Air Force veteran learns there is something about a dog named Harry

Air Force veteran learns there is something about a dog named Harry

As Ryan settled into his post-military life he discovered a dog named Harry who would change his life for the better.

A military career takes flight

Ryan grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio absent any interest in the military. Although his brother served in the Navy, Ryan thought of the military as “the option you take if you can’t get into college.” 

However, the high school graduate would soon learn that college life was not the right path for him. He confides that he partied too hard, missing a lot of classes and much needed sleep.

During his first winter break the wayward teen received a call from an Air Force recruiter with an opportunity to change his life trajectory. The pair had a good conversation.

Ryan decided to enlist after talking with the recruiter about various types of jobs.

“My brother always told me [that] if he could do it again, he would have gone into the Air Force,” he says. “So that was how I ended up, that given the fact that an Air Force recruiter just so happened to call me on that day.” 

“I was able to find my people”

In March 2002 Ryan enlisted in the Air Force. The young recruit was stationed initially in California at a joint services operations center. He served four years active duty before transferring to Toledo, Ohio, where he served in the Ohio Air National Guard.

In 2013 Ryan separated from the military after nearly 12 years of service. During that time he worked primarily as an information technology specialist.  

“At one point, I was running out communication focal points, which included pretty much any issue that somebody had locally on base,” he explains.

“I’ve dealt a lot with information integrity, information data, [and] information networking. If it had to do with some sort of communication transport, I pretty much dealt with it in some capacity.” 

Of all the memories – and there were many – the Air Force veteran’s first duty station was the most memorable.  

“Just given the amount of relationships that I created the first couple years, I was able to find my people,” he shares. “And I still have very strong relationships with those individuals.” 

After separating from service Ryan went back to college and served part-time in the Ohio Air National Guard. Overall, he credits his time in the Air Force as a significant influence on how he embraces his professional and personal goals. 

“I really leveraged the experience that I gained,” he says, “both in a professional and a personal role within my life, and really tried to identify what experiences that I took away from that that could positively impact the current situation that I was facing.” 

The only thing missing in the young veteran’s post-service life was a pet. Little could he know that a dog named Harry would bring the next positive change to his life.

“He’s coming home with me”

Ryan now calls Columbus, Ohio his home. He enjoys cooking and golf, but longed for a companion to share his love of the outdoors.

Over the years the young veteran has had both dogs and cats. Those experiences helped build his resolve to find the perfect pet for his lifestyle. He knew that he wanted a pet to share life’s adventures – just one that was not too energetic.

“Honestly, I was at that point in my life,” he shares. “You know, things were kind of settled down a little bit more. I was doing a lot of walking and hiking at times, and I thought, ‘Man, it’d be nice to have a dog to go with me.'”

It was May 2019 when Ryan visited Fairfield County Dog Adoption Center and Shelter to meet a specific dog. However, upon meeting the pup the Air Force veteran decided that he was too rambunctious for his lifestyle.

So Ryan strolled through the shelter past a gauntlet of barking dogs and took notice of a brindle Mastiff mix named Bear. The then three year-old dog was sitting in his kennel, calm and quiet as could be.

Air Force veteran learns there is something about a dog named Harry

Bear had been adopted previously by a woman as a gift for her father, who subsequently divorced and surrendered the dog to the shelter. Sadly, pets often pay the price when couples split up.

While he was still at the shelter Ryan called his mother to share his thoughts about Bear. But he soon noticed that the big dog had caught the eyes of other would-be adopters. The Air Force veteran did not want to miss out on adopting this gentle giant. 

“Then I kind of went back in and there [were] a couple other people taking a look at him, and I was like, ‘Nah, that guy – he’s coming home with me.’ And then he sat on my lap the whole ride home.” 

Because Ryan adopted Bear on a weekend when Pets for Patriots is closed he was allowed to finalize his application with us the following week. This meant that Bear could be adopted through our program and receive all of the benefits we offer.

