Pets For Patriots Blog Veterans With Pets Fri, 09 Oct 2015 13:15:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Rescued Pit Bull saves combat veteran from “lonely world” Mon, 28 Sep 2015 20:05:01 +0000 The world can be a pretty lonely place, especially for a veteran transitioning to civilian life. For one such veteran, a rescued Pit Bull was all he needed to battle loneliness and deal with the stresses of everyday life.

Air Force ‘cowboy’ aims high

Jason joined the Air Force, and was stationed in both Oklahoma and Germany with the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) enlisted air crew. A profound sense of duty inspired the die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan to enlist. Jason and Tyrion_cropped

“I entered the military because I think all men should serve their country,” he says.

While deployed overseas Jason was assigned to the NATO Air Base in Geilenkirchen, Germany. Due to a lack of base housing, he lived in the local community and cites it as one of the most memorable experiences of his time in service.

“I had German landlords and all my friends were Dutch,” Jason says. “The base bordered Holland. I think this has to be one of the top 10 best military assignments anyone could have.”

Adopting a best friend

After he completed his tours of duty Jason found everyday life to be less high-flying than his military career. The transition from service to civilian life was difficult, stressful and – above all – lonely.

Now living in Hampton Roads, Virginia, Jason needed a friend, and shares his reasons for choosing to adopt a dog.

“To help me deal with stress,” he explains, “and dogs are the best friends people can have.”

The Air Force veteran learned about Pets for Patriots and its companion pet adoption program from a fellow veteran who adopted through our charity, and decided it was just what he needed.

Jason visited one of our local shelter partners, Norfolk Animal Care and Adoption Center, for help finding a program-eligible pet that suited his needs and lifestyle. The shelter has been a member of our adoption partner network since 2012 and extends a 50% adoption fee to veterans in our program – in addition to the various benefits that Pets for Patriots provides.

Life in “a pretty lonely world”

At the time, Jason had no idea how much one particular dog in the shelter’s care would change his life.

Auggie was a large, male stray Pit Bull. Due to his age, size and breed his prospects for adoption were dim. The big dog was at the Norfolk Animal Care and Adoption Center for nearly one month before Jason met, and ultimately adopted him.

Since renamed Tyrion, the rescue dog is already proving his mettle.

Jason and Tyrion 2_cropped

“Tyrion has given me a companion in a pretty lonely world,” Jason says. “He is always happy to see me. He can tell when I am depressed and dealing with high anxiety times. He is also very protective and just an all around AWESOME Pit Bull.”

The Air Force veteran is not only thrilled with his new friend, but happy that he adopted him through Pets for Patriots.

“The program is amazing and helps with expenses,” he says, in reference to the generous post-adoption stipend towards pet food and other basics, and ongoing discounted pet care from participating veterinarians.

Jason has even decided to support Pets for Patriots through purchases he makes on eBay and Amazon, where we receive a portion of sales when shoppers select our charity.

Less tangible benefits are no less rewarding and, in fact, are at the heart of why Jason chose pet adoption in the first place. Companion animals help people create positive, non-threatening social interactions which, in turn, help to reduce the isolation and loneliness that so many veteran experience after military service.

“He is a people magnet!” Jason exclaims. “I get constant compliments from people when I walk him about how beautiful is he is.”

But perhaps the most amazing benefit is the unconditional love that binds a once-lonely veteran and a once-stray dog.

“He is very loving as well,” says Jason, “and I can tell he looks at me like I’m his Daddy.”

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

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Navy-Air Force veteran saves life of “angel sent from up above” Tue, 22 Sep 2015 00:35:12 +0000 Proud to serve, by sea or by air

Kyle is a veteran of both the Navy and the Air Force. His guiding ethos is to fight for the rights of people and pets who cannot fight for themselves.

A recent college graduate and current Air Force Reservist, Kyle is working through a management program with a major, multi-regional supermarket chain. However, it is abundantly clear that service to country is part of this veteran’s DNA. Kyle and Cam 2_square

“I entered the military having the desire to give back in some way even if I did not go active,” he says. “I feel the need to give something back to America, and still feel the need to do more.”

