Pets For Patriots Blog Veterans With Pets Tue, 01 Sep 2015 17:46:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Combat veteran adapts to civilian life with second-chance Pit Bull pup Mon, 31 Aug 2015 15:48:46 +0000 It was a tough decision for an Army combat veteran to bring a Pit Bull into his young family, but his decision to give the much-maligned breed a second chance paid off for all involved. Chase (Montrell)_cropped

Army strong, Army proud

One year after the 9/11 terror attacks Montrell joined the United States Army. It was September 2002 when he enlisted and was subsequently stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia with the 3rd Infantry Division. Formed in 1917, the unit has become one of our nation’s top military units for dealing with contingencies around the world.

Early in 2003 Montrell arrived at Fort Stewart March in Southeast Georgia at a time when his unit was actively deploying to Iraq.

“At that point I had to quickly adjust,” he recalls, “things started to move at a fast pace.”

It was not long til the young Army infantryman found himself in the thick of battle.

“I soon joined up in the fight with my fellow brothers of field artillery,” he says. “After seven months, we returned from deployment and soon began preparation for a one-year long deployment in early 2005.”

By the following year Montrell had completed his full tour of duty.

“After returning to the states early 2006,” he says, “I began to prepare for out-processing after completing my service obligation with the Army.”

In 2006 following deployments to Iraq and Kuwait, Montrell separated from the Army with an Honorable discharge and started his life anew.

Life after wartime

While the Army prepared Montrell to fight, it did not prepare him for what would come next: life outside of the military.

“As I began to transition back to civilian life,” he shares, “I then began to ask myself the question, ‘now what?'” Montrell and daughter selfie_cropped

Montrell left Georgia and settled in Indianapolis, where he started a family. He is currently employed at Defense Finance Accounting and Services (DFAS), where the combat veteran feels that he is still making a contribution to his fellow service members. It is clear that he is a man proud of the many accomplishments in his life, chief among them military service and fatherhood.

“I am proud to give back and provide support to the warfighter and the services which support the United States Department of Defense,” he says, adding, “I am a proud father of three beautiful daughters ages four, six and eight who are the joys of my life.”

By all measure the young Army veteran seemed to have weathered a transition that proves deeply challenging for so many. Yet a nagging feeling haunted him long after his separation from service.

“After some years I began to feel like something was missing,” he says. “Being in a house of all ladies, I thought it would be a good idea to look into a male pup.”

Montrell’s decision was not one of simple household chemistry; he realized that he needed a different kind of support – the kind offered by a companion pet.

Pit Bull pup gets his second chance

“As a combat vet, times weren’t always so easy,” Montrell says, “so the idea of a furry friend didn’t seem like a bad idea.” Montrell, family and Chase_cropped

The combat veteran had no idea what kind or type of dog he was looking for, other than believing he would prefer a male. For weeks he searched the online profiles of available pets at the Humane Society of Indianapolis which, unbeknownst to him at the time, is one of hundreds of Pets for Patriots adoption partners around the country.

“One Friday a pup name Cagnie was added on their page. Cagnie fit every quality of a dog we were looking for except for the fact he was a Pit Bull mix.”

Montrell had negative preconceptions about Pit Bulls, and was concerned for his young family’s welfare. In fact, Pit Bull is a generic term that refers to a wide variety of dog breeds that have become unfairly associated with tenacity and aggression.

“[I was] initially reluctant of the Pit Bull breed due to their negative perception and me having three small children,” he says, “I decided to give him a try and work with him as necessary.” 

“My new best friend”

Although it was Montrell’s idea to adopt a dog, he knew this was ultimately a family decision.

“After the initial meet and greet with Cagnie and my family, we decided that this dog could possibly be the one,” he says. “From that day until today, Chase, formerly Cagnie, has been such a great addition to the family.” Chase (Montrell) and the girls_cropped

Montrell admits that he did not know about Pets for Patriots and our companion pet adoption program for veterans until he started his month-long search for a dog.

“The organization was created for vets like myself and serves the exact same purpose of what I needed in my life.”

The combat veteran believes other veterans who “have any desire to fulfill a missing link within their lives” consider adopting through Pets for Patriots.

“I can honestly say I’m so glad I did!” he exclaims.

As it turns out, Montrell could not be happier that he gave Chase a second chance, and set aside the negative perceptions he had about Pit Bulls.

“Not only is he well-mannered and loves my kids,” he says, “he became my new best friend.”

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Pets for Patriots sets record for dog food donations Thu, 27 Aug 2015 17:59:52 +0000 Buddy is among many recipients of dog food donations through a record-setting campaign with DOG for DOG, makers of high quality, all natural, made in the USA pet food. The company ran a one-month promotion to benefit Pets for Patriots, and Buddy and his veteran Michael would like to say, “Thank you.” Buddy DFD 2

For every purchase, the company donates an equal amount of their dog food to help pets in need. Our promotion with them was such a success that it shattered their one-month sales record through their Amazon store and yielded a whopping 101 bags of donated food.

