RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Bob Sanderlin served in the Navy from 1977 to 1997. Now in 2017, he has reached a milestone.

“This year was a revelation,” he says. “I’ve been out of the military as long as I’ve been in the military.”

The retired electronic warfare technician put ships behind him long ago. These days, he chooses to spend time with four-legged best friends, like Sparky.

“He likes to roll on his back on the ground and do a roly poly,” Sanderlin affectionately pats Sparky. “He gets along well with the other dogs. Just a great pup.”

Sanderlin met Sparky about six weeks ago at the Richmond SPCA through its partnership with Pets for Patriots.

The program matches active duty military members and veterans with shelter animals who also need a companion.

“Vets a lot of times have concerns and issues and challenges, and so do pets,” Sanderlin explains the appeal of the program. “So getting pets and the patriots together.”

Studies show having a pet can lower blood pressure and decrease depression, stress and anxiety.

For those currently serving, Pets for Patriots works with groups to find foster families for animals during deployments.

It teams up with other nonprofits to offer financial assistance for emergency very care.

There are also perks for pets who might otherwise be passed up.

“Great program,” Sanderlin says. “Gets older dogs adopted.”

When you see Sanderlin with seven-year-old Sparky, you know both of them are happy with the way the adoption turned out.

“The tail wagging enthusiasm is what we call it,” Sanderlin chuckles.

Pets for Patriots offers reduced adoption fees and starter kits to get animals settled in to their new homes.Never miss another Facebook post from 8NewsFind 8News on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram; send your news tips to