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Base bids farewell to canine cop

81st Training Wing Public Affairs -- The 81st Security Forces Squadron bid farewell to a special team member Tuesday  during a memorial service at Larcher Chapel. 

Bruno, one of Keesler's military working dogs for almost seven years, had to be euthanized July 18 due to a severe debilitating disease of the lower back, according to Staff Sgt. Erik Castro, noncommissioned officer of the 81st SFS military working dog section.

Bruno, a male Belgian malinois, was nearly 11 years old. He was accepted into the military working dog program in 1998 and was certified as a narcotics detector dog and patrol dog the following year at the Department of Defense Working Dog School at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. 

"Bruno used his patrol capabilities to assist area police departments during joint agency training, conducted over 25 dog demonstrations for the local community and distinguished visitors, participated in the annual Halloween goblin patrol and assisted in the apprehension of a barricaded fugitive in base housing," Sergeant Castro said. "He also provided a strong deterrent during numerous police calls which quickly defused once he arrived." 

During a month-long joint effort with customs agents at the Mexican border, Bruno alerted law enforcement personnel on several occasions, resulting in the confiscation of 118 pounds of cocaine and 243 pounds of marijuana being smuggled into the country. 

At Keesler, Bruno found marijuana on 20 occasions and cocaine in three instances. He also participated in several morale searches, courtesy vehicle sweeps, confinement sweeps and more than 200 hours of random searches throughout the base. 

"Bruno was a military working dog, a security forces member and a companion to everyone who had the privilege of controlling his leash," Sergeant Castro explained. "The Department of Veterans Affairs didn't hesitate to give us a flag for him. 

"It will be difficult to enter the facility without seeing Bruno light up with life every time you stood in front of his kennel, knowing his only desire was to keep you safe, obey your commands, and ready to give his life to protect yours," he added. 

Sergeant Castro said Bruno's ashes will be spread over the foundation for the new kennel facility.