At our request, DOG for DOG sent a full pallet – more than 900 pounds of food – to Humane Society of Pinellas, our partner shelter where Michael and Buddy adopted one another. The remaining 36 bags were delivered to Michael for Buddy’s enjoyment, and should last him til November 2016.

We chose Buddy to be our special canine recipient for a very special reason.

Shortly after Michael adopted the seven year-old dog, it was discovered that Buddy had a chronic skin condition. He was in constant distress with open sores on his body, and the medication to treat his medical problem is very expensive and in limited supply. Michael, an Air Force veteran, asked us for help. With his limited income he knew he could not afford Buddy’s care, but was heartbroken at the prospect of surrendering his new friend back to the shelter.

Pets for Patriots was determined to keep Michael and Buddy together.

Through an online fundraiser we generated enough donations to pay for Buddy’s medication for at least a year. Around the same time, DOG for DOG approached us about the one-month promotion, and we thought their all natural food would complement Buddy’s medical therapy. We checked with his veterinarian, who gave us the “paws up.”

We’re grateful to everyone who helped Buddy’s cause – whether by donation, by purchasing Dog for Dog food, or by sharing his need with their friends – and we thank DOG for DOG for their generous gift not just to Buddy, but to the homeless dogs at Humane Society of Pinellas.

P.S. Buddy loves his new food!

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Chance meeting inspires Navy veteran to save homeless dog Mon, 24 Aug 2015 17:39:24 +0000 The last thing Elizabeth had on her mind was adding a homeless dog to her household, but a chance meeting between the Navy veteran and a Chihuahua mix with “the saddest eyes” changed everything. Elizabeth and Roxie 2

Serving in the wake of 9/11

Elizabeth served for four years in the Navy as a Cryptology Technical Operator (CTO), during which time she was stationed at the Diego Garcia military base in the British Indian Ocean, and with the Naval Security Group Activity (NSGA) Kunia in Hawaii. The NSGA Kunia was de-established shortly after Elizabeth separated from service, and integrated into what would become the Navy’s largest operational command security group.

For an additional year, from 2004-2005, Elizabeth was based out of Pensacola and New Orleans, respectively, with the active Reserves. In 2005, the Navy veteran separated from service with an Honorable discharge and started the task of re-integrating to civilian life.

One of the Elizabeth’s most memorable days in service is a day most Americans will never forget; she was on duty on 9/11.

“Very sad day,” she reflects.

Chance meeting with a “sweet, pitiful face”

A decade has passed since Elizabeth left the military. She is now a proud mother, and a full-time student pursuing a degree in wildlife and fisheries management.

“I have four children,” she says, “and am loving life to its fullest.” Elizabeth with Roxie and family

With her hands and schedule full, Elizabeth had no intention of adding to her responsibilities at home. Yet a chance meeting with a homeless dog felt more like fate when she visited the Blount County Animal Shelter in Maryville, Tennessee, where she learned about their partnership with Pets for Patriots to help military veterans adopt the most overlooked homeless companion pets.

The shelter waives pet adoption fees for veterans approved by Pets for Patriots, after which we provide a range of generous benefits – including access to ongoing, discounted quality veterinary care – to defray the costs of pet parenthood for our nation’s military veterans.

“I had honestly never heard of this wonderful organization until I asked what the Pets for Patriots sign meant,” she said. “I’m glad I asked and feel it’s such a blessing.”

Elizabeth had taken her little brother to the shelter to adopt a puppy for his birthday. Adopting a dog for herself was not on the agenda – until it was.

“While he was looking around, I noticed this sweet, pitiful face looking up at me with the saddest eyes.”

Love at first sight

It did not take much for the Navy veteran to be smitten by the then five year-old Chihuahua mix, named Sandy at the time. Elizabeth and Roxie kiss

“I asked if I could spend some time with her,” she recalls, “and the moment I held her, I fell in love.”

Elizabeth is philosophical about the unexpected encounter than inspired devotion to a homeless dog in need of the love and lifetime commitment she found herself prepared to give.

“I wasn’t looking for a pet, but I’m so thankful I was the one to take my little brother in that day,” she says, adding, “It was meant to be!”

Four-paw blessing for Navy family

The Blount County Animal Shelter allowed Elizabeth to foster Sandy – since renamed Roxie – in order to give the veteran an opportunity to apply to Pets for Patriots. Once approved and after Roxie was spayed, the adoption was finalized.

Roxie officially became the newest member of Elizabeth’s young and growing family. And the Navy veteran was surprised at how deeply she felt towards her newest charge.

“She is perfect!” she exclaims. “I could have never imagined such a strong bond and love for a pet in such a short amount of time. She is truly amazing.”

Sometimes adult dogs will have difficulty adjusting to a family with so many young children; they may be unaccustomed to the high level of activity – and noise – and can express their anxiety in any number of ways. Not so with Roxie.

In fact, Elizabeth marvels at how loving she is, despite being extremely shy around most people.

“It took her some time to come out of her shell and she doesn’t trust just anybody,” she says, “but she is right at home with my family.”

