Pets For Patriots Blog Veterans With Pets Mon, 25 May 2015 21:00:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Iraq War veteran gives overlooked older dog a second chance at life Mon, 25 May 2015 21:00:48 +0000 Brian is an Iraq war combat veteran who decided to give an overlooked, older dog the second chance he deserved. Brian and Preston

The Fighting Thirteenth

Currently working as a software developer for a medical billing company, Brian enlisted in the Marines because he “wasn’t yet ready for college.” Trained as an infantry rifleman, he deployed on the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), known as “The Fighting Thirteenth,” as well as the 31st MEU.

The young veteran’s tour of duty included a combat deployment to Iraq. Once home, he thought a dog would help make it easier to go from battlefront to home front.

“I learned of the Pets for Patriots program through a pet rescue’s website,” Brian says. “I decided to adopt through the program because it helped ease the transition from no pet to pet with buying required supplies.”

Pets for Patriots makes pet parenthood affordable for military veterans through discounts offered through adoption and veterinary partners, as well direct contributions towards the costs of welcoming a new pet home. The goals are not only to help the most overlooked homeless animals get adopted and give veterans a new best friend, but to reduce the chances of these pets being returned to shelters due to cost of care.

Send in the Marines

Preston was a seven year-old, gray Weimaraner at the Big Dog Ranch Rescue with few prospects for adoption. Since most people prefer younger or smaller companion pets, he had two strikes against him as a large, senior dog. Preston napping

Fortunately, Brian saw something – and someone – worth saving.

“He’s older,” the Marine veteran says, “but still has a lot of lovable energy.”

Following a “meet and greet” at Big Dog Ranch Rescue Brian arranged to bring Preston home. The rescue offers Pets for Patriots veterans a deeply reduced adoption fee of $50, and through its affiliation with a Florida-based Weimaraner rescue the organization typically has dogs of that particular breed available.

Second chances

Contrary to popular belief, one of the many benefits of older companion pets is their ability to adapt to new situations. For Preston, this included getting acquainted with the family’s other four-legged member: the cat.

“Preston is doing great getting adjusted to his new surroundings,” Brian says. “He is interested in meeting our cat, but is very gentle about it.”

The big dog’s gentlemanly demeanor around the cat should not be mistaken for a lack of vigor. To the contrary, Preston is a “high energy” dog who gets his Marine to take him out at least twice a day for walks. He “listens well – most of the time,” and has a “goofy” personality that Brian finds compatible with his own. Brian and Preston at beach_love

“We feel like we owe him, so we often take him with us if we go to outdoor events, including farmers markets,” says Brian. “We occasionally take him to a dog beach as well.”

Many shelters and rescues will keep companion pets, like Preston, for as long as it takes to find them the right home. Although this spares these animals the grimmest fate, life in the best animal welfare organization still pales in comparison to a loving home of one’s own. By adopting Preston, Brian not only gave the older dog a second chance at life, but gave his own new meaning as well.

“He really is a great dog that needed a second chance,” he says, “and because of his age he was often overlooked. I’m glad we are the ones to give him that chance as he makes a great addition to our family.”

Learn more about the ways companion dogs and cats help military veterans.

]]> 5
The cycle of life: the contract we make with our pets Mon, 18 May 2015 20:41:52 +0000 Lola died on August 4th, 2014 at 5:15 pm at age 8-1/2.  Seven months after she was diagnosed with cancer. Six months after her leg was amputated in the hopes of stemming the cancer. And only two weeks after x-rays showed the cancer had returned.  I wrote her inspiring story shortly after her leg was amputated, How Lola lost her leg and embraced life.  Our sweet Lola indeed embraced life until the very end, until she was too tired and sick to make the effort any more. 

Lola home from surgery

The last day

After Lola’s surgery in February of 2015, my aunt told me, “We make a contract with our pets that we will safely and kindly see them through life and then to death. It’s the cycle of life.” Wise and comforting words I think.

We took Lola to a park on her last day, trying to bring some joy to her in her last hours.  As much as I tried to savor every last moment with her, I did find myself thinking, “two hours from now, she will be gone; one hour…only 30 minutes left.”  Sitting with her in the doctor’s office, there was a part of me wanting it to just be over and another part screaming, “No, she can’t leave us yet. This is a mistake.” 

Lola on the green

We wrapped our girl in a pink blanket which had the word ‘love’ written all over it, a gift to her after her surgery – and sent her on her way with a packet of her favorite treats and peanut butter, photos of us and all our love. 

She left this world with the same grace and dignity she showed all her life.

The ebb and flow of grieving

Shortly after Lola’s death, my young neighbors brought their little dog Cleo for a visit to cheer me up and ernestly told me they went to a shelter to find us a new dog to help us not miss Lola so much. Another neighbor brought Zoe, Lola’s best doggie friend, over.  She was jauntily sporting a witch’s hat complete with vivid pink hair. The next day she was wearing a black spider on her head and the next day she was a devil with red horns.  A bit of laughter through the all the tears and wonderful friends and neighbors helping us through.

As I wept for Lola, I embraced the idea of the Rainbow Bridge because it soothed me. I pictured our kitties Sherlock, Watson and Molly all waiting for Lola to welcome her there and to ease her passing. Then later I pictured her with her tilted head, ears fully upright and forward, a smile on her face looking directly at us as if to say, “Have you seen this place?  It’s so cool!” It helped me to keep those images in my head.

