Vietnam veteran gives blind dog the gift of sight: another dog

Most of us know about guide dogs for blind people, but one Vietnam veteran adopted a companion pet to give the gift of sight to his blind dog.

Funny-looking dog with a serious purpose

Kenneth is a Vietnam War combat veteran who feels that he was selfish when he adopted a shelter dog named Sam I Am, a Jack Russell terrier mix “with a Mohawk.” In truth, Kenneth was the very opposite of selfish: he rescued Sam to help his partially blind Golden Retriever-Akita mix, Roxy, navigate her life.

(Left to right): Lady Gaga, Sam, Kenneth & Roxy

When Roxy’s two other canine companions died, Kenneth knew she needed another helper and friend. Sam is now Roxy’s guide dog and their bond is unbreakable. 

Every morning Sam greets Roxy with a kiss and guides her down the front steps to do “her business,” and rejoins her when she’s done to guide her back up the stairs. But Sam is more than a guide; he’s a friend as well. The little dog helps alleviate Roxy’s separation anxiety when Kenneth and his wife are away from home.

Vietnam and the top secret intercept 

Kenneth was a Vietnamese linguist during the Vietnam War. He studied Latin, French and Spanish in high school – Russian in college –  and, not surprisingly, received a high score on a language test given by the military. He was set to be a Russian linguist, but his orders got red-lined when President Johnson escalated the Vietnam War.

During his tour of duty in the Air Force Kenneth went on three secret combat and service missions, flying over North Vietnamese territory over the Gulf of Tonkin, listening to Vietnamese radio communications.

While monitoring intercepts from Taiwan’s Shu Lin Kou Air Station, Kenneth overheard a Viet Cong platoon near the South Vietnam-Laotian border. He learned that a Forward Air Control pilot was shot down over Laos and captured. In the communication the enemy gave the pilot’s name, serial number and health condition, and indicated they were taking him to the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” POW camp.

Within twenty minutes of receiving the message, Kenneth’s commander issued a gag order on the intel to keep their covert mission intact.

In September of 1972, the captured soldier was one of many POWs released by Hanoi, bringing Kenneth a sense of closure because this man’s family would have him home safe and sound. Kenneth was told that he was the only linguist in the world that intercepted that message; if he hadn’t picked it up and recorded it, the soldier would have likely remained missing in action.

A year later, Kenneth reenlisted to become an air traffic control radar repairman and, following that tour, the Air Force veteran became an accountant. He now lives in Florida with his wife and beloved pets, including Sam I Am.

A love without equal

Sam I Am got his unusual name because he looks like dogs in Dr. Seuss’ booksHow The Grinch Stole Christmas and Green Eggs and Ham. Kenneth and his wife adopted him through Lake City Humane Society, their local Pets for Patriots adoption partner. Kenneth says that the folks at the humane society are wonderful, helpful people.

“All of their shelter animals look healthy and well-cared for,” he observes.

The Vietnam veteran is equally enthusiastic about Pets for Patriots, which he joined in July 2012. Lady Gaga Sam Kenneth and Roxy on couch

“It’s a great organization,” he says. “Everyone knows there are a multitude of animals in shelters; most are getting euthanized because shelters are so overcrowded. Helping a veteran adopt a pet gives the animal a home. It’s not in a cage and it’s not put to sleep.”

Kenneth believes the charity helps on a more emotional level as well.

“Give a veteran something to love that will love them back without any questions asked.”

Pets for Patriots is a nationwide charity that delivers the healing power of companion pets to service and veteran members of the United States military. To help these bonds endure, the organization provides a range of financial support and incentives for military personnel who save the most overlooked, at-risk dogs and cats. As a four year-old dog at the time of his honorable adoption, Sam I Am meets one of the charity’s criteria for a hard-to-adopt pet.

A pet in every home, and a home for every pet

Kenneth believes that Pets for Patriots should be part of soldiers’ exit interview when they separate from service.

“They should be told right away,” he proclaims. “There are so many things veterans aren’t told about and must find out themselves. Tell ’em!”

Kenneth and his family love Sam I Am “to pieces.” The little dog not only bonded with Roxy, but with Kenneth’s granddaughter, an only child who calls Sam her “little brother.” Sam has even wiggled his way into the heart of their Calico cat, Lilly, and these days the pair love to snuggle together.

Kenneth knows the therapeutic effects of a companion pet, both for himself and for his blind dog, Roxy, and thinks more people – particularly veterans – should be open to experiencing the special joys of pet adoption.

“Everyone should have a pet to fill a void in their lives. Dogs and cats so full of love.”

How is your pet your family’s helper?

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