Three years ago, Brian Rand rescued his dog, Curly, from an animal shelter.
Early Sunday morning, 4-year-old Curly returned the favor.
Rand moved to Beaufort in 2016 after living just south of Philadelphia for about a decade.
During the move, he fell in love with a home in the Waters Edge neighborhood before he even stepped inside.
The street is small, the neighbors friendly, and the house looks out on the marsh.
It’s a true Lowcountry retirement dream.
Soon after moving in, Rand decided to explore Hilton Head Island.
Traffic was a beast, like it is most days during tourist season, and as he was slowly moving along, he saw a sign for an animal shelter.
He immediately turned into the parking lot.
He told the employees he was looking for a smaller dog, around 20 pounds or so. They introduced him to multiple pups, all hyper and running around.
None stood out as “the one.”
As he was walking toward the exit, he noticed a bigger dog sitting in the back of a pen.
“He looked at me, and I looked at him,” Rand said. “Then, that was it. I took him home.”
Rand and Curly, a 70-pound Labrador Chow mix, have been inseparable ever since.
“I never did make it to Hilton Head that day,” Rand laughed.
Nowadays, the duo go for walks on trails or visit the beach.
Rand likes to golf.
Curly, on the other hand, loves to swim in the marsh, especially if a porpoise comes around.
Neighbors refer to Curly as the “mayor of the street,” Rand said, because he runs around visiting different houses to get treats and snacks.
Saturday was no different.
That night when it was time for bed, everything was normal, too.
Rand was deep asleep when he felt something nudging him.
“Curly was banging me with his nose,” he said. “When he does that, I know something’s up.”
He looked at his phone: 12:58 a.m.
Rand got up, walked into the hallway and saw smoke billowing through the home.
The smoke alarms were chirping and the curtains were aflame.
He and Curly ran outside, and he called 911.
The City of Beaufort/Town of Port Royal Fire Department, Burton Fire District, Beaufort Police, and Beaufort County EMS all responded.
“They had water on that fire within four minutes,” Rand said. “By the time they got there, though, the whole attic was engulfed in flames.”
The fire was extinguished, but the ceilings are gone, and the entire attic is charred.
But, thanks to Curly, the best friends are safe.
“He’s wondering when he’s going to get his medal,” Rand joked.
Now in the recovery process, the two are staying in a nearby hotel.
Rand is also meeting someone new every day: someone with the fire marshal’s office, someone with insurance, someone with a building company. The list goes on and on.
“Crab season is almost over,” Rand said, “so at least I have something else to do.”
Through these frenetic, tough days, Rand has kept his smile and jolly laugh.
It’s all about perspective.
“I went thorough a lot of negative times in Vietnam days,” he explained. He said he served 32 months in Vietnam as a Navy SEAL. “Nothing will ever get worse than those” months, he said.
He’s not sure when he’ll be able to move back to his spot on the marsh, but he knows that’s where he’ll end up.
“I’m rebuilding. There’s no doubt one way or the other,” Rand said. “We’ll get there. But for now, I’m thankful the sun is still shining and we’re still walking around.”