My grief ebbs and flows, even now nine months later. I can feel her presence in so many places. It sometimes takes my breath away, how much I miss her, how much I long to have her back.

To adopt again or not, that is the question

I didn’t want another dog after Lola died.  My husband Bill was ready almost immediately, but I was adamantly opposed.  Until one day I wasn’t. 

I didn’t tell Bill that because I had a nugget of an idea forming.  I wanted to give him a shelter dog for his February birthday. 

My internal dialogue was argumentative.  “Here are all the good reasons to save another shelter dog…” “You’re crazy to want another dog. Look what you just went through.” 

Sasha and Bill

If you’ve ever adopted a dog or cat or wanted to, you KNOW those arguments. You’ve had those arguments. Until you make your decision. I made mine. Saving a dog far outweighed the negative arguments I was having with myself.

I searched the local shelters and started following one particular shelter on their Facebook page. I was looking for an older dog that was considered at-risk and hard to adopt. I kept coming back to a dog named Sasha that had been in a shelter for about eight months, adopted twice and returned. She is about three years-old and is an Australian cattle dog Lab mix.  She has the most beautiful freckles and the goofiest ears and the sweetest temperament. I just KNEW she was going to be perfect for us. 

Happy birthday!

And so on February 20th I blindfolded my husband and put him in the car with the words, “trust me.” When we arrived at the shelter and took his blindfold off, he was completely disoriented as he noticed we were in what looked like a construction yard.


I gleefully told him, “You’re getting a puppy for your birthday!” I smiled expectantly.

“What??” he asked, confused. 

I explained further, “This is Petaluma Animal Services and we’re going to see a dog named Sasha.  If she’s a good match, she’ll be your birthday present!” 

The smile that broke out on his face told me that this birthday present was going to be hard to beat next year.

We walked in the door and met the newest member of our family. My instinct was right. She was and is perfect for us.

She is a 60-pound lap dog who loves nothing more than to snuggle with you or put her head in your lap. She brings us her toys, not to play with but as presents. She snores when she sleeps. She gets the ‘zoomies’ and races about the house, spinning in circles until she just stops and takes a nap. She does what we call a ‘wiggle woggle’ dance.  If you can imagine a dog doing “The Twist” then you get the gist of what I mean. Her whole body wiggles with happiness, so much so her tail hits her in the face – repeatedly. It makes us laugh out loud every time she does it, which is quite frequently. She brings a vibrant energy to our home. We are so totally and completely in love with her. Even our cats tolerate her and she them. 


Lola’s spirit lives on just as our other beloved shelter animals that passed before her do.  It still takes my breath away, missing Lola, but we saved another shelter dog and that’s always a good thing.

]]> 26
Help save 80 lives through the Veterans Charity Challenge Thu, 14 May 2015 20:55:27 +0000 We can be heroes

We’re excited to let you know that we’re participating in Veterans Charity Challenge 3, a fundraising campaign that could make a big difference to veterans looking to adopt a new pet friend through Pets for Patriots.

It all starts on May 21st and to give back, craigconnects will donate $25,000 to organizations like Pets for Patriots that benefit America’s heroes. The organization that raises the most during the Challenge will get a $10,000 donation.

$10,000 would fully fund 40 veteran-pet adoptions, including pre-adoption counseling, a generous contribution towards ‘welcome home’ pet essentials, and extensive post-adoption follow up. Just think: 40 more amazing, Kleenex-worthy veteran-pet adoption stories. A total of 80 lives saved of person and pet. 

Pedro and Ghost

Pedro, US Army, and Ghost

Last year we missed third place by a whisker, and are even more determined to win this year. But we really need your help.

How you can help right now

Set up a fundraiser on our dedicated Challenge page and reach out to your network of supporters. Imagine the impact we could have if our friends, like you, pitched in to help.

It takes less than five minutes to set up a fundraiser. Just visit this link and click ‘Fundraise for this campaign.’ To make it a success:

  • Update it with the story of why you are a Pets for Patriots fan; the more personal and compelling, the more likely you are to get donations
  • Add pictures and videos to your page to illustrate why our cause means so much to you
  • Share it with everyone you know when the Challenge starts on May 21st at 12 noon ET, and start raising money

If for some reason you can’t fundraise for our campaign, please click here and give whatever you can. Every donation made between May 21st and July 2nd on our dedicated page makes a difference.

Let’s win this for our veterans!

P.S. Any questions on setting up your page just email the folks at Crowdrise and they’ll help:

]]> 0
Two veterans, two dogs, two miracle companion pet adoptions Mon, 04 May 2015 20:32:54 +0000 Every life we touch through our work is a blessing. In the span of less than one week, two veterans adopted two dogs through two different shelter partners in two separate states. Yet all involved – pet and person –  needed the same thing: unconditional love. In the end, we had two miracle companion pet adoptions.

Stray, abused dog lifts an Army veteran out of depression

Michael is medically retired from the Army and now lives in Alabama. Like many veterans, he spent about one year after his discharge “not knowing what to do, not feeling comfortable.” Admittedly he has a lot on his shoulders, coping with fibromyalgia, recurring stress fractures and depression.