In 2009, Kyle joined the Navy Reserves as a Seabee – their motto, “We build, we fight.” At the time, he planned to attend college and eventually transition to active duty, but elected to stay in school. After more than four-and-a-half years with the Navy he switched to the Air Force Reserves, attached to the 512th CES (Civil Engineer Squadron) in Dover, Delaware.

“Even though I am serving as a Reservist,” he says, “I feel the need to put on the uniform and stand up to protect the rights of every American. I want to create a future not just for my family, but also many others, as long as I live.”

Like many veterans before him and no doubt many to follow, Kyle thrives on the profound sense of camaraderie that is the bedrock of military culture.

“I cannot explain these relationships that are developed between the men and women you meet,” he explains, “but the bonds built, memories made are some of the best times you could ever be a part of. Only other service members know the feeling I am talking about.”

Second chances

As a Reservist, Kyle has the opportunity to pursue a life and career in the civilian world while maintaining his military commitments, a circumstance that gives him a unique perspective on many things in life, including companion pet adoption.

“As a military member we fight for the rights for people who cannot. We leave our families to ensure safety for the masses. We will give the shirts off our backs to help anyone in need,” he says, adding, “I use that same motto for animals in shelters.” Kyle, Reese and Cam_cropped

The dual Navy-Air Force veteran understands that homeless animals are innocents. They “did nothing wrong nor did they want to be in a shelter;” their only desires “love and companionship.”

No stranger to pet adoption – Kyle had two dogs at home prior to adopting through Pets for Patriots – he admits that he and his wife would adopt even more if their finances allowed. For them, adoption is the only option.

“I chose to adopt to give a pet a second chance,” Kyle says. “I adopt to spare a life, I adopt to give another chance, and I adopt because I want to help.”

The savior and the saved

Kyle is a previous pet adopter and believes that there is something special, even unique, about the bond created with a rescued animal.

“The love from an adopted pet is not like any other,” he says. “You can feel the love and see it in their eyes when you take them away from their nightmares.”

Cam is a large, adult Great Pyrenees mix who found himself homeless and in the care of the Virginia Beach SPCA, a Pets for Patriots adoption and veterinary partner. While Kyle and his wife were visiting the shelter and thinking about adding the big dog to their four-legged family, Cam was adopted by someone else.

“He was adopted before we could get him, but returned,” the veteran recalls. “It was like a sign.”

The shelter told Kyle about Pets for Patriots and our companion pet adoption program for veterans, including the many benefits for adopting harder-to-place pets like Cam. The Virginia Beach SPCA allowed Kyle to foster Cam while he completed his application to our program, which gave him the opportunity to ensure that his newest charge would get along with his other two dogs.

“Cam seemed to fit right in helping everyone in our home feel whole,” says Kyle.

“An angel sent from up above”

Kyle was approved by Pets for Patriots and the foster was a success, paving the way for him to convert Cam’s foster to a permanent adoption. The veteran was not the only one in the family who appreciated the newest addition.

“Reese, our Saint Bernard, needed Cam,” Kyle observes. “They are similar in size and love playing with each other.”

Decidedly smaller Apollo – a Beagle-Hound mix – is Cam’s cuddle buddy.

“He [Apollo] desires the need to cuddle and sometimes Reese does not want to,” Kyle explains. “Cam always lets Apollo lay with him.”

An experienced pet adopter, Kyle could have very easily adopted Cam without Pets for Patriots, but chose otherwise. Kyle and Cam_square

“It [Pets for Patriots] gives a voice to service members who desire companionship,” he says. “It also helps save not just the animal’s life, but also the veteran. Through Pets for Patriots you combined two lost souls that only seek a single bond. And there seems to be no better bond similar to the service than that of a bond with a pet.”

Kyle has honored our work by calling Pets for Patriots “our animal version of the USO.” But fittingly, his most passionate words are saved for Cam, the big dog who almost got away.

“Being all white it is as if he was an angel sent from up above,” he says. “Nothing but happiness has come from bringing Cam home.”

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Trooper Joe: neglected dog searches for his hero Wed, 16 Sep 2015 19:25:18 +0000 Trooper Joe was brought to a Virginia shelter as a pup, quickly adopted and not heard from again for five years. At that time he was neglected and disabled, and surrendered to the shelter – but not by the family who had adopted him.

