Retired Military Working Dog (MWD) Popeye completed his globe-spanning tour of duty Friday on the Las Vegas Strip, where he was reunited with his former handler, U.S. Army veteran and MGM Resorts employee Michael Steponovich. American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization, helped bring these best friends together after months separated by thousands of miles. The reunion took place at the American Humane Certified™ Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage.
“American Humane is honored to orchestrate the reunion of Popeye and Michael Steponovich,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, American Humane‘s president & CEO. “Every dog that serves in the U.S. Armed Forces deserves our thanks and a restful retirement, which we trust Popeye is already enjoying.”
Popeye, a large, seven-year-old German Shepherd, has served for a lifetime. After training in explosive detection and patrol, Popeye conducted countless searches and scouting missions at Camp Walker and the surrounding area in Daegu, South Korea. Steponovich served as a K-9 Handler in the U.S. Army for six years. During his last year and a half of service, Steponovich worked with Popeye and the two formed an inseparable bond. Steponovich now works for MGM Resorts.
“It was a really emotional moment for me, I couldn’t stop smiling. I was overwhelmed with joy,” Stepnovich said after the reunion. “Having him back in my life is going to be absolutely amazing.”
“We’re proud that The Mirage was chosen to host this reunion for one of our own employees and his military working dog,” said John Flynn, Vice President of Administration for MGM Resorts International and representative for the Company’s Military Veteran Program. “MGM Resorts is an employer of choice for military veterans. We believe that veterans embody the values of our company – teamwork, integrity and excellence.”
American Humane Veterinarian Dr. Lesa Staubus traveled to Las Vegas to ensure Popeye’s health and safety during his journey home. American Humane has worked alongside the U.S. Armed Forces for more than a century. Whenever retired MWDs need assistance getting back home, American Humane is happy to help reunite these brave service dogs with the people who care most about them – their former handlers.
“American Humane is incredibly proud of our work supporting the nation’s veterans and military families, including the four-legged military K-9s who play a critical role in keeping their fellow troops safe,” said Dr. Ganzert. “We were honored to help bring together these two heroes and wish them nothing but the best.”
Retired MWDs often have medical issues stemming from their physical jobs. American Humane works on reunifications and helps provide free specialty and preventative medical care to make retired MWDs as healthy and comfortable as possible during retirement.