Joshua is an Army combat veteran who served five years with the 101st Airborne, including a yearlong deployment to Iraq. He returned to an empty home that is now complete after adopting a homeless adult dog aching for a second chance at life.
The former Screaming Eagle joined the Army out of high school. One of the most memorable moments of his military service when he was deployed to Iraq between February 2003 and February 2004.
“We had an arms market in the area of Baghdad we were located. Every time we would patrol, the weapons would disappear,” he explains. “So I had the idea to roll in, in the back of a big yellow civilian truck… then pop out and surprise them. It worked like a charm. Problem is, that trick only works once.”
All work and no play leads Army veteran to pet adoption
Following his return from deployment and separation from service Joshua has a fulfilling career as a federal agent in Detroit, but few other commitments.
Although relatively care-free, Joshua realized that something was missing in his life: a buddy with whom to share it. The veteran describes his rationale for pet adoption in his own, colorful way.
“Because the shotgun seat in my truck needed fillin’.”
Make that one egg, over easy
Joshua learned about Pets for Patriots and its companion pet adoption program for military veterans upon visiting the charity’s local shelter partner, Humane Society of the Huron Valley, where Pets for Patriots members receive a 50% adoption fee discount and an ongoing 10% discount at the shelter’s on-site veterinary clinic. The Iraq war veteran promptly applied and – after being approved by Pets for Patriots – found his battle buddy.
Consistent with Pets for Patriots’ mission to save the animals most overlooked for adoption and pair them with military veterans, Joshua adopted Panzer, a then nearly six year-old German Shepherd mix. As both an adult and well over 40 pounds, the homeless dog met more than one of the charitable program’s criteria for an at-risk pet.
Panzer’s new role as pampered pet seems to suit him just fine, but he’s a bit of a stickler for his morning routine.
“Panzer and I run three to four miles every morning,” says the Army veteran. “Now, his hips aren’t that great and I don’t always want to get up at 5:00 AM, but you can bet if I don’t, there will be 80 pounds of German Shepherd literally standing on my chest by 5:09 AM.”
“When we’re done running, he gets one egg over easy,” says Joshua. “I go to work, he takes a nap.”
While life is not quite as rigorous as his days with the 101st Airborne, Joshua admits that with Panzer in his life, he’s more likely to stay active.
“When I get home, we play. Stick, frisbee, hockey puck… whatever. As long as it fits in his mouth,” he says, adding, “I used to get home and sit down to watch the news… now Panzer and I spend that time out of doors.”
“The simples, best mission”
Joshua was quick to recognize the founding premise of Pets for Patriots: pair two populations with complimentary needs – homeless pets who need a home and veterans who need of a new pet friend.
“Pets for Patriots has the simplest, best mission of any animal oriented organization out there,” he says. “Connect a veteran who wants a dog with a dog that really needs one, then continue to provide support? Brilliant.”
To other veterans who may be thinking about adopting a dog or cat through Pets for Patriots, Joshua is clear.
“If you are ready for a pet, this is the only way to go.”
An Army veteran’s promise kept: a “fulfilling life”
Panzer does more than keep Joshua busy after work; the once homeless dog changed his veteran’s life and perspective.
“When you get a dog, you owe that dog not just a fresh bowl of water and good chow, but a fulfilling life. So you have to learn what he cares about, which isn’t always chow. Sometimes it’s sitting in the back of the truck while you work outside, or playing in a sprinkler, or tracking down the roadkill origin of that new scent,” Joshua explains. “Bottom line is you owe it to the dog to try to think like he does, or at least learn what he values.”
In the relatively short time they’ve been family, Joshua has learned a lot about his new best friend and has come to love many things about him, including how one night “he made a noise in his sleep that was ‘spot on’ for a cow mooing.”
Lucky for Joshua, Panzer offers a lot to love.
“He can discriminate between truck and car without a change of inflection. His hips are to the point where they collapse if he tries to jump… but he always tries to jump.”
Perhaps it’s Panzer’s native intelligence that ultimately drew Joshua to him. After all, it takes a crafty canine to get his pet parent to take a daily run before dawn and then prepare him an egg – over easy, of course.
Taking it all in, Joshua sums up one of Panzer’s most endearing qualities.
“He might be smarter than me.”