Two years ago the Army veteran adopted a cat who is positive for feline leukemia (FeLV), and the pair bonded well.

Eventually Michael decided to adopt a companion for her and thought that a low-key dog who “didn’t want to jump around and chase her a lot” would be a better option than exposing another cat to FeLV. A local shelter told him about their new partnership with Pets for Patriots, and how we reduce the lifetime costs associated with companion pet adoption for United States military veterans. Michael and Kara going home

Little did the staff suspect that Allegra, their longest term and somewhat ornery resident, would be “the one.”

Stray and pregnant when she was found, the now nearly four year-old Australian Kelpie mix had been at the Lee County Humane Society for more than six months. No one knows for how long she lived on her own, absent the protection and care of a loving family. And perhaps in part as a result of her experiences, Allegra was at best aloof and at times hostile to those around her. Many potential adopters overlooked her altogether.

“Everything I heard from people who’ve gone to visit her before is she was abused by a guy, and doesn’t warm up to guys or new people at all,” Michael says.

Yet something changed when the Army veteran arrived at the shelter, just one day after being approved by Pets for Patriots. Allegra, now renamed Kara, was completely at ease in his company.

“I saw how she was when she was comfortable,” he says, adding that since adopting her, “She doesn’t leave my side at all.”

Michael and Kara are the first honorable adoption through our partnership with Lee County Humane Society, which extends a 10% adoption fee discount to members of our program.

“We definitely were [excited],” says TJ McCullough, Lee County Humane Society’s shelter director. “Our first Pets for Patriots adoption and she was our longest term pet. All the girls cried.” Kara (Michael) going home

In just a little over a week, Kara’s adoption is already having a big – and positive – impact on Michael’s life.

“We go walking two to three times every day,” he says, “whereas normally I wouldn’t even want to go outside unless I had to go to work or do chores.”

Others have noticed the near immediate changes in the Army veteran.

“People have said that I’ve been more rounded out,” he says, “so I figure that’s a good thing.”

In addition to the positive emotional changes, benefits offered through Pets for Patriots have had an impact as well – including a 15% ongoing discount offered by Auburn Veterinary Hospital.

“The $150 gift card will go a long way and I am very appreciative of it,” Michael says. “I’m very glad that we have a veterinarian here that is affiliated with Pets for Patriots. She had to have a rabies vaccine and deworming medication on her first visit, and the discount really helped. Thank you again for accepting us into the program and for all that you do!”

Army soldier and three-strike shelter dog become instant family

More than 800 miles to the south and west, another miracle was in the making.

Chris is an active duty Army soldier serving out of Fort Hood, Texas. For years he had been plagued with anxiety.

“I’ve always been close to dogs and had never really had a constant in my life,” says Chris, alluding to his parents’ divorce and other family issues. “Especially in the military we don’t have a lot of constants – always moving, always switching around.” Chris and Modie

Long prior to joining the military Chris’ sole comfort was his companion dog, whom he raised with the help of his grandparents. Sadly, at one point Chris was forced to move into his father’s house and had to find a new home for his beloved pet of 10 years. He was crestfallen at first, but is comforted to know that the dog is with a friend’s son who recently lost his father.

“He helped me for 10 years with my problems and now he can help someone else.”

Although currently serving in the Army, the anxiety that haunted Chris for so many years did not abate. If anything, it was getting worse. Now finally in in a home of his own, Chris decided it was time once again to get a dog.

“I felt I needed a constant,” he says, “and I decided to go adopt.”

Like many would-be pet adopters, Chris started his search online. He discovered Pets for Patriots and, coincidentally, was approved on the very same day as Michael. He wasted little time looking for his new battle buddy.

The Army soldier spent a lot of time at Texas Humane Heroes at Killeen, a Pets for Patriots shelter partner since 2013 that waives pet adoption fees for Pets for Patriots members. He asked the shelter manager about the personalities of many of the dogs there, and visited every kennel to size up each dog for himself.

After Chris met Modie, however, the search was over.  She was a three-strike dog who – like the Army soldier – lacked a sense of familial security in her life.

“I felt a little better with Modie than I did with any other dog,” says Chris. “I still don’t know how to explain it.” Chris and Modie

Modie was originally adopted from Texas Humane Heroes in August 2013, brought back one month later and adopted right away. Due to her owner’s ill health, she was surrendered back to the shelter in December 2014, but adopted quickly by January 2015. Just one month later, the nearly three year-old dog was surrendered again because her new family did not have time to work with her.

“We pulled her out so that they could meet each other and it was love at first sight. She did not want to leave Chris’ side,” says Jenna Gunshinan, the adoption center manager at Killeen. “They played together for a really long time before he had to go.”

The dog who no one seemed to want appeared to know who she wanted.

“Modie has spent the last few weeks waiting for Chris to come back for her,” Jenna continues, “when he showed up in front of her, she jumped right into his arms. She knew that he was the one.”

In the interim, Chris kept in touch with the shelter through their Facebook page, letting them know that he would be coming in to adopt Modie. During that same time he applied to Pets for Patriots and – once approved – went to the shelter for Modie.

The pair are already family.

