After eight years adopted pup leaves “dog-shaped hole” in her veteran’s heart

After eight years adopted pup leaves "dog-shaped hole" in her veteran's heart

When Kip adopted Céilidh in 2011 he said she filled a “dog-shaped hole” in his busy life. Eight years later the dual Army-Air Force veteran has a similarly-shaped hole, but this time it is in his heart.

From world traveler to local artisan

Kip’s long military career included travel to such far-flung locales as Spain, Qatar and Turkey. And stateside from North Dakota to Florida, Michigan to Arizona and even Alaska.  

“There was a six-month assignment in computer operations in Qatar and I said, ‘I’m not sending  my boys where I won’t go myself.’  That was my last assignment in the military.” 

In 2018 Kip retired after 27 years of service. He spends his time restoring antiques at a local shop and as a docent with an American history museum.

“…that dog needs somebody”

Kip is enjoying his well-earned retirement, though he confides that his days are filled with activity.

“I’m busier now than I ever was in the military,” he says. “I’ve always enjoyed woodworking; it is so different from what I did in the military.”  

After eight years adopted pup leaves "dog-shaped hole" in her veteran's heart

Kip was serving with the Air National Guard’s 122nd Fighter Wing in Fort Wayne, Indiana when he adopted Céilidh (pronounced Kay-lee) in 2011. He adopted not only to fill his home with the joy of a companion pet, but to have someone to comfort his wife when he was away on duty. 

The career military veteran is now retired. He and his wife first met Céilidh at our partners City of Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control; she was named Lyra at the time.

The municipal shelter was one of the first to join our free partner program, back in 2010.

It was obvious to the couple that Céilidh would be welcomed into their home.

“At first she wanted nothing to do with us,” he recalls. “She cowered. I thought, ‘that dog needs somebody.’”  

The shelter knew little about the timid dog’s prior life. She was left at their doorstep by someone who found her wandering on a local road.

While Céilidh was initially afraid to leave the confines of the shelter, her demeanor changed as soon as she saw Kip’s van. And it did not take long for her to make the couple’s house her own.

“That first night when we brought her home, my wife and I were having a discussion about her sleeping on the bed. I was for it and my wife wasn’t,” Kip says. “Then Céilidh decided it. She jumped up on the bed and laid down at our feet and I said, ‘I think you’ve got a foot warmer, honey.’”

To say that Céilidh settled in nicely with her new family is an understatement. She became a full-fledged member of the clan. But it was not always that way. 

A name is not just a name

Neither Kip nor his wife liked the name Lyra, which was the name given to their beloved pup at the shelter. 

After eight years adopted pup leaves "dog-shaped hole" in her veteran's heart

The couple were fans of the short-lived cult classic show Firefly. They decided on the name Kaylee after the charming girl mechanic on the spaceship Serenity.  

Kip is a former Irish folk musician, and he and his wife honeymooned in Scotland. So it was no surprise that they chose to use the Gaelic spelling of Kaylee: Céilidh.

The name means a party or joyful gathering. And this sweet dog has become the life of the party; she even befriended the household cat.

“They got along famously, Kip says. “It was a beautiful thing to watch.”

The dog-shaped hole

Back in 2011, Kip was inspired to fill what he describes as “a dog-shaped hole” in his life. The retired veteran longed to have the special brand of love that only a companion pet can provide.

Céilidh has done all that and more. And she has been the most faithful of friends for more than eight years.

“The thing I love most about Céilidh is her unfailing devotion to my wife and me,” he says.

After eight years adopted pup leaves "dog-shaped hole" in her veteran's heart

It is unquestionably a good thing to give a dog or cat in need a loving home. Adopted pets repay their saviors many times over with their unconditional love.

Pets for Patriots makes it easier and more affordable for veterans to adopt companion dogs and cats.

We offer access to savings on lifetime veterinary care, discounts on pet related essentials, and our shelter partners often reduce fees or provide other adoption incentives.

When it came time for Kip to fill that dog-shaped hole eight years ago he knew that he would adopt – not shop.

“I found out about Pets for Patriots,” Kip recalls, “and was amazed at he discounts they offered and their policy of promoting the adoption of ‘hard to place’ pets.”

