After completing their deployment, most soldiers are ready to leave the war behind and return home to their loved ones. But when Jose Armenta left the battlefield, he missed Zinet, his canine partner, and the days they shared in Afghanistan.
Armenta, a former dog handler in the Marines, and Zinet were together when an IED (improvised explosive device) exploded, throwing the soldier 20 feet. Although both of Armenta’s legs had to be amputated above the knee, his German shepherd partner was uninjured. After the incident, the two were separated as Zinet was later redeployed with a new handler.
Because he missed his former dog so much, Armenta made it his mission to adopt Zinet. “I didn’t want him in danger anymore; I wanted him back home with me,” he told NPR’s Terry Gross. “And so that’s when it became evident that my emotions were evoking from a professional relationship to a more of a partnership and friendship.”
Man and his best friend were reunited in 2012. However, Zinet, being trained to detect explosives and take orders from soldiers, had trouble adjusting to a lax civilian setting. He spent his first month sitting, staring at Armenta and waiting for a command.
“He was used to taking a lot of orders and to always training and playing around, which a lot of times that’s what they like, especially German shepherds and the breeds we use,” Armenta said. “These dogs love to be active, they love to have jobs.”
But it didn’t take long for Zinet’s personality to adapt. He transitioned into a common domestic dog. He began chasing his tail, digging holes in the yard, and eating human food. His favorite?
Today, Zinet is retired and living in Armenta’s home in San Diego, California, where he resides with Armenta’s wife, Eliana; their son, Dean and their two Boston terriers, Oreo and Sassy.
As for the activities that fill Zinet’s (dog) days? Lots of naps on the couch and games of fetch poolside with his family.