never been looked at that way by an animal,” Brunkow recalls. “He was really sizing me up.”
It was October 2014, and Brunkow and her husband Corey — a soldier himself — had been talking about adopting a retiring Army dog since the death of their beloved Blue Heeler, Jessie, 10 months earlier. As a military spouse, Brunkow considered it an honor to welcome Jordy into her home. She knew this tough soldier dog had put his life on the line for his country and for families like hers — but she wasn’t sure he’d ever be capable of being a part of her family the way that Jessie had been.
As Brunkow introduced herself to Jordy, the then 8-year-old Belgian Malinois continued to evaluate her while sitting obediently at her husband’s side. Although they hadn’t served together, both Corey and Jordy were with the 75th Ranger Regiment, a special operations unit of the U.S. Army. Between 2009 and 2014, Jordy did multiple tours of Iraq and Afghanistan. At the time of his retirement, it was clear this dog was more comfortable around soldiers than civilians.
“I think he didn’t know quite what to do with an emotional being,” says Brunkow, who in turn didn’t quite know how to relate to Jordy. “I’ve never been in the army, so it’s hard to have that frame of reference.”
Brunkow wanted to give Jordy the retirement he deserved, but she wasn’t sure how he would react to family life after spending all those years in military kennels. For safety’s sake, Brunkow made new rules for her then then 5-year-old daughter, Savannah, including a moratorium on running in the house. The dog also got his own list of restrictions.
“I had this list of ‘nevers’ that I’m so ashamed I put on him,” she explains. “Like, we’ll never be able to leave him alone with our child. We’ll never be able to leave him loose in the house. We’ll never be able to leave him loose when there’s a babysitter.”
It wasn’t that Jordy was aggressive, it was that he was having trouble adapting to life after the Army. He didn’t like being left alone with Brunkow, and would pop up and pace around if her husband even went out to the garage. Jordy needed his soldier, and thankfully, Brunkow’s husband was able to take the dog to work with him so that he could spend his days in an environment he was used to. Nights, however, were a different story.
“He had nightmares for about nine months after we got him. He would just cry and growl,” Brunkow remembers.
His nights might have been scary, but eventually, Jordy found that his days really weren’t. He pleasantly surprised Brunkow with how well he dealt with things that other dogs would find threatening. During one of their first walks together, an approaching Cocker Spaniel broke free from his human companion and attacked Jordy. Brunkow froze, afraid that her bigger dog would hurt his little attacker.
“I just held my breath — and he didn’t do anything,” she says, recalling how Jordy remained calm and collected, even as the attacking dog’s handler yelled and untangled the Cocker’s leash from around Jordy’s legs.
Over time, more of these moments added up, and Brunkow began to trust Jordy. As her confidence in him increased, the soldier dog began to show his softer side and learned to appreciate retirement. He started spending more time at home with Brunkow, who now brings him to the barn where her horse and her daughter’s pony live.
“He watches the cattle and the chickens run around,” she says, adding that Jordy also enjoys hours long walks through the hayfield.
“In fact, now if my husband wants to take him to work, we kind of have to drag him a little. He wants to stay with me because he knows he’ll get to go to the barn.”
These days, Jordy is sleeping soundly. His nightmares have disappeared, and he’s happy to cuddle up to now 6-year-old Savannah and drift off to doggy dreamland while she reads a story.
“He has been able to come all the way home — which is a struggle for our soldiers after so many years of war, to come home, leave it behind, and move on with their lives,” says Brunkow.
The next part of Jordy’s journey isn’t psychological — it’s physical. During a trip to the vet for some paw sores that weren’t healing, Brunkow advised Jordy’s doctor that she’d noticed some changes in a bump on his rear end. Tests revealed it was cancerous and will need to be removed, but the surgery is expensive — close to $1,400 — so the family set up a GoFundMe campaign that quickly reached its goal.
“Words cannot even describe how thankful we are. These dogs are classified as equipment, so when they’re released from the Army, there isn’t any help for their medical costs that comes from the government.”
Thanks to all his supporters, Jordy’s next mission is one of healing. At his age, he may no longer be valuable as a soldier, but he’s still a hero to many — especially his family. When Brunkow first met Jordy, she saw a tough canine soldier who was a legend in the military kennels, but now, she sees a loving dog who is a legend in her daughter’s life.
“He’s just awe inspiring,” she says.
Heather is a wife, new mom, and former TV journalist in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. You can follow Heather on Twitter and Google+.
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