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Posted: July 13, 2017 2:26 p.m.
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MWD Sam gets new home with old friend

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Staff Sgt. Candelaria Rivero and Sam outside a weapons cache they discovered in Afghanistan.

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In September of 2013 Staff Sgt. Candelaria Rivero completed the specialized search dog course at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas; home of the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Program.

Rivero was then assigned the military working dog - named Sam; who at the time was a four year old specialized search dog.

Dogs like Sam were meant for off-leash detection, as they are able to take commands from their handlers sometimes up to 100 meters away.

 Though cute, Sam had a defiant streak and Rivero and Sam started off on bad terms. As a respected noncommissioned officer; human Soldiers were easy to manage for Rivero; but Sam would refuse to listen to any command Rivero would give - despite its training and Rivero’s expert skills in dog handling.  Rivero then went to handler’s course for three and a half months and upon arrival to Fort Stewart, Sam and Rivero finally clicked. Once Sam got her second wind, Rivero and Sam were able to certify as a team and deploy in support of a special operations task force during Operation Freedom Sentinel, March to November 2015. 

When they retured to Fort Stewart, Rivero was assigned as a squad leader and continued to support installation law enforcement operations, as well as support to United States Secret Service missions alongside Sam.

Due to Rivero’s upcoming role as an instructor at the United States Army Military Police School, and her subsequent removal of the SSD certification from the Military Working Dog program; Sam began the process of retirement. Although she did not have to get her Bulldog stamp when clearing the post; Sam had a lot of paperwork and veternary appointments. The adoption process took almost four months; but Sam was retired and able to be adopted out just a week before Rivero’s departure from Fort Stewart in July 2017.

“It was a no-brainer for me to adopt Sam," Rivera said. "Even though she was stubborn at first we grew to be inseparable.”
Rivero said her favorite memory of Sam was when they conducted night detection training in an abandoned barracks building. Sam thought she was running at full speed through a doorway. It ended up being a full length mirror. Needless to say, Sam was confused when she stood up to see herself in the reflection.

Rivero’s proudest moment with Sam was when she discovered a hidden weapons cache on deployment. Sam was able to maneuver through a small space between a water tank and a wall to discover a cache of mines, ammunition, weapons, and explosives.

Rivero and Sam demonstrate the unbreakable bond between handler and dog. Military working dogs typically retire from service after eigh years. It’s a fitting end to Sam’s stellar career, to roam free and spend the rest of her days by her best friend’s side.


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