“She’s always around, she follows me like a shadow, she’s always wanting to be near me,” he says, adding, “It’s nice to have that companionship around.”

Are you or do you know a veteran who would benefit from companion pet adoption? Learn more here.


]]> 3
Marine veteran given a chance for a better life returns the gift to a dog in need Tue, 28 Apr 2015 11:08:56 +0000 Sometimes all a man – or a dog – needs to fulfill his potential is the right opportunity. For one man, that opportunity was becoming a Marine. Years later, that decision would help a dog in need get the ultimate gift: the chance to live a better life.

How the Marines made the man

After graduating high school in 2000, Edward could not believe how quickly time had passed. He was a single parent, and wanted to provide the best future possible for himself and his young daughter.

Enlisting in the United States Marine Corps was a way out – and a way up.

Whether stationed stateside in South Carolina or deployed far from home to Japan, Edward attributes his happiness and success today to the four years he spent serving his country. He remembers his time in the Marine Corps as a wonderful and transformative experience that helped shape him into a well-rounded person. It even made him a better father. Edwarad daughter and Come

“I met some great people, it was fun,” he says, before turning more serious. “That’s where I grew up and learned to be a man.”

During his enlistment Edward discovered a great deal about himself. He become more open-minded about people whose experiences were very different from his own. Through his service he was exposed to people from different races, religions and backgrounds – all contributing to his evolving perspective on the world.

“It opened my eyes about how differently people are raised,” Edward shares. “It made me a better person all around.” 

Although separated from service, Edward still keeps in touch with the friends he made in the Marines.

A difficult transition

Leaving the military was not an easy feat, and Edward was having a difficult time making the transition to civilian life. He knew that many veterans experienced depression when they are no longer serving, a circumstance he was eager to avoid. 

What Edward realized he missed most was the structure he found in the Marine Corps; he admits it was a multi-year struggle to regain his sense of purpose.

“I was lost for a little while,” he says. “It took me three years to transition back.”

Another opportunity to serve

It was during those long three years that Edward started taking classes after work. Shortly before taking qualifying exams to become a police officer, he had a change of heart.

Unsure of his next move, the Marine Corps veteran prayed for a sign.

After much reflection and deliberation, Edward decided to become a firefighter. It seemed to satisfy all of the things he longed for and that mattered most to him: a sense of structure, the opportunity to help others and another chance to make his family proud.

It turns out that Edward made the right choice. Firefighting gives him the sense of fulfillment he experienced during his years as a Marine.

In addition to being a firefighter, Edward is a trained paramedic and responds to various emergency calls, not only those pertaining to fires – making his job even more exciting and meaningful.

Healing at the home front

Due to the nature of his work Edward spends much time of his time away from his beloved wife and daughters. While he is gone he worries about them, and he realizes that his absence infects the house with a sense of loneliness as well. The family came together and made a decision that would change all of their lives – plus one more – forever.

It was time to look for a dog.

Edward’s youngest daughter was particularly eager for a companion, a buddy. The Marine veteran heard about the benefits of adopting companion dogs, including for children in military families, and decided that it was the right choice for his family. With that in mind, he and his youngest daughter visited the Big Dog Ranch Rescue in Wellington, Florida. Edward (daughter) and Comet

Once at the shelter Edward learned about their partnership with Pets for Patriots, which would allow him to adopt a companion dog at a significant discount and receive other benefits that would make pet parenthood more affordable. And it was during that first visit that the veteran’s daughter fell instantly in love with a mixed breed dog named M&M.

As luck – or fate – would have it, M&M had been surrendered to the Big Dog Ranch Rescue right before Edward and his daughter had arrived.

A new name, a new life

Once the pair brought M&M home and in the spirit of new beginnings, the family decided to change the big dog’s name to Comet. At first he was a little “nervous in his new environment,” a very common circumstance for newly adopted pets.

 “He would just pace. He took off a couple of times too,” Edward recalls.

Comet settled down quickly once he realized that he was truly home, and has since become quite the ladies’ man. He prefers Edward’s wife and daughters, and any women in the neighborhood who give him attention.

Despite this, Comet’s presence is giving comfort to Edward as well. Comet has gained some much-needed weight and is proving to be the missing family member that everyone needed. Edward’s youngest daughter got the brother and companion she wanted, and needed. And Edward is relieved that when he goes to work Comet is there looking out for the family – sort of.

“He puts on a good show,” the Marine veteran says, “but he is scared of his own shadow.” 

Edward admits that he was not a big dog person prior to adopting Comet, but that has all changed. He is amazed at the profound satisfaction of rescuing a companion pet – giving an animal in need the second chance at life that he, or she, deserves.

To other veterans who might be considering pet adoption, the Marine veteran has a simple message.

 “Look and shop around,” he says, “I don’t regret it.” 

Are you or do you know a veteran who would benefit from a companion pet? Learn more here.

]]> 0
Love conquers all for widowed Navy veteran and abused shelter dog Mon, 20 Apr 2015 20:30:09 +0000 They say that time heals all wounds, but for John, a widowed Navy veteran, it took a lot of love as well to help a once-abused dog overcome her fears and live the life she deserved.

A waterman joins the Navy

John always harbored a passion for the water and sailing.

