SOUDA BAY, Greece (NNS) -- Weezy, a 6-year-old chocolate Labrador Military Working Dog (MWD), was severely injured, Oct. 30, 2013, after completing a search training exercise in a warehouse on board Naval Support Activity (NSA) Souda Bay, Greece.
Weezy landed incorrectly while jumping to retrieve his reward, a tennis ball, for accomplishing his mission. He sustained a tibia/fibula fracture; a clean break in his back left leg.
"It was pretty serious," recalled Master-at-Arms 1st Class Kyle Stewart, NSA Souda Bay's kennel master. "Weezy was [medically evacuated] that same day to Naples for x-rays."
This reward-gone-bad accident put Weezy on a 19 month-long journey of three surgeries, rehabilitation, a light duty chit, and, finally, a clean bill of health returning him to a fit-for-duty status, on May 1. Two weeks later, Weezy was command certified for explosive detection with his new MWD handler, Master-at-Arms Seaman Matthew Hollingsworth.
Weezy's surgeries were performed at Dog Center Europe in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Specialist Monique Owens was one of the lead technicians both times Weezy was a patient at the facility.
"Weezy came to us the first time on Nov. 1, 2013. We took him into surgery for the first time on the sixth of November and placed 12 screws in his leg to stabilize the fracture," said Owens.
The staples were removed two weeks after the surgery and Owens started physical therapy on Weezy using a water treadmill. (See Weezy during his rehab at Dog Center Europe on YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-RIAeyhGd4)
"We continued therapy for about a week and a half when he developed a sore. So we took him into surgery a second time to remove one screw that was too long," Owens recalled. "This time we did not begin therapy again. Instead Weezy went back home to finish his recovery process."
Weezy returned to Souda Bay early January 2014 and for a while was on a light duty chit, working at his own pace. In December the same year, Weezy returned to Dog Center Europe. This time, his stay was shorter; he had the screws removed from his leg. According to Owens, Weezy "was a wonderful patient!"
By May 1, 2015, Weezy was back at NSA Souda Bay on full duty. On the 15th, Weezy walked the certification course with Hollingsworth.
A native of Lorain, Ohio, Hollingsworth joined the Navy in June 2014. After completing Master-at-Arms "A" school, he attended MWD Handler's Course, both located at Naval Technical Training Center Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. He said the three-month long training fully prepared him for the first certification test with his MWD.
This would be Weezy's second certification since the accident in 2013, but his first with his new handler, Hollingsworth.
"This is a pretty big deal for [Hollingsworth]," said Ensign Eliot Fiaschi, NSA Souda Bay's security officer. "It's his first certification as a dog handler ever. And it's a big deal for Weezy too."
Hollingsworth guided Weezy around the training course where several types of explosive training aides were hidden in and amongst vehicles and pallets. To pass the course, he would have to identify all 11 aides.
Weezy was all business, successfully identifying every target, and enjoying a little tennis ball action in between hits.
After successfully completing the test with his canine partner, said that he was glad to be able to work in this field, and to have NSA Souda Bay as his first duty station.
"I finished in the top percentile of my class so I chose to be a dog handler," he commented. "Applying yourself definitely has it payoffs. Dog handler was my first pick."
As a MWD handler, Hollingsworth must complete four years as a handler before he's allowed to 'drop his leash' in pursuit of other aspects of security. He remarked that it is too early in his career for to think about branching out in the security field.
"I like my job and working with the dogs. I can see myself being a handler for some time to come."
For more news from Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, visit www.navy.mil/local/nsasb/