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Wounded warrior adopts four-legged partner, friend

Staff Sgt. Brian Williams receives Carly, his newly adopted Military Working Dog Aug. 28, 2013, on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. Williams trained and was also deployed with Carly in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where Williams sustained injuries when a roadside bomb detonated. During his recovery at Walter Reed National Medical Center, Md., Carly was brought to visit. Williams request was to adopt Carly which recently was approved. Williams is a MWD handler assigned to the 87th Security Forces Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Russ Meseroll)

Staff Sgt. Brian Williams receives Carly, his newly adopted Military Working Dog Aug. 28, 2013, on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. Williams trained and was also deployed with Carly in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where Williams sustained injuries when a roadside bomb detonated. During his recovery at Walter Reed National Medical Center, Md., Carly was brought to visit. Williams request was to adopt Carly which recently was approved. Williams is a MWD handler assigned to the 87th Security Forces Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Russ Meseroll)

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. (AFNS) -- From the moment Staff Sgt. Brian Williams arrived at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to begin his recovery, he had only one request. Carly.

Williams was deployed from the 87th Security Forces Squadron when he sustained serious injuries after an roadside bomb detonated while he was on a mission April 25, 2012, outside Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan.

The Military Working Dog handler lost his left leg above the knee as well as multiple shrapnel wounds from the explosion.

Present with him during the explosion, but unharmed during the attack, was his MWD partner of one and a half years, Carly.

Carly remained at the forefront of Williams' mind as he began his recovery process. Carly was safely transferred back to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., where he was on standby for a while before being reassigned to another handler.

Carly continued doing what he knew best -- working -- while Williams dedicated his efforts to recovery.

"Every time we went down to visit Brian, his first question was always 'How is Carly?' said Staff Sgt. Allison Price, a 87th SFS MWD handler. "For the longest time he didn't know he even had the option of adopting Carly."

Col. John Wood, the former base commander, traveled to Walter Reed just four days after the attack to visit Williams and continued to make visits down to see him.

"Col. Wood asked me during one of his visits if there was anything I needed," Williams said. "And I said, 'Yes sir, I would really like to have Carly as my service dog.' Col. Wood jotted the note down on his hand and said, 'I'll see what I can do.'"

This initial request to Wood began a year-long pursuit to have Carly enter early retirement to be adopted by Williams as a service dog.

As the adoption request made its way through various channels with no certain conclusion, Williams' co-workers from the 87th SFS continued to visit him frequently, even bringing Carly along on some of their trips to the hospital to spend time with his old partner.

"The first time we brought Carly down to see Sergeant Williams, Carly jumped into his lap an started licking his face," Price said. "Carly never forgot who his dad is."

Price said it was apparent after the attack Carly knew something had happened to Williams. Bringing them together for a reunion reassured Carly that Williams was OK.

During the third or fourth visit to Walter Reed with Carly, Price said Carly barked and cried after Williams said goodbye because he wanted to stay with him so much. 

Nearly a year and a half after the explosion, Carly was officially retired as a MWD and turned over to Williams as his new service dog during a casual ceremony at the 87th SFS headquarters building Aug. 28.

Just as he had more than a year ago when he first reunited with Williams following the attack, Carly excitedly greeted Williams with barks and whines as he jumped all over his former partner during the ceremony.

"Thanks to all parties involved for maintaining his body composition and weight," said Williams jokingly of Carly during the ceremony. "And thank you all for your support."

Williams said even though Carly is now retired, he still maintains his desire to work. Williams said he will eventually lose his drive to work and is already becoming more relaxed.

While many former MWDs are adopted out as pets following their retirements, Carly is only the second serviceable working dog to be released from his duties to be adopted.

Williams said he is very thankful Carly was finally approved to be adopted out, even though many opposed the decision.

"When you look at it black and white, he shouldn't have been adopted out," Williams said. "But he will do a lot to help me through my recovery process."

Adopting out a serviceable MWD requires a lot of time and analysis to ensure the dog is suitable for adoption. Price said Carly had to be examined by a vet and undergo a review process to ensure he was capable of being adopted. 

Even though he was approved for adoption, there will still be challenges as he becomes a household pet, Price said. She said it will be interesting to see how Carly acts in a social setting as opposed to a working environment.

"Military working dogs are not housebroken," she said. "So that will be one obstacle they will have to overcome."

Williams had to request a taller fence be built in his back yard to prevent Carly from jumping over since many of Carly's former training activities involved jumping over fences.

"I know he'll adjust fine, but it will be interesting to watch his transition in the next couple of months," she said.

Throughout the entire partnership between Williams and his partner and best friend Carly, one thing is certain, "They truly have an unbreakable bond," Price said.

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