Iraq War veteran finds kindred spirit in athletic rescue dog

Iraq war veteran finds kindred spirit in athletic rescue dog

Jeff has always been passionate about health and wellness. So it was no surprise that the combat veteran chose an athletic rescue dog to amplify his daily workouts.

Send in the Marines

Sitting still is not in Jeff’s game plan. The young veteran has a love of physical fitness that he transformed into his life’s vocation. However, that plan would blossom only after a tour of duty with the Marines during which he was sent into battle.

Jeff enlisted in the Marines and was assigned to Camp Pendleton, the Corps’ sprawling West Coast base. The complex spans more than 125,000 acres and is home to the largest amphibious assault training facility in the country. It was here that Jeff trained in preparation for his eventual deployment in support of the Iraq War.

“I was stationed in Camp Pendleton and did a deployment to Fallujah, Iraq,” he shares, “and a ship deployment to the Asian-South Pacific area.”

During his tour of duty Jeff learned that while training is critical, it is not the only factor in military performance. He observed that there is no substitute for those moments when service members are called upon in combat.

“Something meaningful out of my time in my service was an understanding of how sometimes Marines or soldiers may fall behind in training, but subsequently excel when in theater,” he says.

Iraq war veteran finds kindred spirit in athletic rescue dog“I learned that while training is important, training may sometimes fall short of the demands of an ever changing battlefield. Through the people I worked with and the experiences I had, I learned this to be important.”

These insights would inform Jeff’s outlook for years to come.

Following his tour of duty and after three meritorious promotions – including one out of infantry school – Jeff separated from service with an honorable discharge.

The combat veteran returned to Utah to start life as a civilian that would come to include an athletic rescue dog.

The best medicine

While Jeff is out of the military, the military is not out of the man.

The young veteran remains rightly proud of his combat service where battlefield observations would eventually inform his philosophy about health and wellness.

Post-military life was busy for Jeff. He attended college and simultaneously put his entrepreneurial skills to work.

“I received a bachelor’s in science while owning and operating a fitness training studio centered around Olympic lifting, pilates, and athletic science,” he says.Iraq war veteran finds kindred spirit in athletic rescue dog

Although Jeff was preparing to attend medical school, he decided to pivot towards a different path in the art and science of wellness.

“After training in the sport of Olympic lifting for 15 years, I departed from an acceptance at a medical college to pursue a different route in the pursuit of medicine. Specifically, one more geared to medicine through the development of reformed exercise design and reformed medical education design.”

The perfect partner

As the saying goes, Jeff not only talks the talk – he walks the walk. The combat veteran practices what he preaches by leading a life of purposeful adventure, healthy living, and focused training.

However, until spring 2023 Jeff had no one with whom to share these passions. This prompted the Marine Corps veteran to seek out an athletic rescue dog from his local animal shelter.

Since 2015 Salt Lake County Animal Services has offered fee-waived adoptions to veterans in our program who adopt eligible dogs and cats.Iraq war veteran finds kindred spirit in athletic rescue dog

Jeff learned about Pets for Patriots when he visited the shelter to ask about any programs they offered for military veterans.

The combat Marine had a strong sense of purpose for why he wanted to adopt a pet.

“My desire for a dog came from my love for physical activity,” Jeff explains.

“I love having an athletic partner who drives me to push harder and have fun when I train.”

Battle buddies

About two weeks prior to Jeff’s visit a big dog named Toby entered the shelter. He was estimated to be about three years old, possibly a Red Coonhound and American Pit Bull mix.

Little was known about Toby’s previous life or pedigree, much like most animals who find themselves homeless through no faults of their own. So just two days after being approved into our program, Jeff and Toby were adopted.

It did not take long for the athletic rescue dog to fulfill Jeff’s wishes for an active fitness partner.

“Toby is super agile, athletic, and playful,” Jeff shares. “He has a ton of drive and motivation, and we both love to work hard when we train. He’s just the right size and weight for both of us to play sports and help each other get strong.”

Like any good workout buddy, Toby does not let Jeff get caught up on his phone or sidelined by other distractions.

“Toby helps me accomplish my goals of things like doing more squats or spending less time on my phone,” Jeff says. “He loves it when I do squats and he lets me know when I’m giving my phone more attention than I’m giving him.”

The athletic rescue dog seems to have boundless energy. He enjoys wrestling, running, and playing football. Jeff appreciates how Toby likes to mix things up and keep their workouts together inspired.

“He has a lot of creativity and passion, and I love how he always keeps the games feeling fun and fresh,” he shares. “I love how his desire and drive keep me always wanting to be active and have fun being competitive.”

“…he has been everything”

While Jeff might have found Toby on his own, the pet eligibility requirements of our program steered him towards a larger and more mature dog.Iraq war veteran finds kindred spirit in athletic rescue dog

The combat veteran appreciates not only the benefits we offer to make having a pet more affordable, but our team’s outreach as well.

“I am super grateful for the program and all the ways my best friend has enriched my life,” he says.

“Pets for Patriots has definitely been a huge blessing for both of us.”

One sign of an enduring match is the inability to imagine our lives before meeting that special someone – even when that someone has four legs and a tail.

Jeff had a full plate before he met Toby.

The Iraq War veteran was busy attending college and managing a successful fitness business. However, something – or someone – was missing. It was Toby, a spirited, athletic rescue dog who shares his savior’s zest for healthy living.

“I can’t express my gratitude for helping me become connected with Toby. He is a major part of my life,” Jeff shares. “I adopted Toby and he has been everything.”


  1. Mary Eaton

    It looks to be a perfect fit and the puzzle has been put together! You make for a very content pair, it shows in the pictures shared along with your testament.
    Thank you for rescuing Toby and including him as you do in your daily activities. He is obviously enjoying life!

  2. Carolyn J. Miller

    Another wonderful service and love story! Your service is never taken for granted and we thank you for it and for adopting an incredible dog to complete his life and yours!

  3. Alyson A.

    Thank you for your service. I’m so glad you have such an excellent training partner – Toby looks like such a sweet and happy pup. I see you carrying him in a few of the photos – excellent alternative to lifting weights!! 🙂

  4. Kiera packer

    I absolutely love this story! I work for SLCO Animal Services and absolutely remember Toby and I am thrilled to see that he is living his best life with you and is loved and has the home he deserves. We truly love our partnership with Pets for Patriots and hope to continue to see successful adoptions for many more years to come. Thank you for adopting!

  5. Christine E

    Toby is such a beautiful dog. I’m glad you found him and he is the athletic partner you needed. A win-win. Great photos! Thank you for your Service.

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