In many ways, Roxie helps Elizabeth integrate the different aspects of her life, being both a full-time mother and student, by always being there for her and for her children. (Elizabeth) Roxie and daughter

“Roxie is just an all-around perfect girl,” she says. “We are such a perfect match, and I really enjoy coming home from school to find her sweet face waiting for my return. My children absolutely adore her as well.”

During our months of post-adoption follow up, Elizabeth has never waned in her love and enthusiasm for Roxie. In the end, what at first seemed like a chance encounter was in fact the beginning of a special relationship for person and pet.

“My family,” Elizabeth says, “has been truly blessed with her.”


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From homeless to hopeful for Army veteran and abused dog Mon, 17 Aug 2015 20:05:12 +0000 Desiree is an Army veteran who has triumphed over adversity more than once in her lifetime, including a time when she was homeless. Her inner strength and ability to persevere are qualities she shares with Bullet, an abused dog who chose the veteran above all others.

A spontaneous decision

Desiree calls her decision to join the Army one weekend in 1981 a “spontaneous decision.” She was 20 years old and “just wanted to get away and see the world.”

This impromptu career move resulted in three years of Cold War-era service as an administrative specialist – or “glorified typist,” as Desiree puts it – in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. She worked in her company commander’s office and was part of a psychological operations (PSYOP) battalion that dealt with propaganda. Desiree and Bullet_cropped for story

“Our mission was to give the enemy ample opportunities to give his life for his country,” Desiree says.

The Army veteran’s most memorable experience from her military career was successfully completing basic training in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. She remains incredibly proud of this achievement, describing herself as having been somewhat of a “spoiled brat” prior to joining the Army.

“I never in my life thought I would do anything like that,” she says. “Going through the gas chamber, taking off our masks. Low crawling under barbed wire. Walking for hours in combat boots. Push-ups – when they say drop, you drop.”

“It taught me perseverance,” she adds. “I could do anything.”

Staying Army strong, even out of the Army

Upon leaving the military, Desiree spent time living in the Azores in the middle of the Pacific Ocean while her then-husband was stationed at an Air Force base there. She was a “military housewife” for about seven years and then went on to spend two decades working in the legal field. Most recently, Desiree was a legal coordinator.

In 2011, 30 years after she first learned the art of perseverance during basic training, Desiree found herself faced with a challenge that she never expected: she became homeless while living in Washington, D.C. After her story was featured in the local news, the Veterans Administration was eventually able to help her find a place to stay.

Desiree credits her faith for helping her make it through this year of homelessness and would advise others in similar situations to “keep fighting.”

“Perseverance builds character,” she says with a touch of wisdom in her voice.

Currently retired and disabled, Desiree considers herself an “unlicensed preacher” and evangelist who advocates for veterans, and enjoys meeting people everywhere she goes. Her other passions are writing and photography.

Bullet’s choice

In August of 2014, Desiree saw an article about Pets for Patriots in her local county newspaper. The article spotlighted a female veteran and her dog, and described the ways in which Pets for Patriots helps match veterans across the country with shelter dogs and cats. The story resonated instantly with Desiree, who realized that she had room in her life for a new companion.

“I live alone,” she explains.  

Desiree is “not a cat person” and had a dog as a child, so she went online to look at the profiles of adoptable canines at the Prince George’s County Animal Management Division website, a municipal shelter that partners with Pets for Patriots to help veterans adopt the most overlooked companion animals in their care.

“I went online and looked at all the dogs they had [and] picked out a few already that, you know, we would be interested in,” she recalls.

But Desiree knew she would need to visit the shelter in person before making a commitment.

“They said we would know when we were there, the dog chooses you,” she says.

The Army veteran explored the shelter and looked at some of the dogs she had seen online, hoping to find “the one” who would choose her. And as fate would have it – she did.

Bullet, a large red lab mix named Chuck at the time, seemed to claim Desiree the moment he first saw her. Desiree and Bullet 2

“The last cage, there’s Bullet sitting back there, cool, like an aristocrat,” she says. “He comes up to us, says ‘hi,’ goes back and sits down.”

Desiree turned to walk away and, for no particular reason, glanced back at Bullet.

“The look on his face, I’ll never forget,” she says, describing it as a combination of “don’t leave me” and “where are you going?”

Bullet went home with Desiree that day.

From homeless to hopeful

Desiree credits Bullet with inspiring her to be a more compassionate person – and with keeping her on her toes.

“He’s an athlete,” she says. “He’s in training. He plays football, he plays soccer, he plays tug-of-war. He is something else, like a little boy. Sometimes I even call him my son’s name. He’s like a little kid. Very smart, like a little aristocrat. He doesn’t go straight for food, just looks at us like, ‘Wow, thanks.’”

Although he now loves to be stroked and hugged, when Bullet first came home with the Army veteran it was clear that he had been abused at some point in the past.

“He would protect his body as if to say, ‘I’m not going to be hurt again,’” Desiree recalls. “It took about two weeks for him to let me put my foot on him.”

His past suffering now a distant memory, Bullet has opened up and become a truly joyful presence in the Army veteran’s life.

