NC family gives dog back to soldier after apparent Army error

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The custody battle involving a North Carolina family over a military dog is now over.

Dozens of soldiers say the U.S. Army gave away the dogs they served with, without ever contacting them.

PREVIOUS STORY: Retired K-9, NC family caught in custody battle after Army fails to contact dog’s former handler

Sgt. Ryan Henderson, a soldier in Texas was suing a family in North Carolina to try to get the dog, named Satan, back.

After a CBS North Carolina story aired earlier this month, Shawn Richardson gave Satan the dog back to Sgt. Ryan Henderson.

Richardson said he tried to fight the court case, but said a legal battle was simply too expensive.

Henderson says he is glad to be back with his dog, which came from an effort the Army started in 2011 called the T.E.D.D program, Tactical Explosives Detection Dog, pairing trained dogs with combat soldiers.

“Its hard to believe. So hard to believe,” Henderson said after getting the dog back. “I saw him again for the first time and I got to play with him again for the first time and then we came home,” he said.

Sgt. Ryan Henderson first met his battle buddy at the T.E.D.D. program.

“It was intimidating because I like to joke, and keep things light-hearted so I stood up and told the instructors and everyone in the room how bad I was and I was the baddest thing walking around,” Henderson joked. “We’re all laughing and one of my buddies saw the sheet and said dude I think you messed up because they wrote Satan next to your name.”

Satan — the big, black, bomb sniffing German Shepherd.

After months of training, Henderson and Satan suited up, shipped out, and served.

“I trusted him to keep the most important men in my life alive, and I don’t know of any bond stronger than that,” Henderson said.

The dog found a permanent place in Henderson’s heart and on his arm. He got a tattoo of Satan’s face.

“He was my world. We literally spent every minute together,” Henderson said.

Then Henderson became ill and Satan was passed along to other soldiers for use in the program.

In 2014, the Army ended the T.E.D.D program and decided to get rid of the dogs.

“I tried to look for him again, I tried to file my paperwork and then I fell off the map because life kinda got the best of me,” said Henderson.

The Army sent representatives to K2 solutions in Southern Pines to adopt the dogs out.

That’s where the now-retired Satan met a new companion, Shawn Richardson, as a gift from his wife.

“She said, ‘guess what I got?’” explained Richardson. “I come up in the yard and there’s this big black German Shepherd charging at me rolling around my legs and I got down a little bit where I can reach him and right then me and him were pals.”

A perfect pal, since Shawn Richardson is also retired Army and always has Satan by his side.

“The dog is my right-hand man, you know, he looks out for the old man. He’s like one of my children just about, I love him to death,” Richardson said.

According to federal law, Army handlers should have had the first chance to adopt the 229 dogs.

Ryan says the Army never contacted him.

“They just had a big adoption day and got rid of the dogs as quickly as they could,” said Congressman Richard Hudson.

Henderson’s father says Satan saved his son’s life.

“There’s stories he’ll never tell you that I’ve heard him tell me about how the dog has saved him in certain situations,” Henderson’s father said.

The Army has yet to respond to our questions about this case, and the Office of Inspector General is still investigating the matter.

CBS North Carolina will update the story when the investigation is finished.

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