An army veteran wants a military funeral for his dog, and it seems like he is going to get it.
Matthew Bressler, a 43-year-old veteran who served twice in Iraq, returned to his home after a hunting trip to find Mike, a 9-year-old Belgian Malinois, killed by a gunshot wound to his head. On further investigation, Matthew found out that his bomb-sniffing dog, who had also served with the U.S. Army as part of the Special Operations Forces, was killed by a cyclist who perceived the dog as a threat.
And now, Matthew wants to give Mike a funeral with military honors, and press a case against the cyclist for wrongful use of force. Referring to the defense provided by the 59-year-old cyclist that the dog was overly aggressive, the retired Staff Sergeant said Mike could not have hurt anyone unless force was used to intimidate him.
“He has his story, I have mine. I know my dog. I would like to take a civil avenue to go after him — the gentleman that shot him — because Mike was a retired military officer.”
The Park County Sheriff’s Office has not cited the 59-year-old cyclist, who emerged unscathed from the encounter, for any wrongdoing, according to the Powell Tribune.
Matthew’s encounter with Mike happened during his first stint in Iraq, where the young dog was being trained for the arduous job ahead. Still a puppy, he was looked after by Matthew and underwent rigorous training regimens to become a commanding combat dog. In the years to follow, Mike would go on to earn himself two Bronze Stars for the services rendered to the U.S. Army, and Matthew worked with him for almost the entirety of his second stint in Iraq.
In fact, it was Mike who rescued his army ranger friend’s life once. When Bressler came back after serving his term in the Army, the Powell-born man began noticing symptoms that did not bode well for his mental health. He would get anxious often enough and react emotionally at the most trivial of moments. Later, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and it was then that his combat-turned-service dog returned to the country, and began helping his owner fight against symptoms of PTSD at home, according to Mail Online.
Iraq Bronze Star combat dog is shot and killed by bicyclist in Wyoming http://t.co/yGvBCf3g0o
— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) October 17, 2015
Speaking about his relationship with Mike to the Billings Gazette, Bressler emphasized the importance of his relationship with his canine.
“I raised him and trained him as a puppy, and the ability he has to sense some of the issues that I have with seizures, with my PTSD, my TBI (traumatic brain injury) and severe anxiety disorders, how he can calm me down just by him being in my presence. He can help take the focus and help change the focus of what’s going on with me and help me calm down or relax me.”
But that’s not all. Convinced that his dog is not deserving of such an ignominious death, Mike decided to give Mike a funeral with military honors. While some of his peers laughed at the idea, there were plenty more who would support him. One of them set up a GoFundMe page, titled “RIP Major Mike – Hero Service Dog,” asking canine lovers all over the world to raise the $10,000 Mike would need for a military funeral. As of now, it has already garnered more than $12,000 in the five days it has been online. An extract from the page reads as follows.
“We are a community coming together to mourn the loss of a brave military service dog who deserves the honor to be laid to rest with a military funeral and burial…. Please help us fund a funeral that will do this military war veteran the respect he deserves.”
It still remains to be seen if the army man can, indeed, get his dog a military funeral, but canine-lovers all over the world have certainly done all they can to make Bressler’s job easier.