updated 06/09/2014 AT 3:00 PM ET
•originally published 06/09/2014 AT 4:05 PM ET
They’ll never be able to replace their son Christopher, but Sandra and Salvador Diaz are finding comfort in the thought of having the fallen soldier’s best friend by their side for many years to come.
Staff Sgt. Christopher Diaz died on Sept. 28, 2011, while serving in Afghanistan. Diaz was considered one of the most experienced military police dog handlers in the Marine Corps, according to a report from an ABC affiliate. So, it’s bittersweet that the family was able to adopt the 6-year-old military working dog, named Dino, whom their son bonded so closely with.
“He is a duplicate of Christopher. I mean, it’s just amazing,” said Sandra, smiling at the pooch she and her husband officially adopted on Saturday after a retirement ceremony at California’s Camp Pendleton.
Dino, a Belgian malinois who is specially trained to find explosives, had to pass a temperament test to confirm he does not suffer from the canine equivalent of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While officials initially denied the family’s request to adopt because the pup was too young, it was later granted on May 29.
Having Dino with them at their El Paso, Texas, home doesn’t change their reality: The Diaz family is still hurting. “I don’t think that it will decrease any of the pain we feel,” Salvador, a former Marine, told the Los Angeles Times. “He’s not going to replace Christopher, but he’ll give us something that Christopher loved, the Marine Corps.”
“It’s going to be helpful,” added Sandra. “We’ll have something to hold on to.”