Shelter dog helps Navy sailor expand her world

A Navy sailor found her world feeling limited and lonely, but that all changed when an adopted shelter dog opened her eyes to the life she was missing.

A lonely military life

Jessica is currently serving in her second enlistment, and for the next three years is stationed at a shore-based training center in San Diego. She previously served on board the USS Boxer and MSRON 5, both of which took her far from familiar shores.

“So far my most memorable experience has been pulling into port after spending 110 days out to sea,” says Jessica. “It was the biggest relief and a bit of a culture shock simply being on land.”

The Navy sailor loves her job, but at times feels the weight of her sacrifice. She misses those closest to her and – being a lifelong dog lover – came to the decision to adopt a companion petJessica and Henley 2

“I have always loved animals and particularly dogs,” she says. “Being away from my family and friends makes the desire for companionship even stronger.”

Adopting a dog: mission accomplished

Pet adoption was not a viable option for Jessica during her previous enlistment, but once she was assigned to shore duty she started to search for a dog.

Jessica found out about Pets for Patriots through her transfer package.

The Navy sailor looked into it, thought it “seemed like an amazing program” and decided to visit a locally participating shelter, the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services. It is one of many shelters, rescues, SPCAs, humane societies and municipal animal controls partnered with the nationally operating charity to place the most overlooked dogs and cats with military veterans.

In December 2013, Jessica’s search was over.

There at the County shelter sat a then two year-old Doberman Pinscher named Baron. Jessica adopted the big dog and renamed him Henley. In addition to receiving a generous adoption fee discount from the shelter because she joined Pets for Patriots, Jessica received many other benefits that help make taking care of Henley affordable on a military salary. Henley and friend

“I would and have recommended adopting through Pets for Patriots,” the Navy veteran says, adding, “It’s an awesome program and I never would have gotten Henley without them.”

Shelter dog and Navy veteran set sail together

Prior to adopting Bentley, Jessica had a list of family and friends ready to take care of her new pet friend should she deploy or be sent out to sea again. As part of its responsibility to educate active military members about pet ownership and deployment, Pets for Patriots provided Jessica with information about deployment boarding solutions to consider if and when that time comes.

For now and for the foreseeable future, however, Jessica and Henley are content to be landlubbers.

“Henley is the best thing that has happened to me. He has expanded my world and keeps me from ever being lonely,” she says. “Plus, he wakes me up for work.”

Jessica is at times painfully aware of the challenges of military life. On the one hand there is the loneliness, and paradoxically on the other, the challenges of companionship. Jessica and Henley

“Being in the military,” she says, “it can sometimes be difficult to involve another life into yours, but Pets for Patriots gives you the tools you need to make that step.”

The young Navy veteran never regrets adopting a shelter dog who needed a home as much as she needed a friend. For his part, Henley is “adorable” and “the most affectionate dog ever.”

“He is the most goofy character of a dog I have ever met,” says Jessica. “He simply melts my heart.”

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