Trooper Joe 3

Having been provided almost no opportunities for exercise, the now six year-old Labrador Retriever/Hound mix was in bad shape. His nails were so long that he had to be sedated to have them trimmed, and after multiple veterinary visits and diagnostics it was discovered that Trooper Joe had degenerative hip disease requiring a double hip replacement.

Since his surrender, Trooper Joe has resided at our partners Roanoke Valley SPCA in Virginia for more than one year. A shelter is meant to be a temporary stop en route to a forever home, not a substitute for one.

We’re determined to help spread the word about this wonderful dog in the hopes that his future adopter – hopefully a veteran who is already in or who will join our program – will be his hero. In the near term, the shelter hopes to find Trooper Joe a foster home that is willing to help this wonderful dog now that a donor has stepped up to fund the first hip replacement.

Foster or adoption home requirements:

  • No other pets or small children
  • No need for him to take stairs
  • Willingness to work with a certified applied animal behaviorist to help Trooper Joe adapt to his new surroundings (he’s become very familiar with the people and routine at Roanoke Valley SPCA)
  • Ability and willingness to help Trooper Joe with extensive rehabilitation following his first surgery, scheduled for January 2016

All serious applicants to foster or adopt Trooper Joe are welcome, and each will be scrutinized for their ability to care for this special dog. A panel of experts will review every application with the goal of finding the most suitable and appropriate foster-to-adopt situation for Trooper Joe. He has developed some quirks from living in a shelter for more than a year, and his new person – or family – must be patient, loving and wanting to be part of his journey.

If you are interested, please do not contact Pets for Patriots; contact the Roanoke Valley SPCA at 540-339-9247 to schedule time to meet Trooper Joe and speak to an adoption counselor. A final decision will be made September 27th, 2015, with Trooper Joe going to his new foster home by October 1, 2016.

Even if you are unable to foster or potentially adopt Trooper Joe, please share his story. The more people who know about his need, the greater the chance we have of him finding his hero.

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The soldier and the stray Sun, 13 Sep 2015 14:45:06 +0000 When Jeremy’s dreams of a military career were cut short the Army veteran was in desperate need a companion. He found one in a once-stray dog who needed hope and a home as much as Jeremy needed a friend.

“The greatest time of my life”

In 2009, Jeremy joined the Army with “every intention to make it a career.” Just 22 at the time, it had been a lifelong dream to serve his country and he believed that military service would be “the best thing” for him. The Army did not disappoint.

“I have been all over the world and been to many different locations,” he says, adding, “Greatest time of my life.”

For four-and-a-half years Jeremy served with total gusto. He loved being in the Army so much that he struggles to find a singular event more memorable than all the others. Jeremy and Gannon

“It was the greatest period of my life,” he says. “and no matter what, I let my ego get in the way and tell everyone about my service.”

Yet life did not work out as planned for the young Army soldier. Despite his love of country, ambition and desire to serve,  in 2014 Jeremy was given a medical separation from service.

“I got my stripes in three years and knew at that point I am fully committed,” Jeremy recalls, “until I was ordered a medical discharge.”

Coming home

Even when a military separation is voluntary many veterans struggle to adapt to civilian life.

Veterans re-enter a world which lacks the structure, camaraderie and mission focus they grew accustomed to through service, and can have difficulty translating the skills they learned in the military to the demands of a civilian job. Relationships are often strained as friends and family are faced with a person they believe is different than the one they knew, while veterans can struggle to reconnect with those they love most.

Jeremy faced this and more. He had to cope with the added challenge of having his dream cut short and soon thereafter another emotional blow: his marriage ended.

Choosing pet adoption

With his career and family life torn apart, Jeremy soldiers on. The Army veteran currently leads production services for a major bank and describes his role there with trademark humor.

“I monitor the global networks and like Vanilla Ice says, ‘If there’s a problem, yo, I solve it.'”

Although he has a fulfilling job, Jeremy was coming home every night to an empty house. He was stressed from the circumstances of his medical separation as well as from the dissolution of his marriage. Thankfully the Army soldier chose a positive way to address his troubles.

