Corporal Jeff DeYoung, 27, from Muskegon, Michigan, deployed to Afghanistan in 2009. The Marine took a bomb-sniffing dog, Cena, with him. DeYoung eventually left the Marines. When Cena was retired in 2014, DeYoung adopted his old friend and brought him into his home. But the story takes a tragic turn.
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Cena has bone cancer. It is aggressive, and the dog won’t live long. DeYoung has decided to put Cena down to keep his old friend from suffering even more.
“He was very quiet, I was very quiet. We were very mellow and kind of belonged together,” DeYoung told Fox. DeYoung and Cena were responsible for finding IEDs and running ahead of a unit that followed in a much safer path.
“We walked in front of the group that we served with and everything that they faced we faced first,” he said. “Overseas it was me and him against the world.”
“Have you ever gambled? It was like that times by like 300,” DeYoung said. “Our first day inside the city of Marjah we were clearing an already tilled over corn field,” he said.
“The sun was coming up with the village in front of us so the sun was hitting our eyes. The moment the sun peaked over those buildings we took contact. We took machine gun fire from three separate places and I laid on top of Cena and hooked his collar to my flack jacket and laid on him until the threat was neutralized.”
Cena would go on to do two more tours. DeYoung, suffering from PTSD, retired in 2013. When the chance to adopt Cena arose, he was ready. And having Cena by his side again helped with the PTSD.
“I started noticing that going out in public was easier, less anxious, I could do more things when I had him once again by my side,” said DeYoung.
DeYoung had taken him to his vet after noticing Cena wasn’t using one of his back legs to walk. The diagnosis was a shock. “To be frank, I hid under the desk in the vet’s office, I threw my phone against the wall and the vet had to leave the room until I could compose myself,” DeYoung said.
After getting multiple opinions, DeYoung put together the list of what he and Cena would do in final days.
“I want to go for a ride in a Jeep Wrangler with the top off, surrounded by green trees and my dog by me,” he said. “Just one last good day.”
He’s also asked for other vets to show up on Wednesday, at the vet’s office, to salute Cena as he goes in to be put down.
A GoFundMe page is raising funds for a headstone. DeYoung wants his ashes buried at a war dog memorial in Lyons, Michigan.