SAN ANTONIO — When most people wait at baggage claim at the San Antonio International Airport, they're quick to grab their stuff and get out.
For Brandon Leonard, his precious cargo is worth the wait.
"It's been awhile, so I can't wait to see him," Leonard said.
But he was nervous on Wednesday. He hasn't seen his friend in months.
"He remembers me," Leonard said.
It's not just any friend, nor a friend who will come strutting in on two feet. U.S. Navy Canine Handler Lt. Brandon Leonard is waiting to be reunited with his military working dog, Ivan. The pair spent three years working together in Washington D.C.
Leonard is now in the U.S. Navy Reserves and trains military working dogs at Lackland Air Force Base.
But that isn't were Ivan is going. At 10 years old, the good boy is retiring. Leonard is ready to take him home for good.
With a leash in hand, Leonard anxiously tapped his foot. He knew the paws were getting closer.
Passersby stopped to congratulate and thank him for his service while he waited. One woman lets him know his friend was getting closer.
"Are you waiting for the dog?" she asked. "He's precious!"
"Ivan is a good dog!" Leonard said back.
Finally, after about 20 minutes, the elevator doors opened up and Ivan made his way through the crowd.
His back legs are hurting, so there's no jumping for joy. Instead, Ivan affectionately tucks his nose under Leonard's chin. His gentle eyes say it all.
"Oh, I feel good, man. I feel good," Leonard said.
He said Ivan will get the retirement he deserves, assuring the dog will be given plenty of love, attention and good food.
"Every dog deserves to retire and go home, just like any other service member," Leonard said. "Being able to adopt him is good for my soul."
Mission K-9 Rescue is a nonprofit organization that has reunited over 275 K-9/handler teams.The organization's mission is to rescue, reunite, re-home, rehabilitate and repair any retired working dog who has served mankind in some capacity.