Navy veteran finds best mate in dog who never leaves his side

Navy veteran finds best mate in dog who never leaves his side

More than 40 years after separating from service Kevin learned that even former sailors need a first mate. Luckily an older shelter dog named Bailey answered the call.

Smooth sailing with the Navy

Kevin enlisted in the Navy on October 30, 1975 and separated on October 28, 1978. Both dates are burned into his memory, as are the many experiences he had over the course of his service.

Being on the water was always a powerful lure to Kevin, as was the desire to serve his country. He enlisted five months after the end of the Vietnam War and, while never deployed to a conflict zone, he traveled extensively during his tour of duty.

It was a unique learning experience for the young sailor to see both developing and more affluent parts of the world. As an engineman and diesel mechanic, Kevin served on ships that traveled to the Philippines, Singapore, Hawaii, Hong Kong, Okinawa, and Thailand.

“I love being on the water and watching the sun set,” Kevin says.

Due to the drawdown after the war, military life was not always very busy for Kevin and his shipmates.

“There wasn’t a lot going on,” he says. “They kind of had to make work for you.”

From sailor to civilian

Although Kevin was a trained mechanic he had difficulty securing a job after transitioning from service. He went back to school for two more years to solidify his credentials as a diesel mechanic.

Still, the lure of the water was powerful and Kevin found himself at sea again.

The Navy veteran landed a job maintaining an oil boat in Alaska that sailed between Juneau and Prudhoe Bay. For many years Kevin spent two months at sea for every month on land.

A quiet life

The Pacific West Coast has been home to Kevin for many years, both before and since his tour of duty. Although he grew up in Sacramento, California, his family moved to Tacoma, Washington when he was a teen.

Kevin has always been industrious. Before relocating to Washington state he had a paper route. After the move, he worked for a friend of his father, doing various small jobs at his rental properties.

In many ways Kevin returned to the quiet life he led in his youth. He likes playing board games and talking with neighbors in the apartment complex he now calls home. And he enjoys spending time with his three children and five grandchildren as well.

Kevin’s favorite pastime, however, is fishing.

“It’s not a very exciting life,” he admits.

But an adult Bichon Frisé and Poodle mix was about to bring a little more activity into this older sailor’s life. He would become Kevin’s new first mate.

Veteran who always adopts, never shops

Kevin is no stranger to pet adoption. He has adopted three other dogs throughout his life, all from the Humane Society for Tacoma and Pierce County.

Navy veteran finds best mate in dog who never leaves his side

Since 2012, the shelter has offered veterans in our program a $16 adoption fee when they adopt eligible dogs and cats.

Bailey fit the bill. When Kevin met him in January, 2018 the pup was six years old – just shy of being a senior – and had been surrendered to the shelter the day before.

The Navy veteran has high praise for the staff at the Humane Society for Tacoma and Pierce County.

“The people at the shelter were awesome,” Kevin says. “They want to know exactly what you want.” 

Kevin knew that he wanted a companion, but had a hard time finding a dog who would be small enough to live in his apartment complex. He searched the shelter website morning and night for three weeks until one day, he saw Bailey’s picture.

The very next day Kevin went to the shelter. Bailey laid his head on Kevin’s lap; it was an instant connection.

A loyal first mate

Kevin came across Pets For Patriots through an online search and liked that the we advocate for pet adoption to help veterans experiencing mental health issues. And in the time the pair have been together, Bailey has been the best prescription for the Navy veteran’s life challenges.

“I see a therapist about twice a month, but Bailey helps me even more,” Kevin explains. “He’s a dog I’d give my life for.”

When Kevin initially adopted his furry first mate he was in the process of moving to a new apartment complex. These days Bailey is more confident and socialized, and is one of the most loved dogs in the community.

The now seven year-old pup “eats up” all the love and attention he receives. And in return, he gives it right back to Kevin.

“I don’t know what life would be like without him,” the Navy veteran says.

Bailey fits perfectly into the quiet life that Kevin enjoys. One of his favorite things to do is lie beside Kevin on the couch.

“We bonded very quickly. He would not leave my side,” Kevin says. “He is the most faithful, smartest dog I’ve ever had. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him.”

At Pets for Patriots we often say that “love saves lives.” This is equally true for veteran and pet – and this Navy sailor and his first mate are no exception.

“He’s my love, my buddy, the best thing for me,” Kevin says. “It’s unconditional love.”


  1. Mary Eaton

    Hi Kevin,
    Your diligence in searching the rescue’s website came thru with a lovely match! I am grateful Bailey’s experience in the shelter was short lived. I am lifelong Washingtonian. Do not envy the rat race of Tacoma and surroundings (I’m SW in the Columbia River Gorge). Thanks to the Humane Society and Pets for Patriots for helping to make adoption possible.
    Thank you for your service and allowing Bailey into your heart and home.

  2. Steve Boyd

    Thank you for your service, sir…(my dad served on the USS Essex CV-9, 1943-46)…great story…looks like you both found your soulmates!…????????????????????????

  3. Cheryl

    Thank you for your service and for giving a dog a second chance. It sounds like both of you are the winners!

  4. Jack Witchin

    AND THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR SERVICE. The VETERANS are one of the very few places I donate to. PETS FOR PATRIOTS is just one of them. Blessings again ,……Jack & Karen

  5. Jack Witchin

    Kevin, My enlistment in the NAVY was detoured by a new family business. ( I REGRET it to this day ). Through the years I have adopted ONLY shelter rescues. At 64 yrs old I am retired to care for my disabled wife. I want you to know that if it weren’t for the companionship of these LOVING PALS both of our lives would be a total mess. YOU ARE BOTH NOW A GIFT FROM GOD FOR EACH OTHER. May all of your days together be full of happiness and other rescues. They are truly the most grateful pets that we will all join together with at the rainbow bridge someday ! BLESSINGS on your kindness. BE SAFE, BE HAPPY, BE LOVED …….. Jack & Karen Witchin, N.E. PA.

  6. John A. Smaldone


    Thank you for your service, I am Air Force, don’t hold that against me:) I am very happy for you and Baily Bro, I wish you only the best life can give. Your service to your country will not be forgotten by many and now you have Baily, that is wonderful!

    God Bless you both and as Panda said, hopes are you will both enjoy many more years together!

    John Smaldone

  7. Panda J.

    Thank you for your service, Keven…both to our country and to Bailey. The pictures you shared here show how much you love each other, and it made me smile looking at them. God Bless you both with many more happy years together.

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