Local Family, Army Sergeant And Working Dog Reunited

November 4, 2012

There was a special reunion Saturday at the Pensacola airport between a local family, an Army sergeant father, and a former Army service dog from half a world away.

Vazul is a six-year old German Shepherd who has served his life in the U.S. Army. He has served his country well, serving in Iraq at least twice and earning several honors as an explosives detection dog.

In 2008, Vazul was introduced to Sgt. Robert Neese of Cantonment at the Fort Polk Military Working Dog Section. Sgt. Neese and Vazul served a one year deployment together as a military working dog team in Iraq in 2009. In 2011, Sgt. Neese received a permanent change of duty station to Vicenza, Italy. He had to say goodbye to Vazul…..at least for the time being. The Neese family made it known that Vazul would have a home with them if he never needed one.

Vazul took a turn for the worse in June of 2012. He was diagnosed with degenerative lumbosacral stenosis and was given a life span of about three more years. His military working dog career was over, and he was placed for adoption.

Dr. Michael D. Ratcliff of the Fort Polk Veterinary clinic remembered the bond that Vazul shared with the Neese family and informed Sgt. Neese’s wife Leighann of Vazul’s situation.

Leighann quickly agreed to the adoption, and Vazul had a new home.

“He is so special to us, and is a part of our family,” Leighann Neese said.

Saturday morning, Sgt. Neese arrived home for leave from Italy and was reunited with his former partner at the Pensacola International Airport.

Sgt. Neese and his family have selected an experienced military working dog surgeon in Italy, and they are raising funds to get Vazul the spinal surgery he needs to prolong his life and greatly improve his quality of health and living.

For more photos, click here.

Donations can be made to the Paypal account leighann_neese@yahoo.com. Checks can be mailed to: Attention: Leighann Neese,For Vazul, P.O. Box 31, Cantonment, FL  32533.

Submitted and NorthEscambia.com photos by Kristi Smith, click to enlarge.


31 Responses to “Local Family, Army Sergeant And Working Dog Reunited”

  1. Linda Marie Cull on December 7th, 2016 9:49 am

    This is a heartbreaking story! The government should have paid for the surgery immediately. It is their job to take the best care of these K9 hero’s as possible. How dare they abandon him after using him up. Do you know that sometimes when these military dogs are no longer in shape to be “employed” (used) they are Put Down even uf their partners desperately want to adopt them, as they are deemed ‘dangerous’? It’s a shame, a probable sin, and should be a crime to do what we do to ‘man’s best friend’.

  2. Courtney on November 15th, 2012 2:27 pm

    How much is needed to complete the surgery?

  3. Jim Parsons on November 15th, 2012 1:55 pm

    I hope that they have a successful outcome with the surgery and many happy years together. My dog had two TPLO operations that were successful and she has had many good years since they were done. PayPal donation sent today.

  4. Vickie on November 13th, 2012 3:43 pm

    Donating. We have a dear friend in the AF who is a dog handler. The bond is indescribable. Prayers for all good things to Vazul and all of you.

  5. ANNA PIERCE on November 11th, 2012 8:30 pm


  6. Linda Bush on November 11th, 2012 8:17 pm

    I have sent a donation via Paypal to help in a small way towards Vazul’s surgery. I will hold him in my thoughts and prayers and also that of the surgeon. May God guide the surgeon’s hands while operating on Vazul and other dogs. God bless all of you for your service. Will be anxious to hear the update on a successful surgery. HUGS to all!

  7. sue on November 11th, 2012 8:05 pm

    donating & wishing you both all the very best

  8. Me on November 6th, 2012 6:18 pm

    That is so sweet! It almost makes me jump with joy! Hope they get the surgery done and he lives a well-earned long, happy life.

  9. Judie Mindrum on November 6th, 2012 11:58 am

    Sent donation….hope everyone does even if it’s just a little! It will add up and hopefully get him his surgery soonest…..resolve the pain, soonest.
    Thank you both for your service to our country….and Vazul GOOD BOY!!
    This is a great story of loving people doing the right thing.

  10. Leann Carnley on November 5th, 2012 6:07 pm

    How much more is needed for the surgery?

  11. riverron on November 5th, 2012 1:11 pm

    Two HERO’S back together ! God Bless !

  12. Leighann Neese on November 5th, 2012 11:44 am

    Thank you all so much for the nice comments! You have all been so kind! Checks can be made out to Leighann Neese and mailed to the PO box for now.

