DENVER — Cpl. Kory Wiens was so fond of Cooper, the military dog he worked with, that he planned to stay in the Army long enough to adopt him when the Labrador retriever's bomb-sniffing career was over.
Even though their time was cut short when Wiens and Cooper were killed by an improvised bomb while patrolling in Iraq in 2007, they remain together in death and in memory: their ashes were buried together in Wiens' hometown of Dallas, Ore. And on Friday, an infantry post in Colorado dedicated a dog park in their honor.
"We're overwhelmed," Pat McAlister, Wiens' grandmother, said in a telephone interview. "We're touched, we really are."
Wiens' father, Kevin Wiens Sr., along with his brother Kevin Jr. and sister Lindsay watched as the Cpl. Wiens and Cooper Dog Park was dedicated at Fort Carson, an infantry post just outside Colorado Springs. Wiens had no formal tie to Fort Carson, but officials there wanted to honor his memory, a spokesman said.
McAlister said she didn't know what drew her 20-year-old grandson to become a dog handler but he grew close to Cooper.
"When he would come home on leave, he actually was more concerned (about Cooper) – he couldn't bring Cooper home and he would always say, `He's like my kid.'"
Wiens signed up for three years in the Army but planned to re-enlist in hopes of remaining Cooper's handler and then adopting him when Cooper was retired, his father and grandmother said.
Wiens and Cooper shared a room in Iraq, with each getting his own cot. "And when the Army sent back his things, there were so many dog toys," McAlister said.
Her late husband, Duane, also was a military dog handler in Korea in the 1950s, she said. The family displays side-by-side photos of grandfather and grandson with their dogs.
Wiens and his dog were assigned to a mine dog detachment based at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. A kennel and veterinary facility there have also been named in Wiens' honor.
Kevin Wiens Sr. said the Fort Carson dog park will keep his son's memory alive.
"... A hundred years from now this may still be here, and people may say, `I wonder who Kory Wiens was,' and be able to look it up on the computer," he said.
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