‘I’m going to find her:’ Virginia student searches for missing retired military dog

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The search is underway for a missing retired war dog.

Darja, a 4-year-old retired explosive detection dog went missing from the Shae Terrace Neighborhood in Portsmouth, Virginia Saturday.

The Belgian Malinois was last seen roaming around 1 a.m. near the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, according to Kristen Maurer, the President of Mission K9 Rescue.

Darja has only been in the United States a few months. In Hampton Roads only three months.

“She’s my companion, she’s my everything,” owner Frankie Rivas said.

Rivas is a Ph.D. student, now focused full time on getting Darja back.

“It’s very surprising and it’s shocking and it’s not a normal situation,” she said.

Rivas left Darja with a sitter over the weekend when she went out of town but Darja jumped the fence and took off, presumably looking for her mom.

“I was in shock honestly. My heart fell into my stomach,” Rivas said. 10 On Your Side’s Brandi Cummings replied, “Pretty hard I’m sure.” Rivas said, “Lots of tears. Lots of tears.”

‘Drafted into this life’

The K-9 has come a long way.

“We feel it’s very important to let these dogs come to us, rehab them and find them homes,” Maurer said.

On Skype from Texas, Maurer spoke to 10 On Your Side.

“They’ve worked their entire lives for us. These dogs didn’t choose this life. They were drafted into this life,” she said.

Darja is a Retired Explosive Detection Dog who was born in Kuwait.

Mission K9 Rescue brought Darja and nine others from the Middle East last July.

Now there’s a search underway to get her back home.

Our camera captured a Portsmouth resident and his K-9 working to help, trying to pick up a scent.

“He’s been walking around a lot and it’s been a help. Like I’m so thankful,” Rivas said.

She’s choosing to stay positive, vowing to keep searching.

“I’m going to find her. I will,” Rivas said. “I’m not going to stop. Can’t stop. She’s my dog.”

If you spot Darja, call Portsmouth Animal Control at (757) 393-8430 or Frankie at (763) 257-9367.

Mission K9 Rescue is offering a $750 reward in exchange for finding the dog.

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