  13. Debbie Vallia on November 5th, 2012 11:00 am

    A very touching story! To the Neese family, best wishes to you and your endeavors! Buona Fortuna and Grazie!

  14. Suzanne Butler on November 5th, 2012 9:58 am

    WOW so happy for Rob and Vazul ….. brings tears to my eyes …… if only we loved one another the same way as our K-9 companions love us unconditional without judgement what a better world it would be

  15. Laura on November 5th, 2012 9:50 am

    If we mail a check, how should it be made out?

  16. Aunt Tracee Neese on November 5th, 2012 9:23 am

    Great story! So proud of Sgt. Rob and Vazul reunited together! I pray Vazul gets the love, affection and attention he most deserves. We love you all! -Aunt Tracee

  17. Suzanne on November 5th, 2012 8:03 am

    God Bless you Sgt. Neese, your loving wife, your family, your beloved dog, Vazul, and this wonderful Country. Thank you for your daily sacrifice, not just putting yourself in harms way on foreign soil, but also being separated from your family back home. I pray Vazul’s surgery will be a success and that he will bring you and your family many, many more years of happiness, friendship, and fun.

  18. 429SCJ on November 5th, 2012 5:18 am

    Amen Denise, Vazul is a lifetime soilder, a disabled combat veteran and should be accorded the same treatment as any of his peers.

    Jeff Miller, if you are not too busy, you might want to look into the plight of these K9 soilders, busy as you are though.

  19. Denise on November 5th, 2012 12:05 am

    Many people forget that we have not only Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen deployed. These K-9 warriors often do jobs that are considered too dangerous to send a human into. When they are retired, a former handler often tries to adopt the dog, sometimes with mounds of red tape and obstacles that need not be there. All have served their country. St. Neese, thank you for not only your sacrifice, but for making sure that Vazul is rewarded for serving his country as well.

  20. Denise Enfinger on November 4th, 2012 11:51 pm

    I know as a family member of this crew, we are especially thankful to Vazul for his service and his protection for our son-in-law while they were in Iraq. His is a great protector and he was and is a wonderful companion for Rob and his family. I pray that he gets the help he deserves for his service to our country and for his love and protection for his handlers. Thank you again for your service.

  21. JSCS on November 4th, 2012 7:56 pm

    This is a beautiful story. Hope the surgery adds many years to Vazuls life.

    We have a four legged, fuzzy friend that lives at our house and he is our baby.

    Good luck.

  22. doofus on November 4th, 2012 7:12 pm

    Good story! What’s the surgery expected to cost? My shepard/collie mix made it to the age of 10 with the same thing. She started to knuckle under ( walk on top of her back feet), and I had to put her down. She had other issues too. Surgery would have been $2,500 with no guarantees.

  23. chrstefl on November 4th, 2012 6:19 pm

    So touching! I pray Vazul gets the love, affection and attention he most deserves. Words can not express the emotion I feel for Vazul and I dont even know him. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Neese family and Vazul.

  24. Lisa Helm on November 4th, 2012 5:53 pm

    So thankful you all are able to take him in and give him a great home with such love! Hope his surgery goes well please keep us posted. Thank you for your husband’s service and Vazul’s too!

  25. Janice on November 4th, 2012 1:57 pm

    thank you for not forgetting him, it looks like you didn’t forget you either. beautiful boy!

  26. Allison Dickson (Scotland) on November 4th, 2012 1:07 pm

    GSD’s are a very special and loyal friend, I am so pleased you have found each other again. You would think the military would be able to support the surgery after the honours the dog achieved. dread to think what could have happened if you hadn’t been brought together.

  27. katie on November 4th, 2012 9:39 am

    I’m so happy for you guys! Vazul deserves a good home and family. It was a very sweet story! I hope ya’ll enjoy your visit. :)

  28. Leighann Neese on November 4th, 2012 8:08 am

    Thanks so much! Rob and I are really pushing for the surgery to happen ASAP! It’s a special thing that we can help Vazul, knowing that God used him to protect my husband and our freedoms. They are both my heroes!

  29. William on November 4th, 2012 8:00 am

    >>Where can I send a donation for his surgery?

    That info has been added to the bottom of the story.

  30. Otto on November 4th, 2012 7:32 am

    Great story! To the Neese family, you are all wonderful! Thank you for not forgetting your comrade-in-arms Vazul; he was there for you and now you are there him. Best wishes to you all.

    Where can I send a donation for his surgery?

  31. Jane on November 4th, 2012 7:06 am

    Great dog….great story! Good luck to all!!!

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