Without meaning to, Dave and Doug Peltz gravitate toward the same things. The 55-year-old twins — both 6 feet 1 and muscular, with their deep-set, brilliant blue eyes, dark hair and serious faces — often will find out they've bought the same running shoes, down to the color, or the same bicycle or shirt. They didn't intend to follow similar career paths either: Dave is a Pasco sheriff's patrol deputy and Doug is a firefighter paramedic for Palm Harbor Fire Rescue. But they're thankful they did.
"We are both suited to what we are doing," Doug said.
As the twins were growing up, most people couldn't tell them apart. Even their own grandmother couldn't say which was which. When she suspected one of swallowing a quarter, she took both toddlers to the hospital. They grew up in Seminole with parents who instilled in them a driven work ethic.
The boys were muscular even as children, from hours mowing the lawn, building fences and chopping wood. In high school, they were on the swim team. They said they only swapped classes once and no one ever figured it out.
Dave loved planes and enlisted in the Air Force right after high school. Doug moved to Pinellas County and began a business raking beaches. He volunteered for the Belleair Bluffs fire department and the chief told him he was good at it. Doug's business had faltered after problems with his partner, he said. He wanted a stable income and future, so he began taking the courses needed to become a firefighter and paramedic. It was a time without sleep, as he worked as a hospital orderly on the night shift and attended classes in the day.
"You do what you have to do," said Doug, who worked in fire rescue in Seminole for 26 years before retiring and moving to Palm Harbor. He realized he wasn't ready for retirement, so he has been working for Palm Harbor Fire Rescue since 2006.
Dave worked a similar punishing schedule when he decided to change careers, working all day at a regular job and attending classes at night. Dave spent 20 years with the Air Force and then 10 years working for NATO as a navigator and fixing communication equipment. He wanted to be a pilot, but didn't have perfect vision. He traveled the world, serving in both Gulf Wars and the Bosnian conflict, and lived for many years in Germany. On a trip to Florida, he met his second wife and decided to quit NATO and move back home in 2005. He worked fixing X-ray equipment, but didn't find the job fulfilling and wanted something else. He liked the military and law enforcement environment, so he applied for a job at the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. He was hired as a patrol deputy in 2009, and works the 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift, patrolling Hudson and Shady Hills.
"I feel very lucky," Dave said. "Every day is different."
The brothers both cringe at the thought of being stuck in an office all day, so these jobs, though intense and difficult, suit them well. Both are calm in crisis, doing what they need to do without giving in to emotions. In his career, Doug has saved people from fires, resuscitated children from near drowning and kept car accident victims breathing. Those are big, good days. But the smaller days are important, too.
"Sometimes it's a routine call where you just made somebody's day better," Doug said.
For Dave, his favorite days are when he gets to mentor kids. Sometimes the juveniles are the reason why he's been called to a scene, the unruly suspects. He tries to tell them that the road they're on is only leading to prison or death — or both. Sometimes they listen. He's gotten a few calls from parents, thanking him for changing their kids.
"Those are the good days," Dave said.
There are bad days, too, for both of them. The suicides. The fatal car crashes. The children who can't be saved. Doug and Dave have seen terrible things.
"They never, ever leave your mind," Doug said.
But they don't talk about it, even with each other. They don't need to. They understand each other, and that is enough.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.