HomeNewsArticle Display

A dog and his handler

Senior Airman Tariq Russell, 21st Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, shakes hands with his partner, Ppaul, at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., June 14, 2016. Military working dog handlers are assigned one dog for their entire duration at Peterson AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

Senior Airman Tariq Russell, a 21st Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, shakes the paw of his partner, Ppaul, at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., June 14, 2016. MWD handlers are assigned one dog for their entire duration at Peterson AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

Senior Airman Tariq Russell, 21st Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and his partner, Ppaul, walk the flight line at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., June 14, 2016. Along with detection, Ppaul can be used for suspect apprehension and search and rescue missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

Senior Airman Tariq Russell, a 21st Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and his partner, Ppaul, walk the flightline at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., June 14, 2016. Along with detection, Ppaul can be used for suspect apprehension and search and rescue missions. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

Senior Airman Tariq Russell, 21st Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and his partner, Ppaul, inspect a car at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., June 14, 2016. Russell pays close attention to Ppaul waiting for a sign he has detected something suspicious. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

Senior Airman Tariq Russell, a 21st Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and his partner, Ppaul, inspect a car at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., June 14, 2016. Russell pays close attention to Ppaul, waiting for a sign he has detected something suspicious. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

Senior Airman Tariq Russell, 21st Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, praises his dog, Ppaul, before heading to his next job at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., June 14, 2016. The relationship between Russell and Ppaul was commended by leadership as being one of the strongest they have witnessed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

Senior Airman Tariq Russell, a 21st Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, praises his dog, Ppaul, before heading to his next job at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., June 14, 2016. MWD handlers are assigned one dog for their entire duration at Peterson AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- (This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series. These stories focus on individual Airmen, highlighting their Air Force story.)

The strength of a working relationship can grow exponentially when, at the office, a co-worker jumps all around his cage recklessly wagging his tail, ready to cover faces with big, fat, slobbery kisses.

That is the reality for a military working dog handler in the 21st Security Forces Squadron.

Senior Airman Tariq Russell and his dog, Ppaul, rely on the relationship they developed with each other to create a safe working environment while protecting Airmen at Peterson Air Force Base.

Thanks partly to his father, Russell’s love for dogs began when he was a young boy growing up in Southern California.

“Since I can remember, my father has been breeding dogs,” Russell said. “We had around 20 dogs in my backyard at any given time and because of that upbringing – that’s what interested me most about being a military working dog handler and working with these dogs.”

Conversely, Russell pointed out that his passion for dogs had some growing to do in the beginning.

“The first dog that I had growing up was a Rottweiler,” Russell said. “I was absolutely terrified of it at first. However, once I got more exposed to dogs and became more accustomed to them, that’s when my fascination took off and it was just a whole other experience from then on.”

Fast forward to February 2016 and Russell is now a graduate of canine school and a fully certified MWD handler. He was ecstatic to learn about the dog that would accompany him during every working hour from here on out, he said.

“When I asked about when I was going to get my dog, I was told by my flight chief that the dog I would be assigned to was super independent and tough,” Russell said. “He likes to boss people around and wants to be in charge. They said it was going to be a while.”

Russell said he knew from the moment he met Ppaul, his MWD, he was in for a challenge.

“He had a stigma about him,” Russell said. “He was aggressive and would bite you if you tried to correct him. He wasn’t very handler friendly when I first got him.”

After many bites, hours of training and hundreds of corrections, Ppaul began to show signs of growth. The bond was there, and it was only a matter of time before it became unbreakable, he said. Russell knew there was only one more test before he knew he had the trust of Ppaul.

“I was told that he didn’t like to be picked up,” Russell said. “I promised myself never to do it because I was told he would bite your face if you tried. I don’t know why, but one day I thought to myself ‘I’m going to try it,’ so I picked him up. To my surprise, he had no reaction and responded very well. From that day, I knew we would make an amazing MWD team.”

Since that day, the working relationship between Russell and Ppaul has been so stellar it was noticed by Russell’s trainers and leadership team.

“I’ve been told a few different times that Ppaul and I work extremely well together and that we are a great fit,” Russell said. “There’s an unbelievable feeling that comes over me when I hear that. I just think back to the day when I was told he was going to be a hard dog to work with and knowing firsthand how much we have grown together – I feel lucky.”

Sadly, Russell is scheduled to leave for Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, this fall and will have to say goodbye to Ppaul. Russell said he is already dreading leaving Ppaul behind, but he is doing his best to make sure his buddy won’t be without companionship.

“I don’t want him sitting in his kennel for days or weeks without anything to do,” Russell said. “That’s why I have been already asking my supervisors if we have a handler for him when I leave. I know he will be in good hands though. I’m just going to miss him a lot.”

Engage

Facebook Twitter
Space Flag is the premier space exercise in the @DeptofDefense & it's taking place right now! This exercise keeps… https://t.co/Bj4E1bp37Y
With #ancestry deeply rooted in both U.S. armed forces & the #Navajo tribe, this @Whiteman_AFB #Airman has joined h… https://t.co/mlAO7OqBCJ
F-35 #pilots @EdwardsAFB fly more than 30 missions during the @DeptofDefense's #F35 Lightning II initial Operationa… https://t.co/NVPdPeKwve
#TotalForce #Airmen conduct C-5 Super Galaxy maintenance training, ensuring transient aircraft get the maintenance… https://t.co/c1m9LXOzo6
Brig. Gen. Edward L. Vaughan co-leads the #USAF's Joint Physiological Episodes Action Team, a team tasked with the… https://t.co/XHKLhkdybg
#ICYMI: Yesterday @SecAFOfficial congratulated @senorrinhatch for his 40+ years of public service & commitment to t… https://t.co/O8tXEeentT
Staff Sgt. Torri Olivieri, dental services NCOIC, conducts a teeth cleaning in Southwest Asia, Dec. 7. While deploy… https://t.co/4Q1bksCdUt
Beating the odds: After losing half a lung, one adrenal gland, and his spleen, @WVNationalGuard Chaplain completes… https://t.co/JoGKzWA6kI
The 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Bagram Airfield performed jump training Dec. 2. These #Airmen train durin… https://t.co/u43PDof3XP
A joint water rescue training between the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron & North Star Volunteer Fire Department of… https://t.co/OBBO1i3qrJ
It’s #B2uesday! The B-2 brings massive firepower to bear, in a short time, anywhere on the globe through previousl… https://t.co/W8AcYPfMIU
.@SecAFOfficial met w/more then 75 executive MBA students from @BerkeleyHaas today. Wilson spoke to the students to… https://t.co/rnFoCboXaH
25 tons of critical supplies airdropped to 56 Micronesian islands, impacting 20k+ people! Learn about the #Airmenhttps://t.co/vHexI85jOc
#DYK: @Norad_Northcom is responsible for tracking every flight over the U.S. and #Canada. They’re so serious about… https://t.co/OkzBo0t2hR
RT @DeptofDefense: Projecting lethality from the air! Fly along with the crew of this #AC130 gunship and see why they call these @USAirFor
The #AirForce & its mission partners successfully launched Space Test Program Satellite 5, or STPSat-5, into orbit… https://t.co/cDd9Mqlk67
The 24th #AirForce #TotalForce #Airmen are responsible for delivering full-spectrum, global cyberspace capabilities… https://t.co/8YsqClWENw
The #F35A is a fifth-generation fighter combining advanced aerodynamics, survivability in high-threat environments… https://t.co/W2nlfOWHGg
Competition builds camaraderie. @TeamMisawa #Airmen partnered with local Japanese community members to forge frien… https://t.co/2RvP9tXnN9