“I chose to adopt a pet,” he sys, “because I needed that companionship, something that can calm me when I need it.”

Army veteran soldiers on with stray dog by his side

Jeremy learned about Pets for Patriots when he visited his local shelter, Richmond SPCA, which is both a participating adoption and veterinary partner. The SPCA offers a deeply discounted adoption fee of just $50, a ‘welcome home’ kit with pet supplies, and access to their full-service veterinary Clinic for Compassionate Care without proof of income qualification. All of this is in addition to benefits we offer veterans adopting program-eligible pets, which includes a generous contribution towards pet food and other essentials.

Before applying to our national companion pet adoption program for veterans Jeremy did some research and determined that adopting through our partnership with Richmond SPCA “seemed like a great choice.” (Jeremy) Gannon with kong

During his search for a four-legged friend, the ex-soldier was smitten by one particular dog in the shelter’s care.

Gannon was an 18-month old Fox Hound mix, found as a stray. Despite having lived on the streets the dog’s playful disposition attracted Jeremy, and seemed to be the perfect antidote to what he was experiencing in his life.

Jeremy adopted Gannon and they formed an instant, indelible bond.

“My family consists of me and the dog now,” he says.

“The perfect companion”

It did not take long for Gannon’s previous life – no home, no love, no rules – to be apparent.

“Now Gannon, by the way he acts, was a stray,” says Jeremy. “No training at all, so it is square one with an older dog, which makes it even harder.”

Despite the fact that the big hound didn’t “know how to be a house dog yet,” Jeremy nonetheless believed that Gannon was a “very, very good dog.” And it was obvious to the Army veteran that his new charge wants to please him.

“His drive to become the perfect companion is there,” he observes.

Although completely untrained, Gannon had an immediate and transformative impact on Jeremy.

“Gannon is a great dog,” he shares. “Not only has he lowered my anxiety, he has also made me smile for the first time in a while.”

Jeremy knew that it was critical to teach Gannon how to be a well-mannered member of the family and shed his life as a stray. He dedicated himself to training Gannon, but in time realized that he needed the help of a professional.

Some studies have found that as many as 30 percent of dog owners surrender their pets because of behavioral issues. Because part of our mission is surrender prevention, we worked with the Richmond SPCA to share the costs of a training program offered through the shelter. This opportunity gave Jeremy the “helping paw” he needed to take Gannon’s manners to the next level.

With love all things are possible

At Pets for Patriots we like to say that love is the real service we provide. With that love, it is possible for a street dog to find his way as a well-behaved family pet and companion, and for a medically discharged soldier to rebuilt his confidence and hope.

As it happens, the soldier and the stray are alike in many ways.

Jeremy and Gannon both experienced abandonment. Each is a work in progress, striving to move beyond previous disappointments. And both need what the other offers: a loving friend who is always loyal and never judges.

“I am so happy we found out about this program,” Jeremy says, “as it has done a great deal for my family.”

The Army veteran admits that training his new four-legged charge is an ongoing responsibility, and something they work on together every day. Committing to Gannon’s transformation from street dog to family pet is having a positive impact on Jeremy as well – giving him the emotional space he needs to focus on someone other than himself and his recent travails.

“Gannon has changed my life. I have a different perspective on things now,” he says. “He is a nut ball and we still have work to do, but he’s always there for me no matter what.”

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Third generation soldier first time adopter and hero to senior dog Mon, 07 Sep 2015 17:43:24 +0000 You could say the Army is in Andrew’s DNA. The third generation soldier is a career National Guardsman, and recently became a first time pet adopter to a senior dog who needed a hero.

Born to serve

Andrew joined the Army National Guard during high school and completed basic training shortly after graduation. In 2012 he was deployed to Afghanistan and, since his return home in 2013, has been serving as an operations planner for the recruiting section.

The career soldier followed his father and grandfather into military service. Andrew and Nikita edited

“Twelve years now I’ve been Guard,” he explains. “I am third generation Army, so growing up a lot of the good things my grandfather and father experienced were because of the opportunities provided [by the Army].”

A mix of family history and a deep sense of patriotism spurred Andrew to enlist. 

