Originally Published: December 5, 2017 6:02 a.m.
When Chrach (pronounced “crash”) retired after eight years of service as a military working dog (MWD), adopting him out was an unusually contentious matter.
Standard protocol dictates that when an MWD retires, it is without question up to the presiding kennel master at the base the dog is living on to determine where that dog ends up.
But Chrach is special.
Born in the Netherlands, the German shepherd was purchased by the U.S. government out of Germany in a bulk sale.
“That’s where we go to buy all of our dogs,” said Kyle Alltop, who was Chrach’s first military working dog handler. (Handlers are responsible for the care and training of service dogs.)
“Americans have ruined the shepherd,” Alltop said. “[Americans] breed for looks where Germany does a really good job of workability. They want a dog that works, not a dog that’s pretty.”
And Chrach could work. In fact, he was one of the best Luke Air Force Base has ever had.
“We all knew he was one of the best dogs,” said Jessie Keller, another of Chrach’s handlers and the kennel master at Luke AFB when it was Chrach’s time to hang up the leash.
Chrach’s training was in target odor detection (explosives) and patrol (protection).
Throughout his career, Chrach had four deployments to the Middle East with multiple handlers. He did his job well and received the Bronze Star and Combat Action Medal for locating five separate improvised explosive devices totaling more than 170 pounds, and recovering 50 blasting caps that could have been used to make IEDs.
“He was in every bad situation out there,” Keller said.
Chrach had many shorter assignments as well, including providing protection for more than 190 different countries at the United Nations General Assembly 64, and assisting the Secret Service in the protection of President Barrack Obama in Chicago and Vice President Joe Biden in Mexico.
Among his accolades is the 12th annual Animal Hero Award, which he was awarded in 2015.
In addition to saving many lives, Chrach has touched the hearts of many people.
“He’s probably the greatest therapy dog the military ever bought,” Alltop said. “Even when he deployed and found all of the explosives, I would say his main job was keeping the troops happy.”
It was for all of these reasons that Chrach was a hot topic when his retirement came about.
“Everyone and their mom” was asking to take him home with them, Keller said.
A commander on Luke Air Force Base even tried to force the decision so that he would get the dog, but Keller wasn’t having it.
“I was like, no, this is going to a handler,” she said.
The commander went as far as to have Keller get approval from her superiors to make the final decision on who gets Chrach.
“It was a little scary at first,” she said. “I never thought I’d have any issues, because we’ve never had anyone second guess a kennel master before, at least not in my career.”
With approval granted, Keller gave Chrach to Alltop.
“I was going to adopt Chrach, but Kyle was a dear friend of mine and had been begging for Chrach ever since he left Luke,” Keller said.
“Since I gave [Chrach] up in 2011, I never stopped inquiring about him until I got him in 2016,” Alltop said. “[Keller] did a really good job of making sure I got him.”
Alltop now lives in Chino Valley with his wife, two children, and, of course, his good friend Chrach, who recently turned 10 years old.
Many MWDs don’t live past about 11 or 12 because of prevalent medical issues or cancer, Keller said.
“But we’re still hoping Chrach only had a little bit of medical,” Keller said. “His wasn’t as severe as others, so we’re hoping that he’ll have a good retirement and live a lot longer.”