Dakota T721, is a Springer Spaniel TEDD military working dog. Her handler anxiously awaits a reunion and we believe that Susan Stejskal, the last person known to have had Dakota, can accomplish that goal. If she refuses, we hope Congress can persuade her to do the right thing.
For those readers unfamiliar with Dakota’s story, she is one of thirteen MWDs taken by Dean Henderson and Jaime Solis representing Soliden Technologies (Soliden). Soliden, a private company not permitted by law to legally obtain these former bomb-sniffing dogs via the adoption process, somehow acquired these TEDD program dogs on February 3, 2014, and OPMG released the dogs to their custody on February 10, 2014. After depositing the dogs with a Virginia kennel, Henderson instructed kennel owner Greg Meredith to release Dakota to a vet tech “Sue,” who was flown by Soliden to vet the dogs earmarked for sale to the Panamanian and other governments. A week or so later, “Sue” drove from Michigan to pick up Dakota.
Surprisingly, on May 12, 2014, Henderson sent a photo of Dakota in her new home with “Sue’s” cadaver dog, Buzz, implying he could adopt Dakota. Henderson also did this with other handlers, promising an adoption which did not happen, until Henderson and Solis abandoned the MWDs over a year later, leaving unpaid kennel bills of over $150,000 and Mission K9 Rescue and the US War Dogs to reunite the remaining pups with their handlers and other well-vetted individuals if handlers were not able to take their dog.
Fortunately, this email resulted in a Google search of “Buzz and cadaver dog” that lead to vet tech “Sue.” http://www.sturgisjournal.com/article/20100526/NEWS/305269978
“Susan Stejskal, LVT, PhD, DABT, is a board-certified toxicologist, licensed veterinary technician, and Special Deputy/Human Remains Detection (HRD) dog handler with the St. Joseph County (Michigan) Sheriff’s Department….”
Needless to say, this is not an unsophisticated woman; she should be cognizant of the law in regard to MWD adoptions. She admitted in email correspondence she had taken Dakota. However, her claim that Solis took Dakota in August 2014 rings hollow. She has provided no proof that Dakota is no longer in her possession. An attempt to assert that Dakota was not taken as barter payment for her services, but, rather, to address Dakota’s health issues, seems disingenuous, at best, based on her inclusion of Dakota in multiple Ultimate Air Dog contests during 2014.
For those of us concerned about the health and safety of Dakota, we wonder why a former TEDD, possibly with Canine PTSD, would be entered in any competition? This “Ultimate Air Dog” contest is described, as follows: “Dogs run down the dock and handlers try to get them to fly as far as they can after a toy. It’s a thrilling, adrenaline-driven event that is a blast for handlers and crowds alike….” Numerous emails requesting further explanation of Dakota’s removal from her possession by Solis have failed to register a response. There is no legal basis for Ms. Stejskal’s possession of Dakota, based on the unsupportable, free-of-cost adoption to a private contractor, solely for the purpose of profit.
In addition, Ms. Stejskal may have the medical records of the 13 MWDs which would be extremely important to their health care needs in the future. One of these handlers were told that she was going to send him his MWD’s medical records the weekend that he was to drive to Michigan to pick up his dog. Then he was told he couldn’t have him. We believe this happened with at least four handlers, at it’s not clear what the intention was. The result was horrible heartache.
Consequently, the Army must enforce its own requirements for adoption and retrieve Dakota, at the least. And, in order for this to become a priority, we suggest that Dakota’s supporters contact your Congressional Representatives with this information: the full force of the legal system should be used to ensure Dakota is returned to her handler, with or without the assistance of Ms. Stejskal.