The retired veteran is an advocate for pet adoption. Kip believes other veterans should consider finding their new best friend through our program.

“Do it!” he says enthusiastically. “There is a dog or cat out there that needs you as much as you need them.”

When the party is over

In August, 2019 life took a sudden and sad turn.

Céilidh developed a limp that caused her to drag the toes of her left hind food. It progressed until she was unable to move her foot at all.

Kip took his beloved pup to her regular veterinarian. They consulted a veterinary osteopath and a specialist at a nearby university veterinary emergency hospital as well.

“It was determined that she had a fast moving neurological condition that was untreatable,” Kip shares. “This condition moved so fast that within the span of one week, she went from limping on three legs to having no movement below the waist.”

After eight years adopted pup leaves "dog-shaped hole" in her veteran's heart

Still, Céilidh was one of the lucky shelter animals. She experienced the loving embrace of a family who adored her as much as she did them. But all the love in the world could not save her from the ravages of her illness.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that I report on Céilidh’s passing,” Kip shares. 

Kip and Céilidh have been part of our Pets for Patriots family since 2011. And whenever he is ready we will help him fill the dog-shaped hole that Céilidh left in his heart.


  1. Christine E

    I am so sorry for your loss. I can see Ceilidh was a beautiful, sweet dog that gave you a lot of love. Please take comfort in knowing that you gave her a wonderful life, which she probably wouldn’t have had otherwise. You showed her kindness and love. A beautiful story.

  2. Alyson

    Thank you for your service. And for all the love and care you gave Ceilidh. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  3. Wellington Lemmer

    My chocolate Lab Max is old and is slowing down. I know his day is coming sooner than later. I spend all the time I have with him and my 2 year old black Lab. I feel privileged to have had Max in my life. My life would have been harder as he was a trained service dog for mobility assist. I don’t get around well now. I’m 72 with multiple cancers and other health concerns. Getting and training up a service dog would be wrong. I depend on my wife instead. Love your dogs like your children holding them close and even closer in your heart. They leave us to soon.

  4. Rosie

    Wow, Kip, I feel your pain and have been through the loss of a pet many times. Your story brings tears to my eyes as I sit on the coach with my 12 year old shepherd mix, George. His elderly brother, Jack, and sister, StellaJane, are sleeping nearby. They are the loves of my life. Thank you for your service and for taking care of Ceilidh. You gave her eight wonderful years. Many shelter dogs never feel that love for even one day. God bless you!

  5. Dan Knotts

    pets are family I’m sure you and Ceilidh had such a good 8 years together. I lost my black lab “Pluto” in Feb 19. Thanks to Pets for Patriots I now have”Lola” she’s 9-1/2 but has the energy of a pup. Thank you for giving Ceilidh a good home. It does leave a hole in your heart with each dogs passing, there is another dog or cat waiting to fill that hole. I feel my dogs spirit “Pluto” led me to “Lola”. Thank you for your service.

  6. Mary Eaton

    Thank you for your service Ron and this lovely tribute to Ceiliodh. What a joy she brought to your home those years after your adoption. Her smile in these pictures tell a heart warming story. Good memories will maybe foreshadow her fast paced decline and the sadness you are surely feeling currently.

  7. Mary A.

    I know you feel so heavy with grief right now, but I’m so glad you gave Ceilidh such a wonderful home for 8 years and she was able to be in your arms at the end. I wish this for every animal the world over!

    I recently read that grief is love with no place to go. I hope you will consider, when you’re ready, adopting another dog in Ceilidh’s memory. It does help with the grieving process when you add purpose to the grief.

    I adopted an older Chessy named Rocky the Magnificent and he was the joy of my life fir 1,113 perfect days. I adopted a cat loving metrosexual AmStaff named Pedro – now Gumby – after Rocky and I lost his battle to cancer. They have both enriched my life!

  8. Lois Brumbach

    Read this with tears in my eyes. My “soul dog” Fritz (a greater swiss mt. dog) suffered from degenerative myelopathy, same symptoms as this dear dog. My heart breaks for Kip. It is a difficult disease to watch. Like Kip, I loved Fritz with all my being for the time he was with us. Fritz too was a rescue, but he rescued me. Making a donation today to Pets for Patriots in honor of Ceilidh! Thank your sharing this story.

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