“He’s funny, eager, energetic. So much personality,” she says, “so full of life.”

Desiree’s fiancé works in the veterinary field, and has fallen in love with Bullet as well.

“He’s like Dr. Dolittle,” she says of her partner, “loves animals, talks to animals.”

Advocating for homeless pets

Desiree is quick to rave about her adoption experience, describing the Prince George’s County shelter as a “very beautiful” and “very caring” facility, counter to misperceptions many people have about municipal shelters.

“Everyone was so kind,” she says, “everything was so smooth, so fast.”

The Prince George’s County Animal Management Division waives adoption fees for Pets for Patriots members, so Bullet’s adoption was free. Desiree received a $150 gift certificate from Pets for Patriots as well, and receives ongoing discounted veterinary care through the charity’s veterinary partners to help make caring for Bullet more affordable. 

Desiree has become a great advocate and supporter of Pets for Patriots, urging everyone she knows to adopt, and even making copies of the charity’s brochure to distribute to people who may be interested.

When asked if she would advise fellow veterans to adopt companion animals through Pets for Patriots, Desiree’s response is simple: “100%.”

Like other veterans who found their new best friends through Pets for Patriots, Desiree found common cause with a companion pet whose experience echoed her own: homelessness  – and the character to persevere.

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Retired Coastie saves triply-disabled shelter dog Mon, 10 Aug 2015 20:37:50 +0000 Special needs animals are among the most overlooked for adoption, and this was particularly the case for a triply-disabled dog in a Virginia shelter. Luckily for this pup, a retired Coast Guard veteran – or “Coastie” – was up to the challenge.

Serving at sea

Starting with his enlistment in 1987 and for 24 subsequent years, Mark was ‘always ready‘ as a member of the United States Coast Guard (USCG). He became a Coastie for simple and compelling reasons. Mark and Charlie at shelter

“I joined to serve my country,” he says, “and work at sea.”

Mark was initially stationed in New Bedford, Massachusetts aboard a USCG cutter, and was subsequently stationed in New Haven, Connecticut, Yorktown and Portsmouth, Virginia, and Paducah, Kentucky. But Mark’s most memorable experiences were aboard the polar ice breaker Healy, stationed out of Seattle, Washington.

“I loved my time on the Healy,” he explains, “because it allowed me to work with many scientists and oceanographers, and [I] worked in the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean to do it.”

Mark describes his many years of military service as “very fulfilling,” adding that he “felt privileged” to do the jobs assigned to him. And he did many interesting and important jobs over the course of his 24-year career.

“I navigated ships, regulated commercial ships, controlled pollution and responded to oil spills, was a weather forecaster, and an oceanographer on the Healy,” he says.

Although separated from service since 2011, the retired Coastie still has the lure of the sea coursing through his veins. He currently repairs ships for the United States Navy.

Three strikes, you’re in

Mark lives in Virginia with his wife, Terri. Their three college-age children are out of the house, and the Coast Guard veteran admits that he and Terri are enjoying their new status as empty nesters.

The couple’s otherwise tranquil life was shattered recently following the death of their beloved Shiba Inu, Bear. Some time after Bear’s death, Mark’s daughters convinced him to adopt another dog. Terri agreed that it would be a good idea.

“My wife and I felt a dog would keep us more active,” he says, adding that a friend told him about Pets for Patriots and its companion pet adoption program for military veteransMark and Charlie

Fortunately for Mark, Pets for Patriots has multiple shelter and veterinary partners near his Virginia home to assist with both reduced-cost companion pet adoption and discounted post-adoption care. It was at one of those partners, Virginia Beach SPCA, where the retired Coastie and his wife fell in love with an “adorable” dog, named Alex at the time.

Despite his relatively young age, Alex – a Lhasa Apso mix – has many challenges: a low-grade heart murmur, one eye that was removed surgically, and epilepsy. The shelter dog’s multiple disabilities made him an extremely hard-to-adopt pet, despite the fact that he was only a year old, a relatively popular mix, and a small dog – which are typically in great demand.

Mark was undaunted. The Coast Guard veteran adopted Alex and brought his new best friend home.

Disabled dog “puts a smile on my heart”

It was not exactly smooth sailing when Mark and Terri first brought Alex home, whom they renamed Charlie. He was recovering from surgery to remove several teeth, had kennel cough and – like many newly adopted pets – had the occasional “accident” in the house. In time he healed, and with regular walks and more confidence in his new home, accidents became a thing of the past.

“Charlie seems very happy and we enjoy his companionship,” Mark says. “All around we are a great fit for each other.”

Caring for a disabled companion animal can be a refreshing experience because they do not know they have a disability. We may feel sorry for the things that they are unable to do, but they are unaware of any limitations. Like any other pet, all they ask is to be loved.

“He needs lots of love,” says Mark, “and we love taking care of him despite these [disabilities].”

Having loved – and lost – companion pets, Mark is a true advocate for pet adoption.

“A pet can help change a life for the better,” he says, “[and] Pets for Patriots helps make it easier.”