Our partners Fairfield County Dog Adoption Center and Shelter waived the big dog’s adoption fees, as well. Ryan and Bear were off to a wonderful start.

“I can’t say enough high things about Harry”

Bear got a new name to commemorate his new life: Harry. He turned out to be everything that Ryan was hoping for in a dog, even rivaling a previously beloved pet from childhood.

Harry’s calm personality as a good listener and cute partner made him the perfect match to Ryan’s daily life.

“He doesn’t bark, doesn’t chew anything up, takes stuffed animals and just loves them,” he shares. “He has just a really great sense of emotion. Literally, to me, he’s like an eating, sleeping, breathing, pooping stuffed animal.” 

Ryan was searching for a companion who could accompany him on hikes and outdoor adventures, but not be overly demanding for intense exercise. A buddy who is equally content lounging around at home. He got all that – and more – with Harry.

“I cannot say enough high things about Harry,” he says. “I like to think that, you know, he’s appreciative. [I] like to think that he’s happy.”

This dog named Harry is not the only one uplifted through adoption. Ryan shares that his life is “100 percent for the better.” The big dog has an even bigger heart and never hesitates to shower his rescuer with affection.

“The companionship,” Ryan shares, “and just the amount of love that the dog has is absolutely insane.”

Part of the family

It was a sign at the shelter that first alerted Ryan to our nationwide companion pet adoption program for military veterans. He reached out to us and had positive experiences with every member of our team. Working with us reminded him of that sense of belonging he had during his military career.

“Honestly, the camaraderie,” he says about his contacts with us. “They’re just like really genuine and they really care.”

Ryan was honest with himself when it came to his lifestyle and desires for a companion pet. When he was younger he enjoyed dogs who would go running with him. And while he is still active and athletic, he recognizes that he needs a dog who lives more at his pace.

The Air Force veteran has some advice for other veterans thinking about a four-legged friend of their own. Be honest about what you can provide to that animal and make sure the one you choose fits your lifestyle – and consider adopting through our program.

“I would highly recommend any veterans to leverage the Pets for Patriots [program],” he says, “just because it’s a fantastic resource.” 

When Harry met Sally

In the summer of 2021 Ryan decided to expand his pack and once again visited Fairfield County Dog Adoption Center and Shelter. He was so pleased with his dog named Harry that he adopted a puppy with the hopes that the older dog would serve as a role model.

Like most puppies, Sally was very energetic and it took a few weeks for Harry to warm up to her. However, since then the mild-mannered big brother and his playful canine sister have developed a warm relationship. 

“Sally really likes Harry, [a] big fan of his,” Ryan says. “Harry – he has his own personality. He definitely plays with her now and then. They have good times.” 

Ryan credits the positive experience he had with our program in adopting Harry for inspiring him to adopt once again. And while Sally is not a Pets for Patriots pup, she is learning from Harry how to be a well-mannered member of the family.

“He’s pretty good,” Ryan says of his dog named Harry. “He’s definitely taught her some manners, and he’s definitely helped as far as communication and initial training like sitting and staying and laying down and such. Harry’s just so chill and so relaxed.”

The pair of pups even share a special day – May 21st – the date of Harry’s adoption and Sally’s birth. 

There are millions of homeless animals who need loving homes and countless veterans who would benefit from a companion pet. Ryan urges other veterans to consider Pets for Patriots when they decide to adopt.

“And I just think, like I said, there’s some really solid kind of programs out there,” he says, “and this just happens to be one of them.”


  1. Jacquelyn L

    So very happy for all of you! Thank you for all you do!
    Your pups are beautiful!

  2. Rosie Alleva

    Oh, my heart is definitely warmed by Ryan and his decisions to adopt from a shelter. I love that Harry now has a little sister and Ryan’s family is a safe and fun place for them to be!. Thank you, Ryan, for your service to the USA and your love for the furkids you adopted!!!

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