In 1962, after graduating high school, John enlisted in the United States Navy as a quartermaster and served for two years active duty before transitioning to the Naval Reserves for another three.  He recalls fondly earlier times when people used the stars to navigate, an art long lost to GPS.  Although he misses those days he admits that he, too, has “sold out” to convenience and technology. John and Kandi

Yet it was not the ability to navigate by the stars that John remembers most; it is the people he met and relationships he forged through his five-year Naval career.

“I met some wonderful people,” he says, “I enjoyed it thoroughly.”  

To this day, John stays in touch with close friends he met through his military service and sees them at least once a year. 

After serving his country on a Navy cruiser, and deploying to such far-flung places as the Mediterranean and the Panama Canal, John disembarked on the West coast and was reunited with his wife and children. The cruiser continued its voyage to Vietnam. 


John started work at a factory to support his young family, but soon returned to school on the G.I. Bill to pursue a career in education. Initially he taught elementary school, but found teaching high school to be his real passion.

The Navy veteran decided to retire after 25 years of teaching and the devastating, premature loss of his beloved wife. She fought cancer for eight years after being told she likely had no more than six months to live. Her death hit John particularly hard since he lost both of his parents to cancer. 

John was widowed, but not alone.

Adopting “the one”

Despite the depth and tragedy of his losses, John found happiness with his granddaughter, whom he cares for during the week, and his rescued feline companion, known simply as Cat.

“I’m just an old man that’s [sic] happy,” he shares, “and I don’t mind being a bachelor.”

John’s granddaughter has found a father in the Navy veteran and even calls him “Dad.” In fact, it is his granddaughter who knew that a big, white and brindle Boxer mix named Kandi was the just the right addition to their small, loving family.

The pair walked into the Humane Society of West Michigan together and, upon seeing Kandi, John’s granddaughter declared their search over. 

“Dad, that’s the one!” she cried out. 

And so it was.

As a veteran, John was eligible to adopt Kandi through the shelter’s partnership with Pets for Patriots. He received an adoption fee discount, a generous contribution towards food and other basics for Kandi, and high quality, ongoing discounted veterinary care from participating veterinary practices in his community.

Love to the rescue

John and his granddaughter took Kandi home, but the big dog’s transition into the family was just a little short of seamless.  

“She ate all my plants!” John exclaims, with the mix of exasperation and understanding of a parent.

The Navy veteran knew that Kandi had a rough start in life. Shortly after bringing her home, he discovered that “she had been struck” and was understandably afraid that John would hit her, too. Yet this man who had endured so much pain in his own life was resolute; he was “willing to invest the time, love, care, and patience that she needed.” 

It took a while before Kandi would come to trust John, but he says, “once she saw I wasn’t going to hurt her, she came right to me.”

Other aspects of Kandi’s prior life would test John’s resolve.

The big dog was not accustomed to being indoors. For the first nine months of her life she ran around outdoors until she was finally caught in Calhoun County, and ultimately brought to the Humane Society of West Michigan for adoption.

Just as the Navy veteran had to earn Kandi’s trust, she had to prove that she could be trusted as well. At first she was crated, but now has full roam of the house. She waits for John to leash her up before going anywhere and, as soon as John unleashes her, Kandi runs right back to the house.

The once-abused dog who roamed the streets was finally home.

“It’s work,” John admits, “and you have to really like dogs.” 

Living by example

John tries to live his life to the fullest, and makes conscientious choices to try and live as healthily as possible. 

The widower believes that the right attitude makes a world of difference. After losing the people he loved the most, he tries to get regular exercise – a task made easier with Kandi in his life – and eat nutritious foods. He does not smoke, especially since his father passed away from lung cancer. And he works hard to instill good values in his granddaughter by providing her the best of care and setting an example with how he lives his life.  

John’s story has touched many people. It is not surprising that a local news station chose to interview him, though this was not his first appearance on television. When he was a young boy John was on The Bible Hour, but this local celebrity could not be more humble.  His only interest is to do right by others and, in so doing, do right by himself.

]]> 3
Adopted dog helps Marine Corps veteran adjust to post-military life Mon, 13 Apr 2015 19:08:13 +0000 While many people choose to adopt a dog or cat to make that animal’s life better, one Marine transitioning out of the military learned that it is equally true in reverse. He found a stellar Shepherd mix who “makes every day better” for him as he copes with the realities of his post-military life.

For love of country

In 2009, Ryan joined the Marines. The next five years of his life as an infantryman brought him far from his Wisconsin roots, as he relocated from coast to coast during his time in service. Ryan and Maximus

“I entered the military to serve this country and because it was something that I always wanted to do,” he says.

For the first three years of his military service, Ryan was stationed in Thurmont, Maryland and spent his last two years in Pendleton, California with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. Of his many experiences the most memorable were the more than two years he served “at Camp David and the guys in 2nd Platoon.”

Now separated from service, the Marine veteran lives with his fiancée in Chicago and is currently pursuing a degree in exercise science.

A man and his dog

Shortly after leaving the military Ryan felt that something was missing. Although he is busy attending school and planning his upcoming wedding, there was nonetheless a sense that his life was not complete.

“I have always wanted to have a dog of my own,” Ryan says, “and even though my family had a dog while I was growing up, it was actually my sister’s dog.”