Although Mark’s nest is now a little less empty, he and Terri are thrilled with their newest member of the family. They are relieved that Charlie is “very obedient, and calm around our cats,” and generally has adapted to his new life.

“I’m very thankful for the Pets for Patriots program,” the Coast Guard veteran adds, “and the help it’s given me to help settle him into our home.”

Prior to adopting Charlie, Mark and his wife hoped a new dog would help them be more active. And in spite of Charlie’s physical challenges, he has proven to be up to the task. With guidance from a Pets for Patriots veterinary partner, the couple makes sure to give Charlie only as much physical activity as he can handle.

“We enjoy walks with Charlie, and he’s always doing something that we can have a great conversation about,” Mark says. “He’s very adorable and puts a smile on my heart.”

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Vietnam veteran earns his stripes saving shelter dogs Mon, 03 Aug 2015 19:46:46 +0000 The quiet hero

A hero is defined as ‘a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities.’ They do not all receive medals or public accolades, but walk among us every day and deserve to have their stories told.

Such is the case with Robert, a Navy veteran who served in Vietnam and feels his own story is unremarkable. He is not a decorated war hero. The shelter dogs he adopted during the course of his lifetime did not help him with any service-connected disabilities.

Yet this Vietnam veteran’s love for and commitment to saving the most overlooked animals in need makes him a hero of another stripe.      

Life, love and loss

It was 1965 and Robert was just about to graduate college with a liberal arts degree when he realized that his career options were limited. The technical fields were booming at the time, but he had no experience in chemistry and physics – both of which were in high demand. Yet after speaking with Navy recruiters on campus, he began to envision new career opportunities in the military. Robert Baxter and Blue_square

Robert made the decision to enlist and, about a month after graduating college, he was officially a member of the United States Navy. He started training in Rhode Island and was ultimately deployed to Vietnam. Like many veterans of his era, he chooses not to talk about those experiences. 

Life after the war held some of the Navy veteran’s fondest memories, as well as some of his most profound losses.

After taking a job at Ryder Truck Rental Robert met his wife, who was employed by the company as well. They moved to Florida and started their own travel agency, and spent the next twenty-five years there until they moved to North Carolina and bought another travel agency. Sadly, eleven years ago, Robert’s wife passed away. Shortly thereafter, in 2005, Robert retired.

In spite of missing his beloved wife, the Navy veteran is enjoying his retirement thanks in large part to the four-legged family members who are an integral part of his life.

Send in the hounds

The most rewarding part of retirement for Robert is the ability to spend as much time as possible with his dogs. Since moving to North Carolina he has had six companion dogs – as many as four at a time – and is a huge advocate for pet adoption. Not only is he saving lives, but he is enriching his own. 

“I call them free entertainment,” he says.

After losing a couple of his companions to old age, Robert had just two dogs left in his home: Blue, a Blue Tick Hound-Beagle mix who is “mostly black with long floppy ears” and “black and white speckled legs” – and Maggie, an ailing 15 year-old Shih Tzu.

Robert decided that five year-old Blue needed a buddy, since she was accustomed to the company of other, more active dogs and was “gaining weight due to lethargy.” 

Naturally Robert went straight to the shelter to adopt, believing that the companion dog he was meant to save would choose him.

“You will know when you see the right one,” he says with confidence.

After spending some time with one dog Robert saw a man walk in with a Jack Russell-Beagle mix. Robert knew that he was the one for him. They clicked immediately and the newly named, three year-old Baxter was heading home to spend his life with Robert, Blue and Maggie.

Sadly, Maggie died a mere ten days later. Robert was philosophical, having dealt with this type of loss before.

“So my Maggie at least got to meet Baxter,” he says, “and show him the good peeing spots around our yard.”

Saved from neglect

It is not always possible to know the history of an adopted dog or cat, but Robert lives in a relatively small community and was able to learn a bit about the conditions of Baxter’s prior life.

It seems the sweet hound had belonged to a man who had far too many dogs and could no longer give them appropriate care. They were found living in his yard, subject to neglect. Two of them were removed from the situation by local animal control, including Baxter.

Now Baxter gets the attention and love he deserves. He and Blue were the best of friends from the beginning. Blue has lost a couple of pounds, and is now more fit and active thanks to Baxter and his love for running. Robert credits Baxter’s infectious, high energy to for him becoming more active as well. 

“I call him Mr. Enthusiasm,” he says. “Sometimes he is Circus Boy from all the circles and flips he does, and sometimes he’s just Wild Man who flies around the yard…His middle name is Go.”

Fortunately for Robert and Blue alike, Baxter does eventually tire.

“His motor runs and runs,” he says, “and then it finally dies out and he’s sound asleep anytime of day or night. We love him.”

Of cookies, cocktails and cigars

Baxter, like most companion dogs, thrives on routine. Early each morning he jumps up on Robert’s bed to help him get the day started, but he knows when it’s time to relax in the early evening.

“In our house we like to have something called CCC at five o’clock,” says Robert, explaining that ‘CCC’ stands for cookies, cocktails and a cigar.