“I am proud of my country,” he says with steely determination, “and want to be a benefit to it.”

With twelve years of service under his belt and many more to come Andrew is not short on memories, but none are as unique or meaningful as being a member of the Honor Guard. He has been part of this storied detail for more than 500 funerals for veterans of all generations. Each service holds personal meeting for the career soldier.

“To be able to offer respect,” he says, “and assist the families at that time.”

New wife, new life, old dog

Andrew and his wife Erin always knew they wanted to have children and pets together, so the decision to adopt a dog during their first year of marriage seemed like a perfect idea. The couple both felt it was important to adopt a homeless pet from a shelter or rescue, and not acquire a dog from a breeder or pet retailer. 

“There are great animals without homes,” Andrew says. “There were a lot of animals with a series of bad luck. We were able to provide a good home for an animal that needed a good home, versus one that would be there for the financial benefit of whoever was selling it.” 

Equally important, Andrew and Erin knew the qualities they wanted in a dog to best fit with their active lifestyle. Sadly, many people fail to do even the most basic research before adopting a pet or consider how a dog or cat will figure into their lives, adding to the problem of relinquishment, animal homelessness and – for millions each year – death.

“We wanted lots of energy,” the Guardsman says, adding they wanted a dog to  “run with us, play in the evenings. That’s why we went with Shorthaired Pointers.” (Andrew) Nikita_2

German Shorthaired Pointers are known for being energetic and affectionate dogs, and excellent family pets.

“My wife had a great experience with her dog,” says Andrew, describing Erin’s childhood pet.

The Army soldier learned about Pets for Patriots from a posting on a veterans’ service board, and met someone who had a great experience adopting a pet through our charity as well.

“I really enjoyed interacting with the folks,” he shares. “I would say the organization is a great veteran-centered organization.”

The pair turned to Texas GSP Rescue, an organization that fosters and adopts German Shorthaired Pointers exclusively. The rescue partners with Pets for Patriots to help veterans like Andrew adopt the most vulnerable dogs in its care, including those who are older or have special needs.

In view of the couple’s interest in an energetic dog, it is unlikely their first instincts would have been to adopt a senior pet – yet that is exactly what happened.

“My wife and I set up a few appointments. Nikita was the second dog we met through the program,” Andrew shares. “She was the best behaved, and she fit in with my wife’s and my personalities best. We enjoyed visiting her, and we decided to adopt her.”

At the time of her adoption – just before Christmas – Nikita was nine years old.

Senior dog proves age is just a number

Since her adoption Nikita has made the newlywed’s house a real home. Andrew is typically the first person home in the evenings and having a dog to greet him makes him smile. And despite her years, the senior dog has kept Andrew and his wife active.

“It’s great to have dog excited to see you,” he says, adding, “I enjoy going to run a whole lot more. She drags me around the track.”  

Andrew takes special pride in Nikita’s newfound joy as well, sharing how much he loves watching her running outside and just being happy. Even the senior dog’s post-exercise routine is amusing.(Andrew) Nikita_comfynap_600

“Nikita will come in and lap water out of her bowl for five minutes straight,” he says, splashing everywhere and making them laugh.

Now acclimated to her new family and new life, Nikita feels confident expressing herself. And she has proven to be a very vocal dog with what Andrew describes as a “moaning, pitiful sound” that he has dubbed her “talking voice.”

“[It is] a combination of a yawn and a complaining voice,” he says.

Life changing for person and pet

Between marriage and companion pet adoption, much has changed in Andrew’s life in the past year – for the better. In addition to coming home to his new bride, he looks forward to giving Nikita treats and generally making sure that “she is enjoying life.” 

Adopting a senior dog has been a transformative experience for the National Guardsman.

“One of the best things about starting a new life. Just having her improved our lives,” he says.

While Andrew might not see himself as a hero, to one nine year-old dog he is all that and more. Adopted at an age when companion pets are typically overlooked, facing grim and uncertain futures, this senior dog found someone who believed her life was worth saving. And she is not the only one to benefit from the adoption.

“Having a pet in your life drastically changes your life,” says Andrew. “You gain a best friend through the experience.”

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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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