Paul and his family were devastated by the passing of their dog Sarge. While it would be impossible to replace him, they found renewed joy adopting a Pit Bull who made their military family whole once again.
On the move
From a very early age Paul was used to moving often. His father separated from the Army when Paul was just a toddler and served as a pastor after the end of his military service.
For years the family had a nomadic lifestyle as they pursued missionary work. In time they settled in a small Oklahoma town where Paul would meet – and eventually marry – his high school sweetheart.
After graduation Paul entered college. But he would soon drop out to enlist in the military.
“I wanted to chase that dream of being in the Army that I had when I was a kid,” he shares.
Paul was eager to pursue work in avionics. He realized that launching his career in the military would make it easier for him to continue that line of work once he transitioned to civilian life.
So in 2012 Paul enlisted in the Army. Two years later he married, and together he and his wife have three children ages eight, six, and one.
Helos, wedding bells, and fortress battles
Paul’s first duty station was Camp Humphreys in South Korea. He worked on helicopters as an avionics and survival equipment repair technician.
These highly skilled, technical professionals are responsible for the operational integrity of various avionics navigation, communications, and stabilization systems.
Although Paul loved his job, two of his most memorable experiences in Korea had nothing to do with repairing helicopters. The first was marrying his high school sweetheart in 2014. The second was more unexpected: the day his sergeant whisked him away from the base for a day of sightseeing.
Paul’s sergeant would surprise GIs on base by calling a random soldier’s phone number and
asking if he or she had plans that day. If not, the sergeant would make a surprise visit and demand they accompany him on a day out.
Paul remembers his own impromptu visit with the sergeant to Hwaseong Fortress, an 18th-century World Heritage site. The pair watched military reenactments during their tour.
“I love getting to dive in and see the country,” Paul says, “whatever country I’m in, and experience the culture.”
The Army veteran hopes to instill his love of travel and learning with his young family.
While stationed in North Carolina, Paul took his wife and three children to Washington, D.C. They toured various museums, including the Smithsonian, and viewed the Constitution other founding documents.
“Everywhere I go I try to take them somewhere.”
In early 2023, Paul and his family were devastated by the sudden loss of their Old English Bulldog, Sarge.
“[It was] one of the worst days of my life,” he shares.
The young military family needed another four-legged soul to love. Their Great Pyrenees-German shepherd mix, Elsa, seemed to need a canine companion as well.
Paul decided he would visit the local shelter to adopt a companion dog in need.
Guilford County Animal Services offers veterans in our program 50 percent off adoption fees. It was there that Paul noticed a caramel-colored Pit Bull in a kennel alongside the front desk.
“As soon as I saw Sarabi, just looking at her, I had this gut feeling I needed to have a one-on-one with her,” he recalls.
Sarabi was a then four-and-a-half year-old dog found by police during a welfare check at her residence. Officers arrived to find that Sarabi’s owner had passed away, and the Pit Bull mix was trapped inside the home with three puppies.
All were taken to Guilford County Animal Services for evaluation and adoption. While Sarabi’s puppies were adopted promptly, she lingered in the shelter for a few months until her hero – Paul – walked through the shelter’s doors.
Staff told Paul how our program works upon learning he is active duty military. The Army veteran appreciates Pets for Patriots’ support throughout the adoption process.
“Every single person has been extremely wonderful and kind,” he says.
The initial meet and greet with Sarabi sealed the deal for Paul. He knew that there was no way he was leaving the shelter without her.
“She was going home with me.”
House hippo and passenger princess
Sarabi was not shy about making herself comfortable from the moment Paul brought her home. He remembers how she made a beeline right for the couch.
“As soon as it happened,” he jokes, “I knew she was a lounging dog.”
However, while Paul describes Sarabi as a “North American house hippo,” she frequently gets the zoomies: random bouts of wild excitement.
The Army veteran makes sure that his new charge has plenty of opportunities to work off her high energy levels and practice obedience skills. The pair take long, twice-daily walks, off-leash runs, and Sarabi’s favorite – rides in Paul’s truck.
“If we go anywhere in my truck Sarabi sits in the front seat,” he says. “Sarabi is 100 percent a passenger princess.”
Sarabi may be a princess, but she is certainly not a diva. Welcoming Sarabi into this military family’s household routines has been a relative breeze.
“We just continue to live life normally and she decided she was not going to give us any flack,” Paul says. “She took to our way of living.”
“…dug her way into our hearts”
In relatively short order Sarabi and her new people became inseparable. She and their resident dog, Elsa, get along well. And Sarabi has proven to be very patient with her young human siblings.
“She’s dug her way into our hearts like a tick,” Paul jokes.
In fact, it is Sarabi’s devotion to the children that the Army veteran values most about the newest member of their pack – and there is a lot to love.
“They love her,” he says about his kids. “They absolutely love that dog.”
Sarabi and Paul’s youngest child share an especially close bond, often cruising around the house together. The big dog even let the baby crawl on top of her in exchange for puppy kisses and cuddles.
“I don’t know what it is about them,” he says, “the way they’ve clicked so well.”
Salute to Sarge
Paul suspects that Sarabi’s impact on his young military family has something to do with Sarge.
“We lost a huge part of our family,” he shares, “and Sarabi has helped step up because she’s taken on a lot of the roles that Sarge had.”
The Army veteran recalls when Sarge – a large, 85-pound dog – would rest his heavy head on Paul’s chest to nap.
While Sarabi’s head is not quite so heavy, she has the same habit. That small gesture gives Paul comfort during hard times and reminds him to take a break when life gets tough.
“Something about Sarge,” Paul says, “he had the same thing that Sarabi has.”
Part of the family
November 2023 marks 11 years since the start of Paul’s military career.
In December, Paul will return to Korea – “to the regular Army swing of things” – where he will serve as an air defense warning systems operator on the Patriot Missile Defense System.
Because Sarabi cannot accompany Paul and his family to Korea, Paul will go alone.
“We [aren’t] going to dump Sarabi on anyone,” he says, “because she’s part of the family. We aren’t going to abandon her.”
Paul is enjoying these last few weeks before his overseas deployment. He currently works as an Army recruiter, talking to young people to help them determine if the military can support their goals.
As a recruiter Paul has more flexibility to be with his family. It is a gift he does not take for granted.
“I can build deeper connections,” he explains. “I get to put my kids on the bus every day. That’s something that up until recruiting I never had a chance to do.”
Paul says he is comforted in knowing that Sarabi will be home to support his family when he deploys. She always seems to know when a member of his military family needs a little extra love.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love her for me, too,” he says. “She is so gentle and sweet.”