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Finding Bako

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FORT STEWART (WTOC) -

A few months ago, hundreds of thousands of Facebook followers shared the story of a soldier and his dog, but not just any dog: his military working dog.

After a mission to Afghanistan, the two were separated with hopes of a reunion. Bako was a military bomb sniffing dog trained from the time he was a puppy.

After deployment, Bako would either move on to another mission or be retired, and the plan was that he would be adopted by his handler.

That plan fell apart and the soldier began a new mission: finding Bako.

"I had a dog I got when I was 12. I had him until I was 28 and I loved that dog, but we never had the bond I had with Bako," said Sgt. Logan Synatzske, 3rd ID Fort Stewart.

Listening to Synatzske speak about Bako, you forget he's talking about a dog.

"I always had my buddy to keep me company. You get really close. You live together, eat together, play together and work together," he said.

Logan and Bako were paired up the first day of the Army's Tactical Explosive Detection school, or TEDD Program. Eleven soldiers and their military working dogs trained for 16 weeks in the U.S..

"You are really together 100 percent of the time," Synatzske said.

After training, Synatzske and Bako deployed to Afghanistan with their unit.

"It was awesome, honestly," he said. "He's really more like a brother than he is a friend or a pet, because you go on missions. He is depending on you and you are depending on him. Not only you but all the others guys behind you expecting something out there you guys are going to find."

Nine months later it was mission complete.

"It was literally the day we touched down, we turned our dogs back in," Synatzske said, "It was probably the most bittersweet day of my life. You just made it back from a nine month deployment to Afghanistan, but I also had to say goodbye to my best friend."

Or, was it farewell for now?

"We were told if the dogs were available for adoption we would be contacted and would get first dibs," Synatzske said.

Months went by and Synatzske said the soldiers never heard anything about the dogs.

"You are looking for a family member, you know? It was really frustrating trying to track him down and not get any answers," he said.

He turned to Facebook. His post about trying to locate Bako was shared hundreds of thousands of times. Our WTOC Facebook pages shared the posts to various groups across the country.

"It caught fire basically. I had people contact me from Kansas, California, a couple from Canada," Synatzske said.

The post found its way to Boots and Collars, a group devoted to pairing handlers back up with their military working dogs. In just a few days, Synatzske found Bako.

However, the news wasn't good. Bako had been adopted by a family in North Carolina and they weren't willing to part with their new pet.

"I'm like. ‘I'm not going to ask you to give him back'. I didn't think it was the right thing to do, but if she did, if she had offered, would I have absolutely jumped on it. Yeah! I would take him back! Give me Bako! But, that wasn't the case," he said.

Army officials said after this situation, they have reviewed their adoption process and taken steps to make sure former handlers are aware of the adoption process.

In some of the soldiers' cases, Synatzske said the dogs were adopted out to police and sheriff's offices who, under Department of Defense policy, receive priority over a former handler.

"As soon as the law enforcement agencies heard what happened, they gave the dogs back," Synatzske said.

Logan's only comfort is his best friend Bako is in a good home.

"I just got unlucky in this situation, I guess," he said.

It's not the happy ending Synatzske wanted, but Bako's new family did give Logan the greenlight to come and visit any time he wants. It's a trip Synatzske is planning on making later this year.

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