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
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.”