After traveling the world with the Navy chaplaincy Josh tapped a higher power to save a second chance dog who needed love and a home.
Josh always dreamed of a career filled with new experiences. The military offered him opportunities to travel and serve our nation at the same time.
“I just had a calling for myself,” he says. “Like, hey, I was doing work, but I wanted to try something new. What’s the best way to try something new? Joining the military and serving your country.”
Josh was inspired further by his older step-brother, who served in the Army. So in 2016 he enlisted in the Navy’s delayed entry program and entered boot camp the following year.
It would not be long til the young sailor’s prayers were answered; he was dispatched to Spain for his first duty station. From there he traveled to Germany, Switzerland, Romania, and England. He would visit Poland, too, as part of a temporary additional duty, or TAD, assignment.
“Once you go out and experience other cultures, it’s a great experience,” he says.
“[You] experience their life and then come back here and be like, ‘Wow, there’s so much more.’ It was such a great travel experience and I miss it.”
Returning to Romania’s beautiful scenery and countryside remains on the top of Josh’s bucket list.
“I would want to go back in a heartbeat,” he says. “I would want to go to Romania and explore some more.”
Keeping the faith
Although Josh has enjoyed the extensive international travel afforded to him through his job, it is secondary to his actual duties as a religious program specialist.
These professionals provide a range of support to Navy chaplains, from administrative assistance to personal security. In addition, they ensure that all Navy and Marine personnel have appropriate opportunities and resources to practice their faith.
“The biggest thing is making sure that sailors, the Marines, and their dependents have the opportunity to talk to a chaplain and help them with [any] resources possible,” he says, including marriage, confessions, or other religious practices.
Josh has returned stateside and is serving the remainder of his tour at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. While there he is completing his college degree and hopes to find work as a government contractor when he separates from service in 2024.
Searching for a second chance dog
Josh always loved pets despite not having had any growing up. He cherished time he spent with dogs belonging to neighbors and friends.
About a year after returning stateside Josh bought a house. He planned to adopt a shelter dog, preferably a young adult dog and ideally an Akita – the breed a friend had until the dog died of old age.
“I didn’t want to buy a puppy,” Josh explains. “I mean, it would have been cool, but I’d rather take [a] dog that has probably been through something. Give them a second chance.”
Like many people, Josh started his search online, where he discovered Pets for Patriots’ companion pet adoption program for military veterans.
Our exclusive focus on the most overlooked dogs and cats resonated with the Navy veteran and aligned perfectly with his adoption plans.
Among the shelter partners nearest Josh is Prince George’s County Animal Services Division. Since 2013 the municipal shelter offers fee-waived adoptions to veterans in our program and, to date, has more than 140 adoptions through our partnership.
This shelter is where Josh would fulfill a lifelong dream: to be first-time dog dad and adopt a second chance dog.
Josh visited the shelter to meet a dog he saw online who checked off every box on his wishlist.
It was nearing the end of the summer 2022 and Keto had been in the shelter since early July. He was a big, three year-old Akita-Husky mix.
At first Keto seemed not to take much interest in anything – or anyone – around him, including Josh. Found as a stray, Keto had mastered a certain aloofness despite at the same time being keenly aware of his surroundings.
Still, the second chance dog did accept a gentle scratch behind the ears from Josh. And that was about all.
“He wouldn’t take any treats from my hand, of course, because he didn’t trust me like that.”
Still, Josh saw that the dog could warm up to him. Their budding relationship had potential. Unfortunately, two other applicants had been looking at Keto as well, and one did in fact adopt him.
Josh was disappointed yet undeterred. The self-described “workout junkie” wanted an active dog, and looked at a Husky whose temperament made him unsuitable for the veteran’s home.
A couple of weeks passed and then Josh got a call he did not expect. Keto was being returned to the shelter because he was incompatible with the previous adopter’s other dog.
It is as though the young man with a calling was rewarded through divine intervention. Josh was about to adopt the second chance dog of his dreams.
“I have a best friend”
Josh’s reunion with Keto seems fated.
The big dog is quiet, loving, playful, and gentle – everything Josh sought in a companion. He was pleasantly surprised to learn that he and his new four-legged housemate are alike in ways large and small.
“I just love playing with him when we do have our playtime,” he shares. “We certainly have the same temperament. It’s kind of weird, like we’re both playing now or when I control playtime, we go all out. He’s super loyal and that’s what I love about him.”
Josh remembers their first meeting in the shelter. It turns out to have presaged the bond that man and dog now share.
“He was a new dog, looking around. Not really paying attention to me, which is totally like my personality,” Josh confides. “I’d rather not pay attention to anyone else, either.”
Keto’s aloof moments should not be mistaken for disinterest, however. He can sense the quiet loneliness and depression that Josh has been coping with throughout his military service, and moves close to comfort him.
“But I’ve always been like alone in my life,” he shares, “and it’s not that it’s my selfishness per se. It’s more like I have a lot of love to give, to help another animal or another person brings gratitude to my heart. Just having Keto around, his real personality is starting show and he really helps me in the times like, ‘Hey, I’m not really alone. I have a best friend, a loyal companion.'”
“…he needed love”
As a first time pet parent Josh appreciated all of the benefits and support he receives from our organization, including following up after his adoption for a minimum of one year. He recommends that other veterans who are considering pet adoption to learn how our program works and apply.
“Do it. Honestly, to it,” he says. “Pets for Patriots help you before the process, during the process, and after the process.”
Josh had concerns early on that Keto was experiencing separation anxiety. We provided educational information, expert tips on crate training, and other guidance to help his second chance dog de-stress.
Many veterans are unaware of benefits available to them outside of the military. We are one of countless programs devoted to the physical and mental health of military veterans. We achieve this while saving vulnerable shelter animals as well.
“Don’t miss out on the opportunities and benefits that you have as a veteran, and Pets for Patriots is helping us as veterans and active service members to find that right companion if you have your darkest days or if you’re struggling mentally,” Josh says. “Sometimes a companion will definitely help you through that journey.”
Josh has found a second calling by fulfilling his lifelong dream to adopt a dog. Keto gives him a positive outlet for his giving, loving nature and his desire to help others. And in the process he is helping himself overcome the trials of depression.
It seems a fitting bargain that benefits both man and dog.
“I think I gave [Keto] what he needed. He needed a companion, he needed love, he needed a place to stay.”