CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. -- A bond made on the field of battle can run deep, especially when it saves lives. Now a former military contractor, Steven Welch is trying to say goodbye to the dog that helped get him through his deployment.
“He saved my life. This dog had an amazing personality. He loved to see everybody.”
All Welch has are old dog toys and memories of his beloved German Shepherd, Benny.
"This is what we would play catch with,” Welch said while pointing to one of Benny’s toys. “At the time, that's all I had left. It was all the memory I had to hang on to."
Welch and Benny bonded while deployed as contract workers in Afghanistan five years ago. The two worked together to detect explosives.
"Walking around with explosives everywhere I wasn't afraid with that dog. I knew he wasn't going to let me down.
Benny proved man’s best friend can also be the difference between life and death.
“After being over there a couple of months, we were out patrolling the area where we search vehicles. He was always right by my side and I turned around and he was lying down. I look down and there's an unexploded motor round sticking up between his paws,” said Welch.
Benny went on to save Welch from another possible life-ending experience. The pair worked together up until 2011, when Steven's contract was over. Benny stayed behind.
That was the last time the two saw each other, until Welch spotted a picture of Benny on Boots & Collars Facebook page last fall. The organization connects handlers with their canines. It started after Rachel Lawson helped to connect her brother Brad O’Keefe with his dog Earl nearly two years ago. Lawson is working with Welch to try and connect him with Benny.
“He was very emotional. He was very attached to his dog. The emotions have been there from the start with Steve, he loves his dog."
Getting the closure Welch so desperately wants isn't coming easy. Both Welch and Boots &Collars have been hit with several roadblocks.
Welch started the Facebook page Saying Goodbye to Benny to help get the word out.
"It's not often we run into a roadblock where we feel so close, but it's just that one last step,” continued Lawson.
The last step is making contact with Benny’s new family, with the hopes Welch will get to say his say last goodbye.
“If he made the same impact he made on mine I can understand them not wanting to give him up. I just want to see him one more time and say goodbye."