Sgt. Aaron Crowell grew up in Florida at the sides of two German Shepherds, and since then he has always been an avid dog lover. He traveled the world in his youth and was forced to part ways with those two, but his love for dogs only grew from there. Not only did they serve as loyal and loving companions, but they shared in his passion for the outdoors — be it hunting deep in the woods or just running around with family and playing with the dogs.

He would go on to join the U.S. Army Reserves, serving as a mechanic attached to a Special Forces group. They deployed to Iraq, and Aaron left behind a wife and his own six-year-old German Shepherd in the United States, waiting for his return.

It was in Iraq where Aaron would meet Arlo.

On deployment, Aaron described a cargo ramp from which planes would get loaded and unloaded. The supply sergeant was looking around for a pallet of materials that they had ordered, and Aaron noticed a dog on the ground trying to get some sleep. He took a picture of her and moved on with his daily business. “Not once did I think she had puppies,” he told me in an interview.

They were only a couple of months from returning home, and those thoughts no doubt permeated every day’s work. On one of those days, Aaron was walking from building to building, and he noticed four dogs roaming the camp — puppies (one of which is pictured above). As the camp began to become acutely aware of the dogs’ presence, Aaron realized that their lives might be in danger. After all, wild dogs cannot simply be allowed to roam around military bases unchecked. However, Aaron felt for the dogs and “I wanted to get them out of harm’s way ASAP.”

His first course of action was to jump onto Google and start researching. He needed to act fast — not only were the dogs’ lives in danger, but he knew that going through any official channels might take time. With two months left, that time was severely limited for any bureaucratic process to take place.

While the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) could not help him, they referred him to Puppy Rescue Mission (PRM), a non-profit organization based out of Texas that works to rescue animals, especially those in places of conflict where U.S. military service members have bonded with those animals. “Michelle and Anna got back to me super fast. I explained the situation to them, and they immediately asked me, ‘How fast can you get [the dogs] to [a place in Iraq] where we have someone who can take care of them?'”

Aaron felt that they were genuinely concerned with these dogs’ lives, and felt comfortable having someone actively on his side in the logistical portions of bringing them to safety. He worked with his chain of command, and was eventually able to get them on a flight out of there, to a place in Iraq where PRM could do their work. They had the mom and her puppies pop some Benadryl for the flight and sent them on their way. “Once we had word the dogs had been received, we could all breathe a little easier.”