A reunion between a former soldier and his two long-lost friends – beagles named Bullet and Trigger – was not short on slobbery kisses, wagging tails and treats Thursday.
Since they parted in 2004, Raymond Behrens, 24, served as a Navy Seabee in Japan, Iraq and twice in Afghanistan. When he enlisted, he begrudgingly gave up the two dogs, which he got when he was 16.
Six years later, he has his dogs back.
The reunion came about because earlier this week Behrens looked at some animal adoption ads online. He was done with his military service and thought it was a good time to get another four-legged friend.
On one site, he saw a couple of dogs that looked just like his old dogs.
His first reaction: “There’s no way those could be my dogs.”
But they looked the same. The names were the same. The town they were located in was the same. And the dogs were brother and sister, just like his.
So he got out the photos he had saved of Bullet and Trigger.
“I started comparing pictures I had with what was on there,” he said.
And he was stunned. He could tell by the markings they were the same dogs he had given up for adoption in 2004.
“It was too much coincidence for them not to be my dogs,” he said.
His next reaction: “I gotta get these guys before someone else gets them.”
He immediately contacted the agency that had the dogs and eagerly waited while the adoption process was completed.
“I could hardly sleep for two and a half days,” he said. “I just wanted to bring them home now.”
An anonymous donor heard the story and paid the $180 adoption fee, in appreciation of Behrens’ military service.
He said he was heartbroken when he had to give the dogs up, but he didn’t see any other options.
“I was really sad,” he said. “I didn’t want to get rid of my dogs. It felt like they knew I was getting rid of them. They weren’t just pets.”
A couple adopted the dogs from Behrens’ mother in 2004. Luckily for Behrens, the couple was moving and having a baby and had to give the dogs up for adoption again.
The dogs had been in foster care with Lynne Nostrant, a Second Chance Pet Rescue volunteer, for about three weeks.
“I think it’s just very special that this happened,” Nostrand said of the reunion. “The timing just worked out perfectly.”
Once reunited, Behrens and the dogs barely missed a beat; he said they seemed to remember him, though Trigger was a bit shy at first.
He did not seem too surprised at the dogs’ warm greeting – they had always been lovers.
He initially got the dogs to hunt rabbits with him, so Bullet and Trigger seemed like appropriate names, he said. As it turned out, the dogs were pacifists.
When Behrens first got them, he put them in a rabbit’s pen, but the dogs’ reaction was less than aggressive.
“They were scared of the rabbit,” he said. “They didn’t hunt long. They became my lap dogs.”
Since he last saw the dogs, Behrens got married and became a dad, but he said his long-lost friends will be a welcome addition to the family.
“All that moving around and they made it back,” he said. “I thought I would never see them again. I don’t know how it happened.”