Air Force bomb technician gives abandoned Pit Bull his wings

Air Force bomb technician gives abandoned Pit Bull his wings

Joshua is a former Air Force bomb technician who struggled to recreate the bonds he formed in the military – until he met a Pit Bull abandoned in an Illinois field.

“…a life I loved”

In 1996 Joshua enlisted in the Air Force to serve our nation and pave the way for a bright future. He trained as an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technician and was stationed at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota for his entire tour of duty.

EOD technicians are tasked with a vital and profoundly dangerous job. They are trained to detect, disarm, and dispose of a wide range of explosive devices, often in hostile environments. Even the training is fraught with danger.

In short, these professionals are the bomb squad of the Air Force.

While Joshua enlisted to create a better life for himself, he did not expect to love his job as well. He would be pleasantly surprised.

“Initially the military was supposed to be a way to pay for college,” he says, “but became a life I loved.”

One of the most satisfying aspects of Joshua’s service was the intense relationships he forged with other veterans. However, the former bomb technician struggles to recreate similar bonds now that he is separated from service.

“I think the one thing I took away from the military was the camaraderie and friendships,” Joshua shares, “something you can’t quite ever find in the civilian world.”

Still, it is in the civilian world where Joshua now resides. He separated from the Air Force in 2003 and began the process of transitioning to post-military life.

Bomb technician needs someone to love

These days Joshua has much in his life for which to be grateful.

The Air Force veteran settled down in Decatur, Illinois, where he paints rail cars for a living. And the brighter future he envisioned when he enlisted in the military is coming to fruition.

“This year has been an exciting one for me because I finally bought my first house, and can’t wait to share it with my girlfriend and our children.”

It would seem that the former bomb technician has a full life – and an equally full house.

However, Joshua still yearned for that intense bond that he had experienced in the military. He decided to find the next best thing: a companion dog.

“I chose to adopt a pet because my new house seemed empty,” he shares, “and I needed and wanted a pal around all the time to keep me company – and to love.”

Searching for a canine copilot

Joshua reached out to his local animal shelter, Macon County Animal Control and Care Center.

The shelter staff told the young veteran about our partnership to help veterans adopt dogs and cats who are most overlooked by adopters.

Our program focuses solely on those animals who need a second – or sometimes third or fourth – chance at life.

Since 2013, Macon County Animal Control and Care Center has made dozens of adoptions through our partnership.

Municipal shelters are among those eligible to join our free nationwide shelter partner program.

After learning how our program works Joshua decided to apply. He was impressed with the various benefits we offer to make it more affordable to adopt, keep, and care for a companion pet.

“I chose to use this particular program because after researching the program I found out how helpful the program could be from helping me find a pet to helping me find veterinarians that can keep my pet healthy.”

The former Air Force bomb technician was ready to find a trusted copilot and friend. Just one week after being approved into our program Joshua’s search was over.

Don’t be cruel

It was late August 2021 when a large, adult Pit Bull-type dog was found abandoned in a Decatur field. Animal abandonment is against the law in every state in the country, but is difficult to prosecute because there are seldom any witnesses.

Abandonment is one of the 11 signs of animal cruelty. Leaving a defenseless, dependent animal to fend for himself – without shelter, food, or water – is a despicable, cowardly, and illegal act.

Macon County Animal Care and Control rescued the dog and named him Radar. Perhaps this name portended his fate because the big dog would soon hone in on the man who would become his hero.

Pit Bull gets his wings

Sadly, many people hold ill-informed, negative perceptions about bully breed dogs. The results are tragic. Abusers and criminals feel that they have license to mistreat these animals. And potential adopters may be wary of adding such a pet to their households.

For this reason more animal shelters are leaving breed information off of dogs’ kennel cards and online biographies.

This ‘no label’ movement is intended to give dogs an opportunity to be considered by adopters without preconception. It is in recognition as well that nearly all shelters make educated guesses about breeds since it is impractical and prohibitive to DNA test all of the animals in their care.

As a former Air Force bomb technician Joshua has nerves of steel; he did not shrink from the prospect of welcoming an abandoned Pit Bull into his home. His instincts were on target.

Just three weeks after entering the shelter Radar – since renamed Ryder – got his wings.

60 pounds of love

Joshua’s young family was smitten instantly with their newest member and the feeling is mutual.

“Honestly, things have been going really well and Ryder has taking to my family very well,” Joshua shares during a post-adoption follow up. “We are loving having him as a part of our family and he seems very happy. I cannot thank your organization enough for allowing us the opportunity to find Ryder and share our love with him.”

Ryder wasted no time becoming a fully engaged member of his pack. He participates in nearly every activity and is a loving bystander during game night.

“I love that Ryder always wants to be a part of what is going on in my family,” Joshua says, “even to the point of sitting on the bench at the table when we play board games.”

Too often, everyday routines can make one’s world feel like a movie with a familiar plot. Joshua admits that he had fallen into that rut – until Ryder came along.

Now the former bomb technician sees every day anew.

“Adopting Ryder has helped to break up the boredom of a life that mostly consisted on work and sleep,” Joshua shares. “He is so loving and affectionate to my family, and brings us lots of laughter and joy with his many silly antics.”

Ryder’s previous abandonment could have resulted in a very bad ending. He could have been the target of others wishing to do him harm, killed by a passing car, or died from heatstroke or starvation.

Instead Ryder was rescued. In turn, he gave something back to Joshua that he had missed for too many years: a loyal buddy who has always got his six.


  1. Mari Fleischer

    Love your story and I’ve come to love pitbulls. As they say on the wonderful dog rescue show, “Pitbulls & Parolees”, a pitbul is the most misunderstood breed. They are loving regular dogs. They only got fierce reputations from jerk humans who bred them to fight. Great natured dogs indeed. Thank you for your military service.

  2. Mary Eaton

    Pulling at my heart strings your story in taking a chance on Radar/Ryder when he was still learning of his new surroundings at the shelter. Thank you for allowing him a loving home and a new lease on life. A good match as he has filled an empty space in you.
    Thank you for your military service.

  3. Christine E

    I love your photos of Ryder! Especially the two of you napping. Thank you for rescuing him and for your Service. May Ryder and your family have long lives together.

  4. Panda J.

    Thank you for your service, Joshua. Your story made me smile this morning, and I thank you for that. I hope you and your family will have many happy years with Ryder. God Bless all of you.

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