Air Force Master Sgt. Tunisia Miles takes a selfie with golden retrievers Ellie, front, and Emma inside the passenger terminal at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on Oct. 18, 2023. The dogs are widely followed on social media, where their owners, Kevin and Katie Bubolz, post training tips and clips of the dogs. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — U.S. service members waiting for a military flight to Kuwait on Wednesday received a surprise visit from two TikTok stars, who greeted them with wagging tails and an occasional kiss.
Spunky golden retrievers Ellie and Emma stopped by the USO center at the Ramstein Air Base passenger terminal with owners Kevin and Katie Bubolz.
More than 6 million people follow the couple and their dogs at , where the Bubolzes post dog training tips and advice as well as comical clips of Ellie and Emma.
“It was awesome,” said Master Sgt. Tunisia Miles, en route from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., who grabbed a selfie with the dogs. “They were the cutest.”
The couple and the dogs are on their first overseas trip together as part of a “mission to spread smiles.” They’ve visited several European cities and USO centers in Poland and Germany.
Emma is all smiles while visiting with U.S. service members at the USO center inside the passenger terminal at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on Oct. 18, 2023. Emma and her older sister, Ellie, both social media stars, have been visiting U.S. troops in Poland and Germany. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)
Ellie, a 7-year-old golden retriever and therapy dog, knows how to hug, a trick she practiced while getting a selfie with Beatriz Fracalosi, a USO center operations specialist and Air Force spouse on Oct. 18, 2023, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)
Katie Bubolz introduces her golden retrievers, Ellie, foreground, and Emma to U.S. service members at the USO center inside the passenger terminal at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on Oct. 18, 2023. Katie and her husband, Keith, a former Army helicopter pilot, are taking the popular dogs on their first international trip to meet U.S. troops in Poland and Germany. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)
Ellie appears content with receiving lots of attention from U.S. service members during a visit to Poland earlier this month. Ellie and Emma, both golden retrievers with a wide social media following, are on their first international trip touring U.S. bases in Germany and Poland. (Kevin and Katie Bubolz)
Ellie gives Kevin Bubolz an unprompted high-five for a treat inside the USO center at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on Oct. 18, 2023. Bubolz and his wife, Katie, are visiting U.S. service members in Poland and Germany as part of their first international trip with Ellie and Emma, who have millions of social media followers. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)
Planned stops Thursday at the USO centers in Landstuhl and at Rhine Ordnance Barracks are their last military visits, Kevin Bubolz said.
A former Army helicopter pilot who served nearly eight years in the military, Bubolz said including the USO on their five-week European tour with Ellie and Emma is “just our way of giving back.”
While deployed to Afghanistan in 2014, Bubolz’s unit was accompanied by a chaplain’s service dog, a black Lab named Zac. The dog brought comfort to the soldiers, helped reduce loneliness and even flew with them while wearing specialized hearing protection, Bubolz said.
The experience inspired him to get Ellie and train her as a therapy dog for schools, hospitals and nursing homes. During the pandemic, when that volunteer work was shut down, the couple pivoted to social media and added Emma to the family.
One of the more popular videos shows Ellie engaging in a taste tournament, where Bubolz instructs her to lick pairs of different foods before telling her to “take” one. It turns out mango is one of her favorite foods and she chooses it over a piece of meat. The has drawn more than 12.7 million views on TikTok.
The couple’s latest social media content highlights their European travels. , where they showed service members some of their tricks, joined a game of ping pong and received lots of hugs.
“We’ve seen a lot of smiles from people all over the world, lots of military service members, which has been quite fun to see the impact that these two can have,” Bubolz said.