Canine war veteran adjusting to civilian life

Posted at 7:22 PM, Jul 24, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-24 21:22:01-04

PARK CITY, Utah – One Park City family has a tradition of military service that includes a dad in the Air Force and a grandpa who served in the Vietnam War, but the highest-ranking military member in their home is the family dog.

Carrie Barker said their dog, Uzo, is kind of a rascal, but he’s also a decorated war hero with a service record any soldier could be proud of.

Uzo is 8 years old, and for five years he worked for the Canadian Royal Military’s special forces in Afghanistan.The honorary Master Corporal went on about 1,000 patrols in Taliban-controlled territory. During those patrols he found more than 20 improvised explosive devices and a gigantic weapon cache.

“Many of the soldiers that worked with him credit him for saving their lives,” Barker said.

Barker said her husband, Cody, was deployed with the Air Force when he found out Uzo was retiring, so he decided to adopt the canine veteran. Carrie Barker said Uzo isn’t exactly the well-behaved dog she was expecting.

“The way Uzo was trained to search for things--he was not still, and not quiet, and very hyper, to say the least,” she said.

Uzo has been trained to mark on 35 different chemicals, like the gunpowder in ammunition. Barker said the dog continues some of his military habits in civilian life.

"I always say you can take the dog out of the army, but you can`t take the army out of the dog,” she said.

She said Uzo insists on patrolling their Park City Neighborhood, and she said he sits down every time he smells something like detergent or fertilizer, both of which contain chemicals that can be used to make bombs.

“Without any structure, he kind of gets confused,” Barker said. “He doesn`t know what to do. He has to be told to sit. And he has to be with us. He doesn`t like to be alone.”

Barker said Uzo is slowly adapting to the more relaxed lifestyle of playing with the family’s children and their other dog.

“He likes Colby especially, our son,” she said. “He follows Colby around a lot. They play. They’re best friends.”

Barker said Colby, 5, used to wake up several times a night crying because of a sleeping disorder.

“He just started sleeping with Colby, and the first night he slept with Colby, Colby slept through the whole night,” Barker said. “Ever since then they've been inseparable.”

Barker said that watching Uzo adjust to civilian life has helped her better understand her husband and father and what they went through in their military service. She said she doesn’t even mind so much when the canine hero sits on her flowers, again.

“And I just let him do it. I figure he's earned the right to lay in something soft and cool,” she said.

Uzo has become an advocate for Military Working Dog Adoptions, which is a group that helps deployed dogs find permanent homes in the United States. Uzo is also in the running for the American Humane Association’s Hero Dog Award. To learn more about Uzo’s bid for the Hero Dog Award, click here.