An Air Force staff sergeant has been reunited with his best friend for the holidays — and they'll now be together forever.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Mike Alcala and his former military working dog, John, had been separated for over two years. As the 10-year-old German shepherd prepares for retirement, American Humane surprised the dog and his handler with a pre-holiday reunion in San Antonio, Texas.
During the three years that Alcala was John’s handler, the two formed a strong bond. They were separated in September 2021 when Alcala was reassigned to another base.
"We worked together every day for the three years I was there, give or take a few days," Alcala told Fox News Digital.
"The bond started strong and ended stronger."
When Alcala heard that John was retiring, he reached out to the nonprofit organization American Humane for help in transporting his best friend home for adoption.
When a military dog is retired from service, it can be difficult for the military to track down the animal's most recent handler for adoption and navigate the complex logistics of transporting the animal home.
American Humane, based in Washington, D.C., handles the process of international and national transport — including the paperwork, red tape and associated costs — to enable retired K-9 veterans to be adopted by their former handlers.
"When I found out John was up for retirement, of course, I wanted him so bad," said Alcala in an interview with American Humane. "I heard about American Humane through a buddy of mine, so I thought I would reach out and see what they could do for me and John."
"They were gracious to help go pick him up in Hawaii and transport him back to me, without me having to pay anything. It’s been a blessing for us."
John served as an explosive-detection dog at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii for eight years, according to American Humane.
During his distinguished military career, John protected civilians, his fellow service members and high-profile VIPs, including American presidents, first ladies and foreign dignitaries.
Last week, John was honored in a special retirement ceremony in Hawaii to celebrate his years of dedicated service.
"We owe a debt of gratitude to all American veterans, including the retired military working dogs who serve our country," Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane, told Fox News Digital.
"Bringing John home for the holidays was the best gift we could give to these two military heroes."
In addition to transporting John from Hawaii to San Antonio, American Humane is also covering all of the dog’s veterinary care for the rest of his life.
Like humans, K-9 veterans often retire with health complications that require expensive medical care that isn’t covered by the government, according to American Humane.
During the emotional reunion on Dec. 20, Alcala and his wife, Brittany Alcala, introduced their 10-month-old daughter to John, the newest member of the family.
"Avery, my daughter, was super excited to meet him," Alcala told Fox News Digital. "She was waving her arms around and everything."
"It’s exciting to be able to watch her grow up with him in the house and see how the relationship blooms."
Alcala added, "I’m just so happy that John is doing well and that he now gets to live out his life relaxing in retirement."