The dogs get the cookies, and Robert enjoys a cocktail and a cigar.

Robert always thinks of his wife during CCC because she always enjoyed a cocktail with him and the dogs. He thinks of the Rainbow Bridge and how his wife, upon her passing, met up with their previous dog Maggie. He pictures them together, happy in the afterlife. The Vietnam veteran always buries his companions in the yard because it is the place in which they lived and played; it was and will be always their home. 

Now the yard is the place where Baxter enjoys his new life, next to the woods in a largely fenced area. 

Robert was alone for some time after his wife died, and it is through his adopted dogs that he has found the love, companionship and energy to keep living.

“You’re missing something if you don’t have a pet,” he shares, “especially when you are living by yourself. Everyone ought to have a pet.” 

If they could tell us in words, it is likely that Baxter, Blue, Maggie and all the other dogs that Robert has saved would agree; a house is not a home without a pet. And to them, the Vietnam veteran is not just their caretaker and family member; he is their hero.

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Navy veteran helps dog go from chained to cherished Mon, 27 Jul 2015 19:57:34 +0000 A chained life is no life

The plights of chained and tethered dogs are often overlooked because people fail to recognize them as potential cases of animal cruelty. In truth, these practices can lead to severe psychological and physical damage and, in some cases, death.

Thanks to the actions of many, including a Navy veteran who joined Pets for Patriots with the intent of adopting a companion, a once-chained dog in Virginia was saved from her cruel existence. Leia (Conor) beore rescue

Now a cherished member of the family, the Australian Shepherd mix is learning for the first time what is means to be free and to be loved.

It took a village

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) receives plenty of well-earned criticism for the high kill rates at its Norfolk, Virginia shelter, as well as for other aspects of its animal activism. Lost is the fact that their rescue team saves many animals from heinous abuse, some of whom are transferred to other shelters for adoption.

In fact, a dog named Athena owes her life to PETA.

When Athena was found in her owner’s yard one of her legs had become so entangled in her chain that it was swollen and infected; she was unable to bear weight on it at all. Even more dire, the dog had a life-threatening body temperature of 106 degrees when she was found in the blazing summer sun, and no way to reach her water.

Thankfully Athena’s negligent owners agreed to surrender her to PETA, whose rescue team took her to a veterinarian where she received urgent treatment and some good news: the once-chained dog’s leg was not broken. Athena was treated, her temperature safely brought back to normal, and she was transferred to our partners at the Virginia Beach SPCA (VBSPCA), who agreed to take the adult dog and place her for adoption.

A gift from above

Just two days after he was approved into our program, Conor adopted Athena. Conor and Leia_square_love

Currently serving in the Navy, Conor probably would not have recognized his new pet friend had he seen pictures of her chained and rotting in the hot sun. The Navy veteran renamed her Leia, which means “child of heaven” or “heavenly flowers.”

Leia is the name of the princess in the iconic Star Wars films, as well, so we like to think her name means “heavenly princess.”

Conor and Leia are together just a few weeks at the time of this writing, and we hope to have an update once they have had more time to bond. For now, we are grateful to all who played a part in giving a chained dog her freedom, and the dignity intended for all living creatures.

Learn more about our life-saving work and how you make it possible.

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Loss bonds grieving Army veteran and senior shelter cat Mon, 20 Jul 2015 18:28:56 +0000 Jonathan can easily pinpoint the most difficult moment of his life: watching his 12 year-old cat Ziggy pass away in his arms. Despite his loss, the Army veteran was unwilling to let grief consume him. He made a decision to honor Ziggy’s life by opening his heart to a senior shelter cat – a tortoiseshell beauty named Tessa.

Army strong

Jonathan joined the Army Reserves in February of 2005 in order to become an x-ray technologist. After undergoing Basic Training in Fort Knox, Kentucky, he completed his Advanced Individual Training (AIT) while serving at Fort Sam Houston, Texas and Fort Stewart, Georgia. Jonathan and Tessa on floor_square

“I finished my last leg of service here in Tampa Bay before I was honorably discharged in late 2007,” he says, “due to a leg injury that started back in AIT.” 

The Army veteran has a more positive memory of his time in service than the career-ending injury he sustained.

“My favorite memorable experience from my time in service was receiving the General Abrams in Basic Training,” he recalls. “To achieve this award, I had to be selected by my platoon to represent them in a board with three other soldiers from the company who represented their platoons. Because I was selected for the award, I received an Army Achievement Medal and read a speech during the graduation. I kept it a secret from my family in order to surprise them when they arrived for the ceremony.”

Jonathan is still a licensed x-ray technologist and currently works for a healthcare company that handles the business side of hospitals’ revenue cycles. When not at work, he has little trouble filling his time with three seemingly diverse activities.

“My favorite things to do are make meals in my slow cooker, watch hockey and read comics,” he says.

To have loved and lost

Jonathan wanted to pay tribute to Ziggy following his beloved companion’s death. He thought that enhancing the lives of less fortunate cats would be a fitting way to honor Ziggy’s life. 