 Like many people looking to adopt a pet Ryan started his search online, where he came across Pets for Patriots. It was his first introduction to the nationally operating charity that helps military veterans adopt the most overlooked homeless dogs and cats, enhancing – and often saving – two lives in the process.

“I looked into it,” the Marine veteran says, “and saw that they supported in helping vets not only find a pet, but help with initial costs too.”  Ryan fiancee and Maximus

Ryan applied to the program, was approved quickly and almost immediately found Red, a large Shepherd mix with  a rich auburn coat. The big dog was in the care of the the The Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago, one of hundreds of Pets for Patriots partner shelters around the country. The shelter extends a 10% adoption fee discount to veterans in the program, who receive additional benefits through Pets for Patriots – such as help with pet food and veterinary care.

In August, 2014 Ryan adopted Red. The now ex-shelter dog went home to his new life and to a new name: Maximus. 

“He makes everyday better”

In just the first few weeks since his adoption Maximus began to take full advantage of the second chance that Ryan has given him, but he is not the only one who has been changed for the better. By helping his new battle buddy adjust to life in a real and loving home, Ryan is integrating more easily into his new life as a civilian.

The Marine veteran marvels at how Maximus has grown.

“He is finally not afraid of getting into vehicles,” Ryan observes, “and goes through bones as though it is his job!” 

As the months ticked on and Maximus gained confidence that he was truly part of the family, he has shown himself to be at ease with other dogs and new people, too.  One of the things the Marine veteran loves most is watching Maximus play in the snow with total abandon. Ryan and Maximus

“I think he is finally comfortable with everything,” says Ryan, “and [I] can’t wait for what the years bring with Maximus.”

While the big red dog is grateful for a forever, loving home, Ryan appreciates how Pets for Patriots is changing lives – including his own.

“This is a great organization,” he says, “that is truly there to help a veteran with finding the pet that will help change their lives for the better.”

In this way and so many others, Maximus delivers.

“He makes everyday better with the antics that he provides us on a daily basis.” 

Are you or do you know a veteran transitioning to civilian life? Find out how a companion pet can help.

]]> 0
Once-stray dog helps Air Force veteran cope with loss of “perfect dance partner” Mon, 30 Mar 2015 19:00:06 +0000 It is not often that you get to choose your own family, but that’s exactly how it happened for an Air Force veteran and a once-stray dog who are helping each other move beyond their sad pasts.

Although Daniel has many friends in Michigan, he has no family apart from the four-legged kind he has chosen to rescue over the years. Having recently suffered the death of his beloved Sheltie dog, Peanut, the Air Force veteran was ravaged with grief. Peanut RIP 2 (Daniel)_400

“Peanut was my perfect dance partner and the prettiest thing that I could call my own,” he says. “When she died I was wrecked.”

Aiming higher

In 1969 Daniel enlisted in the United States Air Force and completed his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. He remembers vividly “the hot days and cold nights in January and February” before he received advanced training in radio relay equipment repair. Memorable weather followed him to his next duty station as well; Hurricane Camille made landfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast that August.

During Daniel’s military service he completed Technical Instructor School and was assigned to basic electronics instructor duty. Three years of teaching electronics in the Air Force prepared him for a higher degree in electrical engineering, and he now does contract work as an electrical engineer.

Life imitates art for a Blackmouth Cur

Daniel felt a strong emotional void after Peanut died.

The Air Force veteran started looking for a new four-legged companion at the Michigan Humane Society, where he learned about their partnership with Pets for Patriots and its mission to make companion pet adoption more affordable, and therefore more accessible, for veterans and military personnel. Daniel’s motivations to adopt another pet were compelling.

“[To] fill the emotional void after the death of my Sheltie, Peanut.”

Through the partnership, Daniel received a deeply discounted adoption fee and ongoing discounted veterinary care through the Michigan Humane Society. In addition, Pets for Patriots supplied a generous contribution towards ‘welcome home’ pet food and essentials, in addition to other benefits for saving a program-eligible petDaniel and Edison_400

In September 2014, Daniel honorably adopted Edison, a one-and-a-half year-old Blackmouth Cur – the same type of dog in the famous movie classic, Old Yeller.

Like the dog in the movie, Edison had been living as a stray.

The big dog with the rich chestnut-colored coat was heartworm-positive at the time of his adoption, likely owing to having no one to care for him and provide even the most basic veterinary care. Despite his loveless past, however, Edison is thriving.

“He has had a tough start in life as a stray and many health problems, but is so appreciative,” says Daniel, “and his health is great now.” 

Consistent with his breed, Edison is a quick study.

“He does respond to training and wants to please,” the Air Force veteran beams. “It is pleasurable to watch him change.”

The savior and the saved

Life on the streets for any domesticated animal is not an easy one, and many die as a result of starvation, accidents or deliberate acts of cruelty. Edison is one of the lucky ones; he got the chance to put his hard-luck life behind him. As it happens, his adopter was able to move on as well.

“Edison and I rescued each other,” Daniel says – and not only in regards to his loneliness after losing Peanut.

“Edison is very handsome, very exuberant and willful, very affectionate,” says the Air Force veteran, adding, “and un-replaceable.”

