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
RT @AETCommand: Thanks for your years of service, Wax! 🐕 In his 9 years on "active duty," Wax was a critical part of 11 U.S. Secret Servic…
RT @HQ_AFMC: The @AFMarathon will be the 229th for cancer #survivor Julia Khvasechko, who will pace the 4:25 #running group at this year's…
RT @AETCommand: 2nd Lt. Brian Lee, 333rd TRS student, completes a pull-up during the 81st SFS Defender's Challenge Ruck at @81trwKeeslerAFB
RT @AFThunderbirds: It’s day 1 of the @ROCAirShow! Catch us in the sky @ 3 pm. @AirshowStuff @icas_hq @NewsAirshow @AirShowNetwork https://…
RT @AF_Football: 1 week till go time ⚡️ https://t.co/PNoLjfIUGG
RT @DOD_Outreach: Bring the heat! The @AFThunderbirds demonstrate precision flying during the @SDairshow for thousands of members of the c…
.@AF_Academy Off we go into the wild #Blue yonder... https://t.co/JkPC0jYyAZ
RT @AETCommand: 😉 It's not really bragging if you bring home the 🏆 - is it? 📖 more at the link about how @Columbus_AFB's First Assignment…
RT @USAFHealth: Air Force Research Laboratory tests the new wireless high-noise filtering stethoscope. Learn more: https://t.co/bNj9LhB7d6…
RT @37thTRW: A #CV22 from @KIRTLAND377ABW arrived today to give hands on training to our #Airmen in this tiltrotor #aircraft ✈️ 🚁 🇺🇸 Our…
RT @HiAirGuard: We’ve had a lot of excitement on our flight line for exercise Sentry Aloha 19-2! The exercise kicked off with fighter aircr…
RT @419fw: The 419th OSF is home to about 40 Airmen who work behind the scenes of every #F35 flying mission @HAFB. Comprised of aircrew fli…
RT @AF_SBIR_STTR: In 2018, @AFWERX in collaboration with other Air Force organizations like the @AFResearchLab revamped the congressionally…
.@ActingSecAF happy birthday! Thanks for embodying the Air Force core values. INTEGRITY FIRST. SERVICE BEFORE SE… https://t.co/VFeGcblVVK
RT @USAFCENT: Watch our #F15C's "get hyped" during Exercise #HypeEagle! Stay tuned for more! @usairforce @CENTCOM @DeptofDefense @AirMobi
RT @AirmanMagazine: Your @usairforce news: ✓ Staff sergeant promotion results are released ✓ The 419th Civil Engineering Squadron helps r…
RT @419fw: Capt. Sterling Broadhead, 67th Aerial Port Squadron, and his team took gold at the Law of Armed Conflict event at the Inter-alli…
.@AstroHague thank you for keeping our partnerships strong into #space and far beyond. https://t.co/V0enWGSmSz
RT @ClarkCountyNV: Great video of the Las #Vegas @NellisAFB based #Thunderbirds teaming up with their military counterparts. This is the fi…
RT @AFResearchLab: Dr. Rachel Abrahams developed a steel alloy that's 20% stronger than conventional AM alloys in terms of ultimate tensile…