Parents of late Marine adopt his bomb-sniffing dog

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — In a brief but poignant ceremony Saturday, a bomb-sniffing dog was declared retired and officially adopted by the family of his former Marine handler, who was killed in Afghanistan.

Dino, 6, a Belgian Malinois, was adopted by the family of Staff Sgt. Christopher Diaz, who was 27 when he was killed in September 2011 while deployed in Helmand province.

Dino was with Diaz during the deployment but was uninjured.

“The adoption of Dino will not replace our son, but it gives us a bit of him that he loved, which was Dino and the Marine Corps,” said Diaz’s father, Salvador Diaz, a former Marine.

Diaz’s mother, Sandra, her voice cracking, said: “It’s going to be helpful; we’ll have something to hold on to.”

In El Paso, Texas, Dino will have a large back yard and a swimming pool, she said. The couple have two sons besides Christopher, but neither lives with them, and they have no other dogs.

“Dino will be our baby,” Sandra Diaz said.

Diaz and Dino had worked together at Twentynine Palms before deploying to Afghanistan. The two developed a bond. That bond enabled the two “to be very effective doing their job on the streets of Afghanistan,” Salvador Diaz said.

One of the family’s prized possessions is a picture sent by their son from Afghanistan showing him and Dino.

To let the Diaz family adopt Dino, the Marine Corps needed approval from the secretary of the Navy. The law permits such an adoption if it will help a family with the grieving process and if the dog is considered a good candidate for adoption.

Dino had to pass a test developed by specialists at the military dog training school at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas to make sure that he did not suffer the canine equivalent of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The test showed that Dino has the right temperament to be adopted, said Rich Landgrebe, operations manager for the Marine working-dog program.

Along with Diaz’s parents, a half -dozen relatives from Southern California came to the ceremony at the dog-training facility.

Sgt. Jonathan Overland, took over as Dino’s handler after Christopher Diaz was killed. He knew Diaz and has his own bond with Dino. He said he will miss Dino, but added, “I know it’s where he belongs, where he’ll be happiest.”

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