Adopted dog keeps 80 year-old Navy veteran young at heart

Ralph and Snickers

An adopted adult dog with a larger-than-life personality helps an 80 year-old Navy veteran and grandfather stay active, and young at heart.

“My children thought I needed a pet…and they were right”

“I’m an 80 year-old grandpa and dad,” says Ralph. “I’ve been married to the same woman for 58 years, we still enjoy each others company.”

Yet in 2012, Ralph and his wife, Barbara, had suffered the loss of their little dog, Jessie. The Navy veteran remembered how “the house hadn’t been the same” without their beloved pet. Ralph and Barbara were having a hard time adapting to a dog-less home, in spite of their nearly six decades of marital bliss. The couple’s children realized that their parents needed a dog in their lives again. Snickers on the sofa

“My children thought I needed a pet to walk and toss a ball to,” says Ralph, “and they were right.”

A “harrowing” experience from long-ago military life

By his own description, Ralph is a true-blue military veteran.

“I am a Navy man,” he says.

He spent two years in Brunswick, Maine, at the Naval Air Station Service squadron.

“I transferred to the USS Irwin, DD794, Newport Rhode Island,” Ralph continues. “Went to Europe in 1953, came back, and the squadron was transferred to Long Beach, California.”

Ralph was discharged honorably from the Navy in May of 1956, but it was a wicked storm from two years earlier that provided his most memorable time in the service.

“That would be a hurricane that we rode out in ’54’ from Cape Hatteras to New York,” Ralph recalls, as if it just happened yesterday. “The Captain of the USS Tarawa, an aircraft carrier, turned his ship around and headed back into the storm – no one knows why – but all the other Captains were confounded. The result was two-million dollars in damages to the destroyers.”

The Navy veteran even remembers the sensation aboard the great ship.

“We bounced around like corks. It was a harrowing experience.”

Fast forward nearly sixty years, Ralph and his wife are rocked by the death of their dog, Jessie; the couple was looking for a port in the storm.

Snickers brings sweetness and joy into a grieving home

As luck would have it, a little dog named for a famous candy bar was looking for a forever family to call his own. Snickers was a a five year-old Beagle-Dachshund mix available through Big Dog Rescue Ranch. A then five year-old bundle of energy, Snickers brought a contagious joy into the Navy veteran’s home. Ralph and Snickers

Ralph describes how Snickers came into his life.

“My two daughters arranged for me to have a little dog to play with and to take on walks.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

Rescue dog’s energy just what the doctor ordered

Since saving Snickers, Ralph has come to understand that his children were right: he did need another dog to keep up his emotional and physical health. The veteran admits that the dog, while an adult, sometimes has more energy than he does.

“He keeps me moving!” Ralph exclaims, confessing that the little dog sometimes wears him out. “He’s about five years old and has a lot of unused energy!”

Fortunately, Ralph has just what the energetic dog needs: time.

“I am retired,” he says, “and thus have lots of time to spend with Snickers.”

Ralph could have adopted Snickers without the many benefits offered through Pets for Patriots, but chose to join the national charity’s program for companion pet adoption for two simple reasons:

“Because I am a patriot,” he declares, “and I love animals.”

Speaking of love, Ralph is finding that there’s much to love about his new buddy, Snickers. Snickers on lounge chair

“His face, his mannerism,” says Ralph, adding, “He has an infectious personality, and I love him and so does everyone else in the family.”

The Navy veteran and grandfather is equally direct with his advice to other veterans who may be thinking about adopting an at-risk shelter pet through Pets for Patriots.

“Try it,” he says. “You’ll love it.”

How does your pet keep you young at heart?


  1. Beth Zimmerman

    David, you’re absolutely right about the health and longevity benefits of pet ownership, as well as helping to minimize the effects of depression. While no pet can replace another, for anyone who has had and lost a pet – they usually feel empty until they adopt again.

    And David: thank you for your service!

  2. David A. Moore, USNR-I,Retired

    I think it’s great to have a program like this. You don’t realize how much enjoyment you can get out of a furry four legged animal until you have had one and lost it. People who have pets like dogs live longer. I think it helps keep them from being depressed.

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