It was 2011 when Frank, a career combat veteran, turned to Pets for Patriots to find a four-legged best friend. That companion came in the form of a then year-old shelter dog who has never left his savior’s side.
Life after war for career combat veteran
Frank has not been home for long in a very long time. For the better part of three decades the Army officer goes where the military needs him most.
“I have served 30 years in the Army in a mix of active duty, the National Guard, and the Reserves. I spent 15 years enlisted in the Infantry and Aviation and the last 15 years as an Intelligence Officer in Special Operations,” he says. “I have done combat duty in Operation Just Cause (Panama), Desert Storm, Iraq, and Afghanistan. I also did riot duty during the Rodney King riots while in the National Guard.”
Frank lives in New Hampshire, but is currently on deployment orders in Germany. He lives with impacts of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that arose from his time in combat even though he no longer serves on the battlefield.
“As a divorced single father, I was diagnosed with PTSD after my first tour in Iraq,” he shares.
The combat veteran and Army officer knew that companion pets deliver a unique form of therapy. Their mere presence is assistive.
“Having been a dog owner most of my life, I knew that having a pet would help me in dealing with it,” Frank says of his PTSD. “I also believe having a pet around is healthy for my children.”
Army officer searches for a four-legged friend
Frank paid a visit to Lollypop Farm in Rochester, New York. They are one of our earliest shelter partners and offer 50 percent off adoption fees to veterans in our program who adopt eligible dogs and cats.
“I found out about the program when I was at a shelter looking for a compatible dog,” he says. “I was very impressed with the ideals behind the program for helping vets and the continuing personal support – it wasn’t just a one and done feel good effort.”
While our typical post-adoption follow up lasts for one year, many veterans we serve enjoy the caring and sense of community we provide. For military personnel like Frank, that can mean staying in touch for years.
“It’s a no brainer decision,” says the combat veteran. “It is the best veterans service I have ever had the honor to work with.”
Around the world with Wally
It was an early day in June, 2011 when Frank met Francois. The then year-old shelter dog was a big Poodle mix with a curly, caramel-colored coat and an outgoing disposition.
The oversized pup made adopting an easy decision. Deciding to change his name to something more fitting was equally easy.
From that day forward Francois would be known as Wally.
“Wally has been my best friend and companion since day one,” Frank says. “He has traveled with me all over the US and Europe. He has attended Army schools with me where everyone loved him – he has even received a graduation diploma from the military intelligence school.”
Frank is currently stationed in Germany, but during his downtime the Army officer enjoys sightseeing throughout Europe. Needless to say, his curly-haired companion is by his side.
Wally may be one of the best traveled personal dogs in the Army. He has been to more countries over the past eight years than most people visit in a lifetime.
“Wally is here in Germany with me and has been traveling Europe with me on my time off. We have been all over France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic together.”
“…the best dog…”
It has been many years since Frank’s first combat deployment to Iraq and as many years that he has lived with PTSD. But having Wally in his life makes a profound difference between merely coping with PTSD and embracing life in spite of it.
“All of the love that I know he will give me unconditionally,” he says, “and knowing that we can rely on each other makes a huge difference in dealing with my PTSD.”
The combat veteran and Army officer initially turned to companion pet adoption because of his lifelong experience with dogs. Still, Wally stands apart from all the other pets Frank has known.
“He is the best dog that I have ever had – extremely smart, loyal, and friendly.”
Wally – and Frank – are both getting on in years. But they are doing it together in ways that few people, or pets, are able to do. And as the years march on the bond they share grows deeper.
“He always wants to be near me and knows what I want with hardly a word said,” Frank shares. “He is getting older now so he can’t do as much, but for years he helped motivate me to get out and stay in shape. I know with him that I am never alone and that someone cares, and relies on me.”