Pet of the Month: TTyrant

By Rita Halter Thomas

What does a 10-year-old, 80-pound Belgian Malinois do all day? Pretty much what he wants, especially as a retired U.S. Air Force military working dog (MWD) with an extraordinary service record. TTyrant’s legacy has earned him that right.

“TTyrant was trained in 11 different explosive odors. So any type of main ingredient in explosives, he was trained to detect,” said John Coulter, veteran USAF staff sergeant and TTyrant’s only handler. It’s unusual for military dogs to stay with their first handler, or in Coulter’s case, his first MWD. However, the pair soon formed a unique bond. Coulter’s superiors recognized this and kept them together. The team soon became the first requested for missions.

Photo by Mike Kemp

“Our main mission would be explosive detection,” he said. “He was not a mediocre working dog. There are different drives in dogs, just like people. He was top-notch.”

What was it like to work with such an exceptional partner? “When I was in the service with TTyrant, I felt I was invincible,” Coulter said. “I just had so much confidence in his abilities and in us as a team—like nothing would go undetected, nobody would get hurt, and nothing negative would ever happen.

“There was a day I really wasn’t in the fight and not really in the right mindset. We’re at work, and he ends up responding on a vehicle overseas and ends up finding an explosive device or an explosive odor, and that saved my life,” he said, reflecting on a particularly difficult time. When the team was not deployed, they trained from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia.

Born to serve, TTyrant was part of the Department of Defense Puppy Program, and that’s where he was named. Litter groups are assigned a letter in birth order from A to Z (then repeats), and names start with the letter corresponding with their litter group. They will always reflect a double letter at the beginning. TTyrant (pronounced “tie-rant”) is from the “T” litter, born in October 2013.

Once weaned, pups are fostered by military-affiliated families until seven months old, giving them time to grow and develop. TTyrant’s foster family has followed his entire career and stays in touch. “They send him Christmas gifts. They’ve even been to Arkansas to visit,” Coulter said, adding that they’re a big part of his life and TTyrant still knows them.

When dogs with the right characteristics complete Dog Training School, they are assigned serial-number tattoos. TTyrant’s number is W590, so another MWD may be given the same name, but there will be only one TTyrant/W590.

Now retired, TTyrant often goes to work with “Dad.” “People come in looking for him. He’s a local celebrity. I’m the dog walker now. I just have the privilege to call him mine,” said Coulter, now sales manager for Red River Ford in Cabot. At work, this four-legged fella enjoys just being a dog, mingling with the staff and checking on people, but he still likes to sniff around. It’s just in him to be a proud working dog and look out for others.

Sometimes TTyrant stays home with Coulter’s wife, Millie, who is still on active duty with the USAF. He enjoys “rucking” with “Momma.” She puts on her military bag, he wears his military vest and they go hiking. But don’t think he isn’t spoiled. “Momma spoils him pretty well, and he knows it,” Coulter said.

The Cabot couple are adamant about giving the veteran the best life for the rest of his life. “He’s very protective over me, and I owe him that,” Coulter said, stating TTyrant won’t lie down, relax or even sleep if he isn’t in the same room. 

Coulter credits Boyd Veterinary Clinic (Jacksonville) and Arkansas Veterinary Emergency & Specialists (Little Rock) for saving TTyrant’s life twice since retirement.

He tries not to think about the day he’ll have to say goodbye. “It’s just the reality, and that is going to be a rough day,” he said. “I am numb to that, but not dumb to that.

“If I had just one wish in this world, it would be that he could talk, to simply have a conversation and exchange words. He is one of the most confident, loyal, proud … ,” Coulter trailed off, then said, “You can just tell he’s proud of what he’s done.”