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Family adopts son's military dog: Grieving parents lost son, gained beloved pet

Marines work to clear a rock pile along the road in the Tangi Valley, Wardak province, Afghanistan, March 8, 2009.
Marines work to clear a rock pile along the road in the Tangi Valley, Wardak province, Afghanistan, March 8, 2009.
Wikimedia Commons

A Texas family lost their son, Staff Sgt. Christopher Diaz, in 2011 while the 27-year-old was serving in Afghanistan. Three years later, they gained a small link back to their son – his military dog “Dino”. The bomb-sniffing dog was with the Marine when an IED explosive took his life. Diaz’s parents have now formally adopted Dino after a brief “discharge” ceremony at Camp Pendleton.

According to the Huffington Post, “family members say they hope Dino can help them find solace in the loss of their son, who was killed while coming to the assistance of a wounded fellow Marine. Special exceptions are made for grieving families looking to take in service animals that worked with loved ones lost in war. Dino, described as Diaz's ‘constant companion,’ certainly fit the bill.”

Salvador Diaz and his wife Sandra patiently waited close to three years before they were able to bring Dino to their home. In true military form, the 6-year-old Belgian Malinois was still actively serving. After Dino ended his tour, he needed to pass behavioral tests and be “decommissioned” in order to serve his new role – as a loving family pet and a bond for the Diaz’s to their lost son.

At the discharge ceremony on Saturday, Dino’s service was honored. According to the CBS8.com, a military official said of Dino:

Effective immediately, you are hereby discharged from active duty. And ordered to report to the Diaz family to be placed under their love and care. We wish you fair winds and following seas as you begin your new life with the Diaz family. May you love and protect them, just as you and Staff Sergeant Diaz did for so many young Marines. Semper fi.

“This is something that was with Christopher at the time of his death,” Salvador said. “He doesn’t replace Christopher, but it does give us a little bit of Christopher.”

Today.com carried a photo of Christopher in the field with Dino. The two were assigned together back in 2008, and grew close. Salvador and Sandra now hope to restore that closeness with Dino.

“There’s a little language barrier,” Salvador said. Dino learned to respond to commands in Hebrew, but is working on transitioning back to English. “He’s very affectionate, real rambunctious just like our son, Christopher. He’s playful. He likes a lot of hugs. But if he doesn’t want to do something, he won’t do it. He’s a little stubborn.”

Christopher’s death left two small children without their father – 9-year-old Mia and 8-year-old Jeremy. As you can imagine, the children are eagerly awaiting an upcoming visit to Texas so that they can finally meet Daddy’s four-legged pal.

“They’ve been calling daily to know how Daddy’s dog is,” Salvador said.

Sandra said Dino is fitting right in. “It’s like he has always known us… It’s important to us because it’s not Christopher, but it’s that small link that can make us all together again. I think of my son, who had his fellow comrades, but Dino was there with him. Dino slept with him. He played with Dino, touched Dino, loved him. We were able to hug Dino and say, ‘OK, son, we’ve got him and he’s going to be OK.’”

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