TACOMA, Wash. — It didn’t matter that former Marine Cpl. Deano Miller’s military working dog didn’t recognize him at their reunion today. They have a long time to get reacquainted.
“I’m just happy he’s here,” Miller said.
Miller has been trying to adopt the Labrador, Thor, since they parted after a seven-month deployment in 2010. Since then, Thor served alongside four other handlers while Miller reestablished a life in his hometown of Tacoma.
Thor "was my everything in Afghanistan," Miller said.
His fiancé, Tomi Gallegos, is excited to get Thor home to their family. She’s heard Miller talk about the canine for the past three years that they’ve been dating.
“This is going to help him with everything he’s going through,” she said.
Miller’s reunion with Thor took place in front of several USO representatives, reporters from all of the Seattle TV stations, The News Tribune, a couple news web sites and a pet publication.
Thor was a popular traveler on his journey from North Carolina. Passengers coming through baggage claim talked about Thor’s story and paused to take photographs.
When a handler passed the leash to Miller, Thor appeared too distracted by all the fuss to pay much attention to the former Marine. The dog inspected the TV cameras before he could settle down.
“It’s just time to take him home and meet his two brothers,” Miller said, referring to his two other dogs.
Miller’s mom, Cynthia Riley, showed up, too, brandishing the certificate Miller received with his honorable discharge form the Marine Corps.
“I’m happy for you,” she told him. “This is awesome.”
A former Marine from Tacoma is about to be reunited with the military canine that accompanied him on his seven-month deployment to Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.
It’s been four years since Deano Miller last saw the dog, Thor.
“If he even shows any sign that he knows me a little bit, I’m probably going to cry,” Miller told The News Tribune.
Miller was a corporal in the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines when he served as a dog handler in a 2010 tour. He and Thor did not see too much combat, but they kept each other close company in the hostile territory.
“He was all I had,” Miller said. “He was the only thing that kept me going every day. He was the only thing that was constant.”
Their reunion is being facilitated by the American Humane Association and Mission K9 Rescue, which are matching military working dogs with their former handlers from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since their tour together, Thor has had five different military handlers through the equivalent of five deployments. Miller was one of three who applied to adopt the dog.
Miller, 25, is a Lincoln High School graduate who returned to Tacoma after his service with the Marines. He now works for Simpson Lumber.
Thor held a special place in his heart through the years. The dog used to sleep between his legs on his cot at their combat outpost.
“Me and him we were inseparable,” Miller said.