Joshua Rohrer, the homeless Iraq War veteran whose service dog was hit and killed by a car following his arrest, was recently gifted a puppy by a local good samaritan. Rohrer is now a doting dog dad to little Justice Rae, a playful Belgian Malinois puppy.
The special little pup’s name was carefully chosen. Justice, because Rohrer is fighting for justice for Sunshine Rae, and Rae as a reminder of the friend he lost. Like any puppy, Justice Rae is overflowing with energy. That energy is being harnessed to train Justice Rae to fulfill Sunshine’s legacy.
“She’s my new baby,” he told WBTV. “I’ve been training her to prepare her for the big shoes she’s gotta fill. She’s living her best life right now, enjoying the sunshine.”
This Veteran Has A New Mission On Home Turf
The traumatic experience has given Rohrer a new mission to execute: advocacy and education. Rohrer continues to demonstrate his resilience as he marches onward educating the public on the importance of service dogs.
“That seems to be the biggest hurdle for service dog teams and disabled people with service dogs, going out in public,” said Rohrer. “That service dog is like a wheelchair, it’s like a prosthetic. It is absolutely necessary for us to function independently in society. And people take that away from us on a daily basis.”
He’s also seeking justice for Sunshine and hopes to hold the police officers who arrested him accountable. As he petitions the courts to release body camera footage of his arrest, Justice Rae will remain right by his side.
Army veteran Josh Rohrer and his service dog, Sunshine, were a pair of familiar faces often seen around the Charlotte, North Carolina area. Rohrer served in the Army from 2002 to 2006. He was deployed to Iraq and Kuwait and suffers from PTSD as a result.
Luckily, Rohrer found comfort in the love and companionship of Sunshine.
“She’s definitely not a pet. Sunshine Ray is a highly trained service animal that is task trained to perform duties toward my disabilities, so she is crucial to my ability to be able to function in society,” Rohrer told WIS 10 News.
Rohrer And Sunshine Were Local Icons
The two-year-old Belgian Malinois had been specially trained as a service animal. Rohrer and Sunshine were inseparable and had become well-loved members of the community. The pair was never aggressive when asking for help but instead would spend their days just smiling and waving at passersby.
“He wasn’t doing anything wrong,” Jordan Huxhold told WBTV News. “He wasn’t begging for money. He never came up to a car until you would give him money. He was just happy-go-lucky, smiling and waving at people. That was a joy for him.”
One Phone Call Shattered Rohrer’s World
Someone called the Gastonia Police Department last week to report that Rohrer was using a dog to panhandle. The police arrived and arrested Rohrer, firmly placing him on the hood of the cruiser during the ordeal. Sunshine jumped onto the hood in an attempt to help her dad, just as she had been trained.
“She was just doing her job, licking me and trying to calm me down,” Rohrer told Yahoo News. “The cops started yelling at her and me, telling me to get her to settle down but they wouldn’t allow me to physically get control of her.”
Sunshine was ultimately tased and took off with a prong still stuck in her side. Someone who knows Roher was able to find Sunshine and was caring for her while Rohrer was in jail. Somehow, Sunshine managed to escape. Her body was found a few days later. The vibrant, loving, protective little girl had been run over by a car.
Community Members Want Justice
Now the community is asking for justice, not just for Rohrer but for Sunshine also. Dozens of people came together to hold a vigil for sweet Sunshine. Rohrer is hoping to be able to find another dog, though he knows his bond with Sunshine was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of love. Despite what he has been through recently and the current exacerbation of his PTSD, Rohrer has one message:
“We can all come together as a community and stand up to the things we believe in,” Rohrer said. “It’s so easy just to be kind to one another and show support, and just smile.”