Staff Sgt. Agbar, a retired military dog, continues to serve in retirement
By JAKE KEATOR | The Daily Reflector | Published: November 9, 2019
GREENVILLE, N.C. — He's jumped out of airplanes. He's sniffed out explosives. He's protected his human comrades in arms.
Now, Staff Sgt. Agbar is an ambassador for his breed, who loves belly rubs and perks with excitement at the sound of the Star Spangled Banner.
The 10-year-old Belgian malinois, adopted by a Kinston family in 2014 after three tours in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army, spent an afternoon at a Greenville, N.C., pet store to visit with customers and help the store's program to support retired military service dogs like him.
Agbar served as a bomb dog with the 101st Airborne Division. During his time with the 101st, Agbar and his handler jumped from aircraft into hot zones around the country.
Agbar and other multi-purpose canines work with military personnel to sniff out explosives, leading to their eventual disarmament or destruction. The dogs also help protect human soldiers and hunt down threats, as demonstrated on Oct. 27 when a service dog reportedly named Conan was wounded as he chased after the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The dog was slightly injured by live electrical wires that were exposed after al-Baghdadi detonated his suicide vest, according to reports. The Pentagon says the dog has since returned to duty, and President Donald Trump tweeted the dog would visit the White House.
Agbar, who was adopted by Brittany Heath and her husband, Wayne, saw his share of combat, Heath said.
"In 2014, 273 dogs came home from overseas," Heath said. "Handlers got first choice, then law enforcement got their pick and then it was open to civilians."
Agbar is big for his breed, and he was tested for service as a police dog, Heath said, explaining that he was not suited for police work. "He just isn't a biting dog, he is strictly a bomb dog. They tried, but it just wasn't his temperament."
Over 2,500 multi-purpose canines are currently in active duty, with 750 currently deployed overseas, according to the Oklahoma Humane Society.
On his first night of retirement Agbar made a move that surprised Heath and proved just how loyal would be to his new family.
"My daughter slipped and fell down the stairs," Heath said. "I saw Agbar jump off the couch ... and grab her by the shirt and pull her away. That's what they are trained to do to help soldiers. I just started crying and called my husband and said, 'You won't believe this.'"
Agbar enjoys his days laying on the couch, relaxing and playing with his favorite chew toys while eating leftover food. He does however still fight through issues due to his time overseas. Heath explained how Agbar suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
"He's still so eager to work today," Heath said. "He wants to work all the time. If he sees a uniform, his chest puffs out and he thinks it's time to go, but it's like a light switch for him, he can turn it on and off. He suffers from PTSD, so low flying aircraft, the EastCare helicopters, fireworks, things like that affect him."
With everything Agbar has done and accomplished there is still one specific thing that make Agbar so special.
"He knows what the national anthem is, he knows it," Heath said. "When he hears it he immediately starts whining. It'll make you tear up if you know his history. Sometimes I wish he could talk so he could tell me what he's seen, but then other times I don't want to know."
Agbar's field trip to the pet store also benefited other animals, thanks to Pet Supplies Plus manager James Dickson and his staff. As Agbar perused the many treats, toys and items in the store Dickson kept tabs. Some of Agbar's choices will be donated to animal shelters and military canine organizations.
"We're very military oriented here," Dickson said. "We appreciate all of the work, efforts and sacrifices they make alongside the troops. We let him sniff around and see what he likes and set up a donation drive based on his preferences."