What would we do without our dogs? They truly become part of our families and are there to pick us up when we’re feeling down with a good cuddle, give us a laugh when we’re having a bad day, and always welcome us home with a smile.
But there are some dogs that are true heroes, who rise above the rank of pet to become lifelong best friends with their owners. One of those dogs is Cena, a 10 year old black labrador with wise, kind eyes, and jet black fur. Cena served in the United States military as a war dog, who help immensely in the field. These dogs are trained to sniff out bombs and other improvised explosives, and are responsible for saving many lives in the field. Cena formed an incredible bond with his handler, Marine Veteran Jeff DeYoung when they were deployed together. They worked in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010, when marines went into the Helmand province as part of President Barack Obama’s surge against the Taliban.
For DeYoung, Cena was there for him when no one else was, and hope seemed lost. In one particularly gruelling 3- week stretch, DeYoung’s unit lost seven troops. Through it all, Cena was there for DeYoung, providing not only his abilities to sniff out IED’s, but also his companionship and support. The soldier would carry Cena over ravines and protect him from gunfire by laying over him, and the dog would provide Cena comfort on those cold, dark nights in the middle of a tumultuous war.
Cena’s name is actually a shortened form of Chicken, which was his original name. After sniffing out an IED, Cena recognized the smell and bolted in the opposite direction instead of lying down, which is what protocol dictates. However, DeYoung found it so endearing that he named Cena after the event.
Cena and DeYoung were unfortunately separated without a chance to say goodbye when the soldier returned home. They remained separated for four years, then DeYoung realized that there was a chance that he could be reunited with his four legged friend. So when Cena was discharged in 2014 from the military and He was taken in by DeYoung. Cena was six years old at the time.
But Cena’s service to the soldier didn’t stop there. According to an article in Marine Live, “Over the past year and half, this dog, this brother of mine, has sat with me through a divorce, through homelessness, through missed jobs, my PTSD strikes and waking up in my bathtub crying,” Jeffrey DeYoung said at a Veterans Day ceremony at Muskegon Community College during November 2015. “He’s always been there through that. I can’t think of any other friends that have.”
Sounds like Cena was irreplaceable, providing comfort and support that only he could. It truly was a special bond– the kind that’s only made through experience.
On July 26th, 2017 DeYoung said one final goodbye to Cena, who had developed an aggressive form of bone cancer. A military service was held for the pup, with a bugle player playing ‘Taps’, and people showing up to pay their respects to the dog. “I feel as if I have lost the most humble and kind part of my soul,” DeYoung said in a prepared statement. “Cena made me a better man and I owe him the world for it.”
Rest in peace Cena, you will be missed.