“I donated some of his things to the shelter,” he says. “I felt a sense of pride being able to share a part of him with others, knowing that the toys, supplies, food, etc., would go to good use.” Tessa (Jonathan) with toy_square

Despite taking this selfless act of giving, Jonathan began to wonder if there was something else he could do to celebrate Ziggy and the life they shared together. It was in that moment that the Army veteran decided to adopt another companion pet.

“What better way to honor Ziggy’s life than to provide a home for another cat?”

As a result of raising Ziggy, Jonathan knew that an older cat would require less training than a kitten – and would give an animal who had few prospects for adoption a second chance at life. Sadly, older dogs and cats are among the least desired by most adopters, even as they make wonderful companions.

“I knew she was the one”

For all these reasons, Jonathan was transfixed on the profile of a particular eight year-old cat he saw on the Humane Society of Tampa Bay’s website.

“It stated she was brought to the shelter after her previous owners could no longer care for her,” he recalls. “She is an older cat, which may not be desirable for some adopters.”  

Although they had never met, the connection Jonathan felt with Tessa, simply upon reading her story and seeing her picture, was immediate. Like Jonathan, Tessa was no stranger to loss. She was alone in an unfamiliar place and separated from the only family she likely had ever known.

“From the first time I saw Tessa’s profile online, I felt a connection. Before I adopted her, I went to the shelter to visit some of the cats there. Tessa was the first one I saw, and although I met others, I knew she was the one,” Jonathan remembers.

The Army veteran soon learned that the Humane Society of Tampa Bay is a participating adoption and veterinary partner of Pets for Patriots, a nationally operating charity that provides various financial incentives for military veterans to adopt the most overlooked companion pets – including adults like Tessa. In addition to the benefits that Pets for Patriots provides, the shelter waives pet adoption fees for the charity’s member veterans and extends an ongoing 10% discount at its full-service Animal Health Center.

“I chose Pets for Patriots after seeing a link posted on the Humane Society of Tampa’s website,” Jonathan says, “and reading about the organization’s mission.”

The Army veteran’s initial good deed of donating many of Ziggy’s belongings led to an even greater act of saving the life of an older cat whose adoption prospects were bleak.

“I was hooked on that positive feeling,” he says, “so I took it a step further and adopted Tessa.”

Sharing the love

Tessa is her own cat with her own unique personality, but in many meaningful ways she is following in the paw prints of her predecessor.

“When I brought her home…she picked a toy from the group that I placed out for her. It was the last toy I had bought for Ziggy,” Jonathan says, adding, “She loves it! That first night, she hopped up on the bed and laid next to me the entire night, just like Ziggy would. It was meant to be.” Tessa (Jonathan) holding hands_square

Jonathan is quick to point out that while Tessa has filled a place in his heart that felt empty after Ziggy’s death, the memory of his beloved friend is very much alive.

“I miss Ziggy every day,” Jonathan admits. “He was with me since he was a kitten and until he passed in my arms. It was the hardest thing I have ever done.”

By adopting Tessa, Jonathan has undoubtedly changed the older cat’s life for the better, but he is quick to share that she has had just as powerful an impact on his life as well.

“Tessa helps me continue to share that love,” he says. “Because of her, I wake up in the morning with a positive attitude. She needs me and I need her. I know Ziggy wouldn’t want me to be alone.”

How do you honor the memory of beloved pets who have died?

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Marine veteran and adopted cat thrive on chaos Mon, 13 Jul 2015 19:04:42 +0000 Charles is a Marine Corps veteran who served from 2001-2010, during which time he was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Honorably discharged as Sergeant, he shares his story about an adopted cat who loves, and helps create, chaos in his multi-pet home.

We appreciate our partnership with Macon County Animal Control and Care Center for their help in making this Marine family complete.

Send in the…cats?

Pets for Patriots has added a new member to our family and genuinely brought a fair amount of joy to our everyday lives.

First I need to admit that I was never a fan of catsThey’re arrogant, self-centered and egotistical, they don’t move out of the way, they only come around when they want you to pet them and they pretty much exist to cause havoc in your home. 

Then it occurred to me that there is an incredible similarity between cats and Marines. We’re arrogant, self-centered, and egotistical, we will never move out of anyone’s way for any reason, we only come around when we feel we need attention and we exist to cause havoc – everywhere. 

That alone wasn’t the reason I wanted to adopt Quill. Charles, family and Quill

When we first started looking, I didn’t know about Pets for Patriots. My wife had expressed an interest in getting another pet, preferably a cat. We currently have two dogs: a German Shepherd mix named Kota (female), and a pug named Odin (male). 

Odin has a little man complex. Kota is a trained professional, all business, no fooling around. 

We looked at several cats. All were very sociable, extremely friendly to my daughter and wife, and myself. Quill was friendly to my wife and daughter, but his first “go” with me was kinetic. He likes to play. That is what I was looking for in a cat. One that wants to engage as much as be engaged. 

