It was a reunion seven months in the making when Air Force Master Sgt. Hector Rivera finally returned home to his dog, Kanoh.
"He’s my son. He’s going to be seven years old in March, and I've had him since he was a pup, and I didn’t have anyone that could take care of him," Rivera said. "It was tough leaving him behind."
He loves his 6-year-old dog so much, he had him tattooed on his arm.
To make sure his dog was taken care of while he was in Kuwait, Rivera turned to a program called Dogs on Deployment.
"This is the second time I've used them. Words cannot describe how thankful I am," he said. "They have been wonderful to me. Constantly, they would stay in contact with me. That made me feel great."
Through the program, volunteer families foster dogs whose owners are overseas.
Before he left, Rivera entrusted Kanoh to Joanne and David Donahue.
"Honestly, I just want to say, I'm so grateful, grateful for people like Joanne and David," he said.
"He’s been just a wonderful dog," Joanne Donahue said. "I'm just so glad to see them back together again. It’s great."
Kanoh learned some new tricks while Rivera was away too, like closing doors and learning Spanish commands.
"This is the story the community needs. This is nothing but goodness right now," David Donahue said.
Finally, Rivera was able to come face-to-face with Kanoh for the first time in months.
"I didn’t know how he was going to react, to be honest with you," he said. "I got really teary. He knows. You can’t explain it."
For David Donahue, fostering Kanoh was also a lesson in what service can look like.
"The level of service is not just for veterans," he said. "I think we all as a community support their service, and that becomes our service."
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