A US military veteran wants his service dog to receive burial with military honors after it was shot dead by a cyclist in Powell, Wyoming, USA Today reports. Matthew Bessler says Mike, his 10-year-old Belgian Malinois, was a combat dog who did bomb detection in Iraq before transitioning to civilian life, albeit with canine PTSD. "I raised him and trained him as a puppy, and the ability he has to sense some of the issues that I have with seizures, with my PTSD, my TBI [traumatic brain injury] and severe anxiety disorders, how he can calm me down just by him being in my presence," the Army veteran tells the Billings Gazette. "He can help take the focus and help change the focus of what’s going on with me and help me calm down or relax me." (The unique pair were featured in a Washington Post story this summer.)
Now Bessler is questioning the official story that a passing cyclist killed Mike when the dog tried to attack him, the Powell Tribune reports. Bessler was away on a hunting trip when the cyclist passed the veteran's house, drew a bike-mounted revolver, and opened fire (with birdshot, the cyclist says). The cyclist "said he was genuinely in fear of his life and well-being, and the dog was 'definitely in full attack mode and not backing down at all,'" says a sheriff's spokesman. Yet Mike was shot in the backside from 5 to 10 feet away, per the sheriff's office. Bessler says he's considering taking civil action, and is "flabbergasted" that "a person would be carrying the types of things [the bicyclist] was carrying." Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page has reached its $10,000 goal to get Mike an animal autopsy and have him "laid to rest with a military funeral and burial."