Quill makes our family whole. He and our dogs get along perfectly. At times he will sit at the top of the basement stairs and wait for Odin to come up, as soon as Odin rounds the corner Quill is on top of him, takes him to the ground and then it’s on! Running around the dining room table, shooting through the living room over the couch and then back toward the kitchen.

Kota and Quill are the same way. Kota waits like a sentry for her next command. She’s been trained as a personal protection dog for our daughter. Her “play” time is a sort of hide and seek with our daughter. Our daughter will hide around the house or in the yard, and on the command “seek” Kota will find her. 

Quill follows; I think he likes the excitement my daughter exhibits at being found by Kota. Like I said – we all get along extremely well.

Marine veteran makes command decision to adopt, not shop

Our adopting experience was very easy and pleasant. 

A friend of mine at work knew I was looking for a cat. She had actually showed me several cats around the area that were for sale. While she was showing me the cats she asked if I had considered adopting. I hadn’t thought of it – then she said she knew someone who had used Pets for Patriots. From there I went to the website and checked them out. 

The rest was easy. 

We went in, I informed the staff at the Macon County Animal Shelter that I was a veteran and that I would l like to use Pets for Patriots to assist in the adoption. They knew exactly what to do and how to speed the adoption along. I had already gone online to fill out the quick paperwork with Pets for Patriots, I handed that to the Macon County Staff and then we went about finding a match. 

Long boring story short, we found Quill. 

He is a great cat, arrogant, egotistical, and just the right amount of “aggressive” to fit extremely well in our family. I want to thank you all for creating Pets For Patriots, it means very much to me and my family. 


Charles (Sgt. USMC 2001-2010)

 Read how companion pets help children cope with the stresses of military life.

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Anchors aweigh! Navy family gives new leash on life to two senior dogs Mon, 06 Jul 2015 19:27:17 +0000 Despite the many advantages of adopting older and senior pets, the odds are still stacked against more mature shelter animals. Yet for one lucky 12 year-old dog named Sox, his ship came in when he was adopted by a Navy family to keep company with their other senior dog.Terry and Sox

Old dogs, old friends

Terry always dreamed about serving in the military, and in 2009 he made that dream a reality when he enlisted in the Navy. Initially stationed in Florida, he moved with his family to Virginia Beach for Permanent Change of Station (PCS), where he lives with his wife, Jessie, their four year-old son, Orion, and a 13 year-old black Lab/Husky mix named Frisbee.

The Navy veteran experienced firsthand how companion pets help military families, particularly children, deal with the inevitable stresses of military life. And in time he came to understand that the human members of the family were not the only ones who benefit from having pets at home.

“We had two dogs for many years and a couple of years go we lost our older of the pair,” Terry says. “Frisbee was on his own for the first time in his life.”

After the death of their eldest dog, the couple realized that Frisbee would benefit from another pet friend.

“We felt that he needed a companion, another dog to keep him company,” the Navy veteran explains. “Knowing that we didn’t want a puppy for our senior dog, we knew going in that we wanted to give a second chance to another senior dog.” Sox (Terry) and Frisbee

The benefits of community

Once Terry and his wife made the decision to adopt another dog they visited the Virginia Beach SPCA, where they learned about the shelter’s partnership with Pets for Patriots.

In exchange for adopting an overlooked pet – one that is adult, special needs or a large breed dog – veterans receive various benefits to reduce the lifetime costs associated with pet parenthood, including a generous contribution towards ‘welcome home’ pet food, supplies and other essentials. The Virginia Beach SPCA offers Pets for Patriots members a 10% adoption fee discount and access to their low-cost, full-service veterinary clinic without demonstrating proof of income.

While Terry appreciates the “many benefits of using their service,” there were more compelling reasons for him to adopt through Pets for Patriots.

“Mostly because it is a community of military members with a common goal, to find their new best friend and given them a second chance at life.”

Two strikes, you’re in

Sox was a 12 year-old Pomeranian mix who – like all companion pets in shelters – found herself homeless through no fault of her own. With two strikes against her – older and with black fur – her prospects for adoption were slim to none. Little did the 14-pound shelter dog know that there was a Navy family looking for a dog who would complement their resident dog in age, temperament and lifestyle.

“Sox has been the best addition to our family,” Terry says. “She has so much life for being 12 and she fits right in with our other dog. The two of them are so fun together.” Sox (Terry) Christmas 2014_enhanced

The senior dog’s adoption reveals a misconception about older pets: that they cannot adapt to new situations, people or other pets, and that they have little left to give. In reality, senior pets are often the most grateful for being saved, and the compassion of people who adopt them is rewarded many times over.

“We just love how playful she is and how she loves her new best dog friend,” the Navy veteran says. “She loves to lay snuggled on the couch with us to watch movies or go for a walk around the neighborhood with the family.”

Frisbee – the resident senior dog – is adapting to his “new” old companion as well.

“I think they are starting to learn that they are both here to stay,” Terry observes, adding that, “Our family is so happy that we have found Sox, and that she has become part of our family. She has brought joy and laughter to us, and we couldn’t imagine our family without her.”

Have you known the joys of senior pet adoption?

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