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Retired from the military, hound enjoys mascot role

By AMANDA DOLASINSKI | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: February 3, 2018

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — Just before noon, Porter lumbered through the hallway at the 44th Medical Brigade headquarters seeking out soldiers who needed a quick cuddle as they made their way to appointments and meetings.

Brig. Gen. Porter, a 10-year-old Bluetick Coonhound, had already completed his physical training for the day so he lazily strolled the hallway. He's a sucker for ear rubs, and stood perfectly still while soldiers doted on him.

"A lot of people will stop and shout, 'Porter!' They'll stop and come down to see him," said Spc. Lexus Reaves, his caretaker. "I can see the happiness come over their faces."

Porter, who retired from service almost a year ago, is the mascot for 44th Medical Brigade, a deployable medical brigade that has provided health care and services to joint forces from Vietnam to the Global War on Terrorism. He landed the gig from animal school in Texas and was fortuitously reunited with Reaves, the soldier who worked with the hound while learning her animal care skills.

Porter isn't a bomb-sniffer. He can't detect drugs or weapons.

Instead, his military job was to be a professional patient at the Army Medical Department Center & School at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston. For years, he was poked and prodded while soldiers learned how to administer medicine and treat animals – tasks they would be required to do for the military's working dogs during deployments.

Porter was matched with Reaves for her training in June 2015. It was one of his last assignments after almost a decade serving in the school.

Reaves, who grew up caring for five dogs of her own, instantly fell in love with Porter.

"I'm going to take care of you, I promise," she remembered saying to him.

Over the next 11 weeks, Porter was calm as Reaves drew blood, issued vaccinations, cleaned ears and read body temperature, pulse and respiratory signs. Once she finished her training, Reaves was assigned to the 44th Medical Brigade's 248th Detachment Veterinary Service Support and left for Fort Bragg.

In the meantime, the brigade's commander, Col. Paula Lodi, had been researching a mascot for the brigade to adopt. She and other leadership traveled to Texas to peruse the dogs from the school that were set to retire.

Porter was the perfect fit – and they made plans to fly him to Fort Bragg.

Porter is one of the only mascots that can be housed and cared for on Fort Bragg – other brigade mascots, such as the panthers and falcons – wouldn't be able to make Fort Bragg a home.

The veterinary center on Fort Bragg, where Reaves works when she's not with Porter, said the dog is the first mascot they've cared for in a long time.

Porter and Reaves were reunited in May – about two years after their training together. It took a few minutes – and sniffs – but Porter remembered Reaves.

No longer a patient, Porter now serves as a morale booster for the brigade. He also helps Reaves keep her animal care skills sharp so she'll be ready to deploy to care for military working dogs downrange.

She starts her day at the brigade headquarters where Porter runs up, wagging his tail to greet her. The pair go on a one-mile run, sometimes longer if Porter is up for it.

He definitely doesn't like cold weather, Reaves said. During the recent snow, Porter stood at the door and looked up at Reaves for confirmation that it was OK to go outside.

He didn't like the cold, wet snow under his paws, she said. He quickly did his business and trotted back into the building.

Porter is fed and receives his medication in the morning. He is walked about every two hours by Reaves or soldiers covering the front desk.

Spc. Kendale Williams, also assigned to the veterinary detachment, helps care for Porter as well.

Porter will serve as the brigade mascot for the time being, but Reaves knows that he may someday be adopted into a home. Her work is helping him transition from his military duty to being a pet.

"He's done his duty," she said. "He's retired now. I've got to teach him to be a pet. He helped me, now I can help him."

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(c)2018 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.)
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A video screen grab shows retired military dog Brig. Gen. Porter, a 10-year-old Bluetick Coonhound.
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