A hound mix named Elvis is proving that the show is definitely not over; his life with an Afghanistan war veteran is just getting started.
The few and the proud
Dan currently lives in Bluffton, South Carolina, not far from his current duty station at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. While life as a Marine is always demanding, his current assignment is a world away from war-torn Afghanistan.
The young veteran has been a Marine since 2008. This storied branch of the armed forces was everything that Dan was looking for at that time in his life.
“I joined the Marines for the adventure, brotherhood and to be a part of the long, proud history of the Marines,” he says. “During my time I have deployed twice to Afghanistan 2009-2011 as an engineer, served as a Marine Embassy Guard on three continents from 2012-2015, deployed in support Marine forces in Norway in 2017, and commissioned as an officer in 2018.”
Dan’s commission was an affirmation of his native leadership skills. It takes incredible fortitude to lead others, no less in one of the most hostile conflict zones in the world.
The young Marine was humbled by the awesome obligations of his leadership. He recalls an experience in 2011 when he was a corporal on his second deployment to Afghanistan.
“Being in charge of junior Marines, the mission and being in the middle of a nowhere FOB [Forward Operating Base] Whitehouse, Sangin, Afghanistan,” he shares. “The amount of responsibility and trust that was placed in me as young NCO [Non-Commissioned Officer], away from the flagpole and in an austere environment, to take care of my Marines’ welfare and all our equipment is crazy to think about now.”
Welcome home, Marine
Dan continues to serve as an active duty Marine, but in 2020 he was ready for a major life change. He and his wife, Reby, decided to adopt a companion pet. Little could he know that a hound dog – soon to be named Elvis – was ready for a change as well.
“I was stable enough in my career, recently married,” he explains, “and after just completing the officer training pipeline, able to responsibly have a dog that I could give the attention that he deserved.”
Shelters around the country are filled with animals who were adopted in haste and ultimately returned. Dan put his future pet’s needs first. He waited until his life was sufficiently stable before choosing to adopt a pet.
“I had always wanted a dog,” he says, “but in my previous 10 years as a Marine I had deployed or PCS’d about once per year. The time was right, and my wife Reby and I knew we wanted to adopt!”
PCS, or Permanent Change of Station, are military relocation orders. Service members and their families can be assigned to military bases anywhere across the country – or the world.
All the stars were aligned for Dan and Reby to welcome a pet into their lives. They started their search while stationed in Virginia Beach and learned about our companion pet adoption program through one of our local shelter partners.
Elvis, you ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog
Virginia Beach SPCA joined our free shelter partner program in 2012. The organization offers veterans in our program a 25 percent discount on adoptions and access to their low-cost, full-service veterinary clinic without proof of income eligibility.
In early March 2020, a large, nearly year-old Plotthound mix came into the shelter. Named Aires at the time, the dog met one of our adoption criteria because he weighed more than 40 pounds.
Big dogs – in addition to dogs and cats who are adult, special needs, and chronically homeless – are among those least likely to be adopted.
Pets for Patriots inspires veterans to consider these pets in exchange for a range of benefits to make pet guardianship affordable.
Shelter staff told Dan about our program and he was approved within two days of his application.
The Marine wasted no time adopting Aires and changing his name to Elvis.
Four-legged battle buddy
Camaraderie is a hallmark of serving in the military. And many veterans miss those intensely close bonds when they separate from service.
Even active duty personnel, like Dan, long to recreate those close relationships in their personal lives.
The young Marine’s new charge fills that indescribable need.
Elvis keeps Reby company while she works from home, but wasted no time assuming the role of Dan’s battle buddy. Once the Afghanistan war veteran returns from work, man and dog are inseparable.
“I look forward to Elvis greeting me when I come and being able to take him for runs, bike rides and hikes in the woods. I feel like I have a friend with me when I’m out running or exploring new parts of the woods, because I do,” he shares. “Elvis and I have really bonded, he follows me all over the house and wherever we go.”
It is easy to have Elvis around others because he is so even-tempered, but it is Dan who he prefers most.
“He never strays too far, comes when I call him and is always friendly to strangers and new dogs. Elvis likes to run next to me while biking and running and exploring the woods with his nose.”
Follow the leader
Dan never hesitated to serve our nation. He answered the call not once, but twice, deploying to Afghanistan at risk of life and limb. So he appreciates our organization for doing our small part to serve those who serve.
“I would recommend Pets for Patriots to any other veteran. It is a great organization that assists with the costs of adopting a pet from a shelter and truly wishes to see rescue animals and veterans happy together.”
However, what matters most is that Dan was finally able to fulfill his dreams of adopting a pet. He got that – and so much more – when he met his buddy Elvis.
And like the junior Marines that Dan led in Afghanistan, Elvis knows who is in command.
“I love that he is well behaved and listens to me,” Dan says. “We have bonded as a little pack, and I feel like his leader.”