We knew this day would come. WUSA9's very own service-dog-in-training, Bunce, said farewell. He is off to serve his mission: To potentially be a life-saving companion for a wounded warrior. But saying goodbye was bittersweet. Colleagues didn't hide their tears.
"You just make everyone so happy, Bunce," said Pat Doran with misty eyes.
For two years, WUSA9 reporter Andrea McCarren has been raising and training Bunce to be a service dog. It's time-consuming work. Since he was a puppy, Bunce has gone everywhere with her: crime scenes, snowstorms, the White House, the local Emmy Awards. He has met veterans, lawmakers, TV anchors, reporters and even Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals.
"He's changed my life," said McCarren.
Bunce and McCarren have spent just about every day together since they first met. They have opened people's eyes to the sometimes invisible wounds of veterans. One of their first news reports together was the introduction of Bunce's namesake, Marine Corporal Justin Bunce, who was injured in Iraq.
On his last day at WUSA9, Bunce made the rounds in front of the camera. But it’s his behind-the-scenes sweetness that this newsroom will miss most.
"You're gonna make somebody so happy," Suzie Giampetroni said as she gave Bunce her goodbye kisses.
He has brought laughs, licks, lots of licks and an occasional smiling face.
"He represents all that is good in this world. He doesn't care about politics, he doesn't care about race, religious faith, whether somebody's in a wheelchair,” said McCarren. “He's all about love. He is just this ray of sunshine in this world that is dark and sad right now.”
And this ray of yellow lab sunshine will soon be paired with a wounded warrior who needs him.
"He's going to do something really special and really important, and we got to be a part of that at Channel 9," said Diane Roberts, WUSA9 sports reporter.
"We're going to miss him and we're so proud of what he's going to do," said Chris Leary, WUSA9 Great Day Washington show host.
McCarren has been entirely dedicated to training Bunce: "Think about the pain of deploying a loved one to Iraq or Afghanistan. Think about the pain when they either don't come back, or they come back broken with visible or invisible injuries. If I can do something I have had such joy in doing to help that veteran, it's win-win."
Colleague Liz Brown says she understands how valuable a four-legged companion is to veterans: "I'm an army brat so I think this is great. They need it," she said.
Although, if you're wondering how on earth McCarren is keeping it together before Bunce's departure, just know it doesn't come easy.
"My heart is already in a million pieces. But I've seen the stoicism of military families and I know I have to stay strong for him. Not crying in front of Bunce is in Bunce's best interest, so I'm not going to let him down. He hasn't let us down," McCarren said.
While she has been teaching Bunce all this time, he's been teaching us too.
"He has shown me all the good in this world."
Once we have details about Bunce's next chapter in life, we will share with our caring viewers.
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