A decorated combat dog survived two tours in Iraq only to be shot dead by a bicyclist outside a small town in Wyoming. The bicyclist claims that he felt threatened by the animal, but the owner of the decorated combat dog doesn’t believe his story.
Local news outlet the Powell Tribune reports that the incident occurred outside Powell, Wyoming. The dog, a 10-year-old Belgian Malinois, was left with a friend while owner Matthew Bessler was on a hunting trip. During that time, a bicyclist claims that Mike attacked him.
According to the bicyclist, he fired a single round of bird shot at the dog when he would not back down.
The Powell Tribune reports that the dog was named Mike and held the rank of major in the U.S. Army at the time of his retirement. Mike served two tours in Iraq as a bomb-sniffing dog and retired to Powell, Wyoming, with his trainer and owner, Matthew Bessler, also an Army vet.
Together, Bessler and Mike earned two bronze stars, according to a U.S. Army profile written about them last July.
According to the profile, both Mike and Bessler were left with PTSD from their combat experiences. Mike was once given Prozac to calm his nerves while still in combat in Iraq, but the dog continued to suffer from anxiety and was easily distracted.
Bessler told the Powell Tribune that the dog was effectively left with no teeth after years of “chewing on rocks out of anxiety.”
Although the bicyclist that shot Mike claimed that the retired combat dog was aggressively coming after him, Bessler doesn’t buy the man’s story.
The bicyclist originally claimed that he had been attacked by a pack of dogs. However, Park County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lance Mathess indicated that there was no pack of dogs. Several dogs “came near” the bicyclist prior to the shooting, but that “only Mike threatened him.”
While the bicyclist claimed that the decorated combat dog came after him and wouldn’t back down, the Powell Tribune reports that the dog was shot in the rear.
“In my mind, it’s inconsistent with a dog that’s attacking somebody,” Bessler told the Powell Tribune.
“Essentially, if you feel your life is in danger or threatened by an animal, you can act against it.”
Whatever actually transpired that day, Bessler has said that he just wants an apology out of the bicyclist and a military funeral for his dog.
“If it went down the way the guy said it did, then so be it,” Bessler told the Powell Tribune. “But I’m disgusted with the fact that the guy hasn’t even shown his face to say, ‘I’m sorry this happened.'”
In the interest of providing a military funeral for the decorated combat dog, a GoFundMe campaign has been set up. According to the campaign page, any additional donations not required for funeral expenses will be donated to a program that supports military vets.
“Major Mike is a former military combat dog that had served two tours of duty in Iraq. Please help us fund a funeral that will do this military war veteran the respect he deserves.”
The campaign has managed to raise nearly $8,000 against a $10,000 goal in three days.
Do you think the bicyclist was in the right when he shot the decorated combat dog, in light of the fact that Mike’s injuries indicate that he was facing away at the time?
[Photos courtesy Matthew Bessler/U.S. Army]