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Dogs can bring a lot of healing into a person’s life. For military veteran Steve Welch, that healing touch is happening twice. First, a German Shepherd Dog saved his life in Afghanistan. And now another is helping heal him emotionally, thanks to a service for veterans called Operation Build Up.

When Welch was a bomb dog handler in Afghanistan, he worked closely with a German Shepherd named Benny, Spectrum News reported. Welch said that Benny, an explosives detection dog, saved his life twice. But Welch was never able to say goodbye to Benny after his deployment ended.

In fact, Welch tried to acquire Benny after he returned from deployment. Welch started a Facebook page dedicated to his search for Benny and was interviewed by local news sources. One day, Welch saw Benny’s photo on a nonprofit’s page and contacted them about the dog, shared Justin Cogswell, the founder of Operation Build Up. But by that time, Benny had already been adopted by another family.

Today, Welch is a police officer with Veteran Affairs in Canandaigua, New York. But he still holds Benny close to his heart. Operation Build Up couldn’t reunite Welch with Benny, but they found a female German Shepherd who was the perfect fit for him. Cogswell told Spectrum News that his service typically surprises veterans with vehicles or homes, but they did something different for Welch. The German Shepherd, Cogswell said, is “an amazing fit for him.”

A Loyal Companion

The day before introducing her to Welch, Cogswell shared a story on Facebook about what a great dog she was. “This girl is so loyal and eager to be loved. When I sit she sits, I go to the bathroom she follows, we went outside and she stopped to pee and thought she lost me and came barreling up behind me. She is going to be an unbelievably loyal companion… They have a winner in this pup.”

Cogswell was quick to note that they weren’t trying to replace Benny, but heal an emotional void in Welch’s life.

“We’re offering him another German Shepherd,” Cogswell said on Facebook, “not to replace Benny, but to kind of fill that void and give him an opportunity to connect with another German Shepherd.”

When Welch was first introduced to his new German Shepherd, he was so overwhelmed that he could barely speak or even react. But after about 30 minutes, he told Cogswell: “This feels awesome… She’s beautiful.”

Later, Welch shared a grateful post on Facebook, announcing that he named his new dog Kimber. “Well it’s official, no turning back now,” he wrote. “With the help of an amazing fiancée, a fellow Marine, and an outstanding organization. I would like to thank all involved and introduce the Facebook world to the 8th member of our loving family. Yesterday I was honored to receive a beautiful female German Shepherd from Operation Build Up. Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you to…Kimber.”

Operation Build Up is a nonprofit that seeks to help struggling veterans with needs ranging from cars to homes to even dogs. They help any veteran in need within driving distance of Rochester, New York, and beyond if the situation is dire.