Whereas Peanut was “the perfect dance partner,” Edison has quickly become an important source of exercise and socialization for his Air Force companion.

“I get exercise walking and engaging with him,” says Daniel, noting that “Edison enhances my social life as I meet other pet owners when [we are] outdoors.” Edison (Daniel)_400

The two sleep together every night, and Daniel brushes or massages Edison every morning. The once-stray dog with the Hollywood name has earned an even more meaningful moniker: “constant companion.”

A promise made, a promise kept

The possibility that Edison might outlive Daniel is not lost on the Air Force veteran, though his own health has improved with the daily exercise his new charge demands.

“I would not like to leave him alone,” says Daniel. “He has had enough hardships in his short life and I’ll make sure his last hardship was indeed his last one.”

Daniel takes the responsibility of companion pet adoption seriously – and advocates for others to adopt since “the benefits for both the adopter and animal are immeasurable.”

The veteran realizes that many hard-luck dogs and cats never get the second chance at life that they deserve, and appreciates how the Michigan Humane Society cared for Edison “until we found each other.” He is equally appreciative of Pets for Patriots “for making it easier to adopt him,” and adds the encouragement to “keep up the good work.”

Most of all, Daniel has been able to honor his memories with Peanut while creating new ones with Edison, and sees the relationship as one of mutual giving.

 “Choose to help an animal live a good life,” he says, “and this act returns the same gift to you.”

If you are or know a veteran who would benefit from companion pet adoption, learn more here.

]]> 2
Bronze Star veteran shines with four-legged battle buddy by his side Mon, 23 Mar 2015 21:03:06 +0000 After three combat tours in Iraq, a Bronze Star Army veteran becomes a hero of a different stripe: to an adult dog who would become his new battle buddy as he transitioned to civilian life.

Inspired to service by Vietnam War POW

During nearly a decade of service, Chris traveled the world. Originally from Oklahoma, the young Army veteran started his military career at Fort Carson, Colorado with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 4th Infantry Division (ID). Over the years he would deploy to the Middle East,  and serve in more than a dozen countries around the globe before finishing his career stateside.

“I completed three combat deployments to Iraq with the 4th ID,” Chris says, “and became a Bronze Star recipient in 2008.”

Chris and Darla

Chris saw the world while serving in the Army, but the inspiration to serve came from a place much closer to his home – and his heart.

“My grandfather was a Vietnam veteran and POW (Prisoner of War),” Chris says. “He was one of the smartest men I knew, my best friend and my hero, so naturally I wanted to follow his footsteps.” 

In July 2011, Chris accepted a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) to MacDill Air Force Base (AFB) in Tampa, Florida, where he finished his military career by working in Protective Services for the United States Central Command (CENTCOM).

Pizza, pepperoni and pals

There is little doubt that Chris’ years of service, including three combat tours to Iraq, provided many memorable experiences. Despite enduring the brutality of war, the Army veteran chooses to remember a more comical moment of his nearly ten-year military career.

Chris and three coworkers were passing through Istanbul, Turkey. Their flight was not until the following morning, so they stayed overnight in the city at a hotel within the government rates. The brochure made the hotel look appealing enough, but that was where the appeal ended. 

“Once we arrived we thought it was Halloween because this place was dark, creepy, and I was ready for a ghoul to jump out at me,” Chris recalls. “The rooms were unbelievably small, I didn’t have a toilet seat, and my friend Brian’s room didn’t have electricity!”

Undaunted, the foursome walked down the street to a local Domino’s pizza for a small taste of home. Not surprisingly, none of the employees spoke English, so Chris simply pointed to a picture of a pepperoni pizza on the menu.

“Sure enough, they were pepperoni…with mushrooms and corn!” he says. “We did our best to not complain, and ate since we were starving.”

In the end, the Army veteran admits the pizza was not too bad, despite the “unorthodox toppings.”

“We went back to our hotel and tried to get some sleep,” Chris says, “with our shoes on. We still laugh to this day about that pizza and hotel.”

In for a cat, out with a dog

Now separated from service, Chris lives in Florida and is often home alone. He longs for companionship, especially since his girlfriend Veronica lives and works in Colorado as a registered nurse, and he no longer travels for his job.

“I have always wanted my own dog,” Chris says. “Growing up, we always had cats. And living alone here in Florida and my constant traveling for work made it very difficult for me to consider adopting.”

One day when Veronica was in town for a visit, the couple decided to go to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay – just to “browse.”

“Originally, we were planning on getting a cat,” says Chris, “but when we passed through the kennel with the small dogs, we absolutely fell in love with Darla when she yelped at us to come see her. She was adorable and was very distressed about being in there. I set up a meet with her in their yard and she was extremely affectionate and friendly. We knew just then that we were going to take her home.” Chris and Darla 2

At the time, Darla was a five year-old Pug and Beagle mix, often called a Puggle. She was surrendered by her previous family because they were unable to support her financially.

“Darla is such a great dog,” Chris says. “It makes me happy that they gave her to a no-kill shelter, rather than just abandoning her on the streets. I am extremely grateful I had the courage to adopt her.”

Chris noted that Darla was very well trained, and he “hopes for the best” for her previous family.

