Muskegon Marine creates bucket list for dying war dog

Left: Cpl. Jeff DeYoung's reunion with his partner, Cena. Right: DeYoung with Cena on July 21, 2017.


MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s hard to forget the heartwarming reunion of U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Jeff DeYoung and his bomb-sniffing war dog, Cena.

Now, DeYoung is trying to make sure his partner’s final days are just as unforgettable.

Marine Lance Cpl. Jeff DeYoung is reunited with his combat dog Cena. (June 5, 2014)

The pair’s 2014 reunion made national headlines. Since then, they’ve lived and worked side-by-side in Muskegon.

“It was me and him against the world overseas. And now it was me and him against the world back home. And that changed our war,” said DeYoung, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Cena is now 10 years old, dealing with a wartime injury and a body that’s breaking down. A veterinarian visit last week revealed the worst.

Lance Cpl. Jeff DeYoung and Cena in Afghanistan. (Undated courtesy)

“They diagnosed him with bone cancer,” DeYoung said Friday.

The war dog who served three combat tours overseas likely only has a couple of weeks left to live. DeYoung doesn’t want Cena to suffer any longer.

“He’s proved everything to everybody,” DeYoung said. “We’ve had our years together. It’s time for him to actually rest.”

But before that day comes, the Marine has compiled a ‘bucket list’ for his hero and companion.

“He’s deserved it. He deserves to go out in style,” DeYoung said.

First, there will be a party Friday at 8 p.m. at Unruly Brewing. DeYoung wants to give all those who met Cena a last chance to say goodbye.

Then DeYoung wants to take Cena on a final cruise along the lakeshore in a top-down Jeep Wrangler.

Finally, when DeYoung carries Cena into the vet for the last time, any and all in uniform are welcome.

Marine Cpl. Jeff DeYoung and his bomb-sniffing partner Cena on June 3, 2016 in Grand Rapids.

“It would literally be his final salute,” DeYoung said. “I do believe that is something that is warranted that and (he’s) earned that.”

The battlefield brothers’ bond is best described by the message scrawled across the war dog’s final resting place: a custom-made urn.

“It was you and me against the world,” DeYoung read. “Rest easy, little brother.”

“I’m going to miss him, and stepping on his squeaky toys, and just everything else about our life together. I know it’s coming to an end,” said DeYoung.

Lance Cpl. Jeff DeYoung and Cena in Afghanistan. (Undated courtesy)

Dates and times for the other ‘bucket list’ items are still being sorted out, but DeYoung needs the public’s help. He needs to borrow a Jeep for that final ride, and he’s looking for people to take part in Cena’s final salute.

Cena has two other handlers from his other tours overseas. One of them was able to see the war dog Friday, but DeYoung is trying to raise money to get the other veteran to Michigan for a visit.

DeYoung is also trying to raise money so that Cena can have a proper burial and headstone at the Michigan War Dog Memorial in South Lyon.

If you would like to donate, visit the GoFundMe page DeYoung’s fellow Marines created for Cena.