Ace, Andy, Charlie, Eman, Google, Haneen, Heckey, Jodie, Keeley, Max, Molten, Trigger, and Uno are starting new lives after serving tours in Kuwait

By Amy Jamieson
Updated December 06, 2016 01:44 PM
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Mission K9 Rescue

It was a hero homecoming — with a few cheers and more barks.

Last week, thirteen hero pups came home for the holidays, returning to the United States after serving tours in Kuwait.

A group called Mission K9 Rescue is helping many of the retired explosive detection dogs acclimate and find homes following their service to our country, and PEOPLE has an inside look at how it’s going.

The rescue — who has partnered with the United States War Dogs Association (USWDA) and the Petco Foundation — is working to re-home and rehabilitate the working dogs named Ace, Andy, Charlie, Eman, Google, Haneen, Heckey, Jodie, Keeley, Max, Molten, Trigger, and Uno, who arrived at Houston airport on Thursday (watch their procession of dog crates in the video below).

“These dogs are retired, and all of their lives they have trained like professional athletes,” said Kristen Maurer, co founder and president of Mission K9 Rescue. “Just like athletes, when they retire, they have a lot of medical issues. Mission K9 Rescue sees to it that all of these are taken care of before we adopt them into homes.”

Some of the dogs will be reunited with handlers they worked or trained with and Mission K9 Rescue is charged with making those reunions happen.

For the dogs that don’t have handlers to go home to, the rescue will work to find the perfect place for them to live out the rest of their lives — and that means rehabilitation for some of the dogs, since many retire with issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Those pups will need time to decompress and reintegrate into society, and, since the dogs don’t receive retirement benefits, Mission K9 Rescue provides the much needed funding to assist handlers and adopters with medical bills.

Each dog will undergo behavior tests to determine temperament and more — like Max, seen in the video below. (He clearly requires a home with lots of tennis balls and treats!)

“After their medical needs are covered, we then have to perform behavioral tests on each to ensure that we place them in the perfect home environment that will ensure them the retirement that they deserve,” Maurer added. “These dogs have worked their entire lives protecting people, and we at Mission K9 Rescue feel that they deserve the very best that retirement has to offer. To us, that would be a loving home where they can rest comfortably and receive all of the love and happiness befitting a hero.”

To make a contribution to Mission K9 Rescue’s efforts to bring home more dogs, click here. If the group raises $40,000 from supporters, an anonymous donor has offered a $40,000 matching grant.