What to Know
- Christopher Raguso's two young daughters were surprised with a puppy at their Commack home Friday
- Raguso, an FDNY lieutenant and National Guardsman, had promised to get a dog for the girls when he returned home from Iraq
- He never made it back; he was killed in a helicopter crash along the Syrian border in March, along with six others
It's a joyous day when any kid gets their first puppy, but for Mila and Eva Raguso of Long Island, it is so much more.
The girls lost their father, 39-year-old FDNY lieutenant and Air Force master sergeant Christopher Raguso, in a helicopter crash along the Syrian border in March. It was his final deployment to Iraq with the New York National Guard, and he'd promised his wife that when he returned, they would finally get a puppy for their daughters.
His widow, Carmela Raguso, "We talked about, when Chris got home from his deployment, that we would make it a big surprise."
Since her father died, 5-year-old Eva has been haunted by nightmares and sleeping in her mother's bed. Paws of War, a group helping to connect shelter dogs with veterans suffering brain injury and PTSD, stepped in to help.
"We heard she was having nightmares and not able to sleep, and we put it together," said Chris McNamara of Paws of War.
Eva, 5, has been having trouble sleeping. Her mom said this is the first time she’s seen her daughter genuinely happy in months. “I finally have a friend to sleep with me in my bed!” Eva said. Here’s the whole surprise: pic.twitter.com/T8pKFGRzB8— Laura Blasey (@lblasey) August 24, 2018
Carmela Raguso said, "We needed something happy, genuinely happy, to keep their minds off of every day. And someone to take care of anad love that will love them back unconditionally."
And so, on Friday, the group arrived at the Ragusos' home in Commack with a three-month-old black Labrador puppy named Calvin. At first, the girls thought they were just getting visit from a veteran and his dog. Then when they realized Calvin was there to stay, they shrieked with joy.
"My puppy, my puppy!" Eva shouted as she hugged Calvin, the embodiment of a promise kept to Christopher Raguso's little girls.
Calvin seemed instantly at home in the yard that Raguso had tended with such loving care over the years.
"I think he's looking down and smiling and saying, 'Carm, keep the yard clean! Keep the yard clean!'" said Carmela Raguso. "The yard was his heaven."
She nearly teared up as she watched Eva play with their new pup: "I haven't seen her this happy. Oh, my gosh."
"We saved a puppy from a kill shelter and helped a family who is so deserving," said McNamara.
Mom Carmela said Calvin has already become a blessing: "I think this dog will foster a stronger bond between the two of them. That's my goal. My personal mom goal is to have Calvin bring them closer together and help them heal together as a little unit."
Raguso was a 13-year veteran of the city fire department, having spent 11 years at Engine 249/Ladder 113 in Brooklyn's Prospect-Lefferts Gardens before he was transferred to Queens. He also was a volunteer firefighter in Commack.
Six other National Guard members were killed in the March 15 chopper crash, including three others from New York state: Capt. Christopher "Tripp" Zanetis, also a member of the FDNY; Tech Sgt. Dashan Briggs; and Maj. Andreas O'Keeffe. They were stationed at the F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach.