ENCINITAS (CBS 8) - She was one of the first military dogs deployed to Iraq, and the inspiration behind a local memorial for our four-legged veterans. But on Wednesday, loved ones said a final goodbye to Chyba, a 12-year-old German shepherd, for her service at home and abroad.
She was a four-legged military veteran who sniffed out drugs, escaped bombings and worked in an Iraqi prison. But it was pancreatic cancer that claimed Chyba's life.
"Seven weeks ago yesterday, with pancreatic cancer that had unfortunately spread to her liver by the time that we found it, so it was much faster moving than any of us expected and this isn't the outcome any of us expected," Rancho Coastal Humane Society President Jim Silveira said.
The 12-year-old dog was honored at the Military Working Dog Memorial in Encinitas, the only private memorial of its kind west of the Mississippi.
With her owners, other handlers, friends and family standing by, the 10-year Army veteran was remembered in a military-style service for her vigilance, loyalty and companionship.
"She gave 10 years of her life to the US Army, in her military service and I think this is a proper way to say goodbye to her and let the people who's lives she touched say goodbye," Silveira said.
Silveira shared the "owner" role with friend Madeleine Pickens, who adopted Chyba last year. While Madeleine was too emotional to speak on camera, Jim says he often cared for Chyba while she was out of town. As he shared memories about her obedience and protective nature, he breaks down while reflecting on her love of tennis balls and his daughter's stuffed animals.
"She was an amazing dog, incredibly playful. I have five- and seven-year old girls, she was their best friend," he said.
With her ashes tucked close to Madeleine and Jim's hearts, the two hope her life of service -- and this unique memorial -- will bring more attention to the brave animals on the front lines.
"She will live here forever. And you know, it's sad today, but it's an everlasting monument to her and to show the support of all of the military working dogs out there," Silveira said.