CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - On the heels of Memorial Day, a Lowcountry native’s story is a reminder that not all service members are human.
Man's best friend is also on the front line, but there is no line that can separate the special bond between a service dog and their handler.
For 29-year-old Patrick Sullivan, a nine-month deployment formed a life-long bond between he and Callie, a trained Improvised Explosive Detection service dog.
“We’d have nights where we’d be in some dirt hut in Afghanistan and we’d be sleeping right next to each other and she’d be on top of my head,” Sullivan said.
The two formed an indescribable trust forged while detecting explosives during a 2012 mission in Afghanistan. Later that year, they faced a new challenge.
“Saying goodbye to her the first time when I didn’t think I’d ever see her again was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” Sullivan said.
His deployment had come to an end but he never forgot about Callie.
A stroke of luck came three years later.
“My buddy messaged me on Facebook and says hey I think I’ve found your dog,” he said. “I’m at Bagram Airfield and I’m calling my parents and I’m like, hey, listen, I found Callie, I don’t care what you have to do, just make sure you go get her.”
Sullivan’s friend came across a picture of Callie on the Mission K9 Rescue Facebook page. They were searching for Callie’s former handler. They said she was one of 12 so-called "war dogs" abandoned by a government contractor.
Sullivan’s parents fostered Callie until he finished active duty. In 2016, Sullivan and Callie were finally reunited.
“She saved my life and she helped save the lives of other soldiers,” he said. “So, the ability to provide her a home and comfortability after she was finished working was the best thing I could do for her.”
The two live a comfortable life while he attends graduate school in Charlotte, N.C.
“She gets whatever she wants. She’s allowed to sleep on the bed, she gets treats all the time, she has a bucket of toys,” he said. “I got her serial number tattooed right here on my leg because that’s where she used to always sit.”
For more information on Mission K9 Rescue you can visit their Facebook by clicking the posts above or head to their webpage www.missionk9rescue.org.