Special needs older dog helps Navy family cope with geo-bachelor dad

It took an older, special needs dog named Annie to help one Navy family meet life’s challenges when their geo-bachelor father had to serve far from home. This story is told by Amy, whose husband, Kevin, is a Pets for Patriots member serving in the United States Navy.

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I am a dependant of an active duty spouse. My husband has been serving with the United States Navy (USN) since 1992. His current rank is E8, which translates to Senior Chief for the USN. He’s been stationed in various different states on board various different ships prior to making career counseling his current rate. His current title is Assistant Chief Recruiter for Navy Recruiting District Michigan.

I was employed with my previous employer for 12 years prior to a group layoff due to business conditions. To this date, I have been laid off since 2011. Prior to my husband’s latest duty station, he was stationed in Millington, Tennessee for several years as a “geo bachelor” while I maintained the home, children and employment in Michigan.

My husband and I have been married for nearly 18 years. We have 3 children: Audrey(12), Kate(9) and Kevin(4). Throughout our married life we adopted a cat and a dog. Unfortunately, in December of 2010 we lost our family pet, our dog Reno. She was a 12 year-old Norwegian Elkhound with an incredibly loyal charateristic about her. So, if I EVER got another dog again, that would be a charateristic that I would like mirrored in another dog.

Diary of a Navy geo-bachelor

1992: USS John F. Kennedy(CV-67)-Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1995: USS Gettysburg(CG-64)-Mayport, Florida
1999: NRD Michigan
2002: USS Ramage(DDG-61)-Norfolk, Virginia
2005: NRD Michigan
2009: CNRC, IG-Millington, Tennessee
2012: NRD Michigan
1992-present: United States Navy, active duty

My husband has only had two rates, Damage Control and Career Counselor. When he was stationed with the fleet, he was acting as the DC and was the Fire Marshal when stationed on the USS Ramage. My husband did two geo-bachelor tours (USS Ramage and CNRC, IG) while on active duty. In fact, our second daughter was born the same day he was crossing into the Suez Canal on board the Ramage.

Another tour takes its toll: at home

The effect of my husband’s geo-bachelor tour in Tennessee was difficult at best.

As the spouse, I still had the pressure of taking care of the children and working full-time, but now I had the added pressures of those other things like shoveling snow, cutting grass, raking leaves, fixing things that were broken, etc. Adopting a dog was certainly the farthest thing from my mind.

I was laid off in 2011 as part of a group layoff due to business conditions. However, losing a job as well as a decent salary didn’t alleviate all of the pressures I’d still been experiencing. If anything, it added the pressure of trying to do more with less money. It so happened that my son and I went to PETCO to get food or supplies for one or more of our pets (one turtle, three fish and a senior cat). Annie in the pool

I think it was the first time I’d noticed that the Michigan Humane Society was located in the back of the store.

A special dog with special needs

A photo hanging outside of the kennel caught my eye.

It was a shepherd-mix. She was eight years old, special needs and her name was Annie, but the kennel was empty. I inquired anyway. The staff gave me her background, verified her special needs and informed me of the website regarding Pets for Patriots.

I didn’t meet Annie that day, but did check out the website to see, just in case, if we were eligible for the program. It turns out that I forgot a few things when I was in the store that day. I needed cat litter. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the dog that was in the picture. The staff was just coming in with Annie, who needed a “potty” break. I blocked the aisleway and asked, “Is this Annie?” She said, “Yes.” As soon as I went to pet her, she sat right by my feet and took in every stroke of my hand.

This dog has loyal charateristics, I could tell.

Once I got home, I could look around and give myself hundreds of reasons of why I should NOT adopt a dog, but only one reason was difficult to NOT reason with. My kids missed their dad and I missed my husband.

I tried to comfort them, but there aren’t too many things that can bring a level of peace and comfort whenever there’s a need. A dog is a friend at any given time. A dog is there on your terms. A dog will always ask so little and give so much. It occured to me that having a dog wouldn’t be like taking on another chore, but rather taking on something that could have a positive impact on my children.

By the time I referred my husband to check out Annie on the web my son and I had gotten to know Annie pretty well through visits to PETCO. Annie was the “kitchen dog.” She needed more space than a kennel.

It was Easter and my oldest daughter’s birthday, and I directed my husband and son to go and visit Annie. I could see that he was drawn to her too, so we decided to let the children meet her, and then another visit came so that my niece and nephew could meet Annie too! Obviously it was a family decision to adopt Annie. Annie and sister

The next day my husband applied to the Pets for Patriots program and was approved shortly after that. It was a lot of fun for my husband to walk into the Humane Society and say, “We’ve come for Annie!”

Annie joins the Navy

We chose to adopt through Pets for Patriots because it was Annie that we wanted. She came first, then we heard about the program.

The staff of the Michigan Humane Society working at the Sterling Heights PETCO informed us of the Pets for Patriots program. It was only after my initial visit that the staff really notified me of the program. I believe it’s more desireable for them to seek owners who are more willing to invest emotionally first. Makes sense to me! Since then, we’ve encouraged our military friends to look into the program or seek a similar program offered in their current state. In fact, my husband took a call from a military friend regarding the program before he started considering adoption.

After we got home, got the children settled – including my niece and nephew – I couldn’t find Annie anywhere. Laying under the covers, in the middle of the living room floor with all the children, was Annie.

She was home, but my husband had to go back to Tennessee. As I suspected, the kids leaned on her for consolation. She was their teddy bear in bed at night. She was their TV time buddy. She was their friend to play ball with. It gave them an opportunity to work through their emotions on their terms.

In general, I’ve watched my kids become more compassionate.

Having Annie had actually brought the stress level down. It definitely took some time for us to get to know Annie and visa versa. She had routines that we had to learn and sometimes redirect. She had some behaviors that I couldn’t fully understand at the time. Simply getting to know this animal presented a challenge, but I was committed. I frequently spoke with the Michigan Humane Society regarding my questions and concerns and they really helped me worked them through and directed me to resources to help her.

That’s when Pets for Patriots unknowingly steps in.

Having the ability to support her was incredibly crucial to the success we have today. We’ve had her for a little over a year and we love her so much. Having the continued support of the Michigan Humane Society coupled with the continued support of the Pets for Patriots program has enabled us to commit to making a difference in her life as well. She has arthritis in her left leg and a heart murmur that we will keep getting her treated for. I hope I can make her as happy as she’s made us, for the rest of our days.

There’s something about Annie…

I love that I can take her to Lake Huron and go swimming with her and she stays right by my side. I love that she keeps a watchful eye on the kids and the house. She’ll alert me if the kids go out the front door or leave the yard. When my husband was stationed in Tennessee, she would sleep by the front door. Annie and the kids

I love that I can call her name and she comes right to me. I love that she’s so sweet. I love that her nose is wet. I love that she gives me kisses. I love that her ears are a little floppy and soft. I love that she doesn’t shed too much. I love how she eats her food and that she eats when we eat. I love that we were invited to the 47th Annual Bow Wow Brunch by the Michigan Humane Society. 

Kate loves that Annie’s “cute, cuddly, and loving.”
Audrey loves that Annie’s “playful, energetic, adorable, loving, and very protective.”
Kevin loves “petting, hugging, kissing” Annie.
My husband loves that Annie’s “loyal and doesn’t let his bed get cold once he gets out of it (lol).”

I would tell other veterans considering pet adoption to absolutely use the program. Pets for Patriot provides a layer of support to help meet the needs of the animal you’re adopting or considering adopting. They reduce the burdens of the provider in order to give back to an animal that needs care, support and a home.

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