While at the shelter, the Army veteran learned about their partnership with Pets for Patriots, which helps veterans and military personnel adopt adult and special needs pets, and large breed dogs – and provides a range of benefits to make pet parenthood more affordable on an ongoing basis.

“I immediately applied that same day,” he says. “It is a great program and I encourage all veterans to consider using Pets for Patriots. Not only do you receive a few helpful benefits from the program, but when you adopt from a shelter, you are saving a life!”

Bronze Star veteran and his battle buddy

“Living alone can be very boring, and at times can really make stressful times even worse,” Chris shares, “since no one is around to talk to, or help me keep my mind distracted.”

Life is no longer lonely or boring for the Bronze Star veteran.

“Knowing Darla is at home waiting for me to walk through that door is exciting for me. It doesn’t matter if I’ve been gone for twenty minutes or four hours,” he says. “She always greets me as if she hasn’t seen me in years!”

Like many veterans, Chris misses the camaraderie and closeness of his fellow soldiers, but Darla has become something of a four-legged battle buddy for the decorated veteran. For her part, the little dog has taken well to her new life, including ditching her own bed to sleep under the blankets with Chris.

“She refuses to sleep in her own bed,” he says. “It’s very funny to see her jump on the bed and use her nose to push the blankets over her so she can burrow underneath. Even if I make her sleep in her own bed, she will somehow jump up on my own bed without me knowing, and sneak under the covers.”

Soon Darla may have to share the covers with Veronica, since she and Chris are moving soon to Denver so that they can finally all be together. Once there, Chris will pursue a new challenge in the civilian world.

“My passion is snowboarding and shooting guns,” Chris says.  “And I hope to one day open my own bar and grill.”

Whatever the young Army veteran decides to do, Darla will have his back.

“The loyalty and affection she gives me can make any day so much better,” he says. “It doesn’t matter how mad, irritated or stressed out I am, because once I walk through that door she makes everything go away and helps me to relax. She helps me keep my head up.”

]]> 0 Healing at both ends of the leash for disabled veteran and special needs dog Mon, 16 Mar 2015 15:48:18 +0000 Dewey is a disabled Vietnam veteran who came to the realization that he “needed a therapy dog to help fight depression.” At the same time he had a strong desire to help a dog in need, so he returned to the Michigan Humane Society where he and his wife had previously adopted companion pets.

“I knew at the “Michigan Humane Society there was a dog that needed the therapy of a home and love,” Dewey says.

As it turns out that dog was Lizbeth: a 30-pound, nearly purebred Beagle with loving brown eyes. Lizbeth (Dewey)_400

The Vietnam veteran’s first encounter with Lizbeth was nothing short of “love at first sight,” despite the young dog’s special needs. In addition to needing care for recurring urinary tract infections Lizbeth was obese, and subject to severe arthritis and back problems that are seen frequently in overweight Beagles.

In only two months since adopting his new companion, Dewey is proud to report that Lizbeth slimmed down to her target weight and has not had another urinary infection. However, both problems require his continued vigilance and care.

Experiencing Vietnam

Dewey served in the First Air Cavalry in Vietnam. The unit was considered an important wartime innovation for its use of helicopters to move and position light infantry across the battlefield. Reflecting on his service, the now disabled veteran believes it gave him the opportunity to fight for his country and experience life in a foreign nation.

Upon returning home Dewey was able to earn both Masters and Specialist degrees in Special Education through the G.I. Bill.

Of squirrels, cuddles and football

All the animals that Dewey and his wife have welcomed into their home over the years have been adopted through the Michigan Humane Society Rochester Hills location, so the decision to return there in search of a new dog was a natural one. The shelter offers a generous adoption fee discount and ongoing, reduced cost veterinary care to all veterans who adopt through its partnership with Pets for Patriots, while Pets for Patriots provides generous benefits to veterans like Dewey once they adopt a program eligible dog or cat.

Lizbeth – or “Beth” as she is affectionately nicknamed – now lives a very different life. She spends her days cuddling and watching football with Dewey, and bringing her toys to him when she wants to play. She especially loves it when he throws a ball for her to fetch, but only as long as she gets a treat in exchange.

Although Beth enjoys lazing about the house, all that changes when she and Dewey go out for a walk. The adopted dog is then officially on squirrel patrol.

“[She has] pulled her 240-pound master to the ground twice while rearing up on her back feet and struggling to get that doggone squirrel,” says Dewey.

On one occasion Beth broke free and Dewey had to dive to catch her leash. He is now working with her to stop her neighborhood squirrel obsession – or at least to make it more manageable for Dewey. The Beagle has been known to “exhaust herself” barking at the squirrels she can see through the window in her room. As it happens, Beth’s twin obsession is treats – which Dewey uses judiciously to guide her to do his bidding, such as when he needs to lure her back into the house after an episode of squirrel watching.

“I buy the long treats and cut them down to short pieces,” he explains, “and gladly she runs to me. I grab her leash and gleefully we go into the house.” 

Caring for Beth has given Dewey a renewed sense of purpose, and has helped alleviate his nagging depression. The disabled veteran sees the dog’s health issues – her propensity for urinary tract infections and ongoing battle with her weight – as worthy of every special effort. In the end, Dewey understands what is most important to his newfound friend: “giving back love while receiving love.”

Learn more about what makes special needs pets so special here.

]]> 6