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Yokota MWD handler adopts medically-retired K9

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt.Taylor Slater, Airman 1st Class Samantha White
  • 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Riko, a seven-year-old German Shepard, is officially retiring from his role as a military working dog Oct. 10 at Yokota Air Base, Japan, after serving in the U.S. Air Force for seven years.

Riko’s service began in 2016 at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, before he arrived to Yokota Air Base in 2017. As a patrol certified military working dog, Riko was not only trained to conduct patrol work, but to also find explosives and narcotics.

Staff Sgt. Bailey Hodgson, 374th Security Forces military working dog handler, started working as a handler in February 2022 but didn’t meet Riko until that December.

After some time working together, Hodgson observed an issue while training with Riko.

“One day we were training and he let go of a bite and gave out a yelp,” said Hodgson. “After that, I began looking into the process of getting him checked out.”

Riko was deemed ineligible to continue serving, June 2023, after review from the Yokota Air Base veterinary clinic.

“Usually they’d be able to do surgery for something like this,” said Hodgson. “However, the arthritis had already spread too much by the time we got him checked.”

After a lengthy retirement process, Hodgson was able to adopt Riko and bring him home.

“Right off the bat, Riko was a house dog,” said Hodgson. “He hops up on the couch and just sits with me. He also enjoys playing fetch and sleeping on the bed, but there are times where he just sits and stares at me because he wants to work.”

Hodgson is among the rare handlers who is able to bring their military working dog to their next base.

“I feel blessed honestly,” said Hodgson. “I was extremely fortunate to have had this opportunity, and to have had people who helped Riko and I throughout the entire retirement process.”