Forget us not
Ally was a dog in desperate need of a hero. A career Army gunner stepped up to save her during one of our nation’s most solemn holidays.
Memorial Day is a reverent occasion. The public honors members of the armed forces who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our freedom.
But for Michael, Memorial Day Weekend in 2018 was particularly noteworthy. It marked the occasion that the Army gunner adopted Ally, a then nine year-old American Bulldog mix who is now his best friend.
Life on the move
Michael is an Abrams tank company master gunner and full-time active duty National Guardsman from northeastern Ohio. His duties include various administrative responsibilities as well as ensuring the unit is combat ready. The master gunner is intimately involved in nearly every aspect of combat- and gunnery-related training, operations, and support.
“We keep the company running between drills,” he says.
Michael enlisted in the Army while he was still in high school. He completed basic training at Fort Leonard Wood and advanced individual training at Fort Lee.
The career Army man did not need to look far for motivation to join the military. Michael’s father inspired him to serve.
“My dad, he was in, too,” he says. “He was also a tank master gunner.”
So after 22 years of service – and counting – Michael knows that life in the military often means separation from family. He and his wife have been living apart as he trains for deployment.
While Michael is on duty in Kentucky his family and base assignment are in Ohio. This means that the Army gunner does more than his fair share of traveling.
“I’ve been to about every state,” he admits.
With the constant travel and a pending deployment, Michael decided that the family needed something – or someone – to help weather the separation.
Now when Michael is away he takes comfort knowing that a special companion is helping to fill the void at home.
And dog makes nine
To an outsider it would seem that Michael and his wife have it all. They are a blended family with six children, ages 10 to 20.
The family enjoys an outdoor lifestyle, including camping together. Michael and his wife like to fish, and hunt deer and turkey. Plenty of time is devoted to watching the kids play various sports – volleyball, football, basketball – and rooting for Ohio State football.
And while there was little room in their home to spare something was still missing.
“I always had a dog growing up,” Michael remembers fondly. “I wanted one for the kids.”
The family decided to adopt a dog, but with everyone’s busy schedules a puppy was out of the question. During their search Michael found out about Pets for Patriots and our companion pet adoption program for military veterans.
The Army gunner applied and was swiftly approved in late December, 2017. But he did not adopt until May the following year, in part due to his travels and the need to find the right dog.
As it happens, there was just such a dog in the care of our partners Paws and Prayers. The foster-based rescue offers veterans in our program 50% off adoption fees and has partnered with us since 2011.
Army gunner to the rescue
Michael had applied to adopt one dog through Paws and Prayers, but was turned down because the dog required a fenced yard that he did not have. So he continued his search, found Ally and put in an application for her right away.
Ally had endured a life of unspeakable cruelty. While she was in the safety and care of a foster home, her life was about to change forever – for the better.
Soon after the Army veteran got a call to visit the senior dog at her foster home.
“I told my wife, ‘I applied to adopt a dog. Oops.'”
The next morning the couple went to meet Ally. The decision to adopt her was nearly instantaneous.
“Ally just fell right at our feet instantly. She put her tummy up to get scratched, and we knew it then,” Michael says. “That was it.”
The Bulldog’s friendly greeting belied a past that was defined by horrific abuse and neglect.
Before she had been spared death at a Columbus, Ohio shelter, Ally had been beaten and used for breeding. When she was rescued by Paws and Prayers, she had happy tail syndrome, her paw pads and nails were torn, and she needed reconstructive jaw surgery.
But Ally’s past did not deter Michael. The Army gunner knew that he wanted to adopt her on the spot.
“There wasn’t any real discussion between my wife and I,” he recalls. “We just looked at each other and said, ‘Ok, we’re getting this dog.’”
Happy dog, happy family, happy life
Ally is a happy dog despite the many years of hardship and outright abuse she endured.
These days, the cruelty survivor shares a bed with Michael and his wife. She loves being the center of attention, has excellent manners, and is great off-leash.
Ally loves children of all ages, too. She is patient and affectionate even when small kids pull on her ears or her tail. She adores people, though growls at two particular men who live in the neighborhood.
“She’s protective,” Michael says, “but she’s friendly with everybody.”
And while Ally weights in at about 50 pounds she fancies herself a lap dog. As it happens Michael’s wife originally suggested a lap dog. It turns out she got her wish, although 40 pounds heavier than she anticipated.
Michael appreciates how easy Pets for Patriots made it for him to adopt his new best friend.
“Everything the website said it is, is what it was,” he shares. “The process was really easy and there were no hassles. I would highly recommend the program to others. I tell my guys all the time, ‘Just try it.'”
Cruelty survivor enjoys the ride of her life
Like Michael, Ally has taken to life on the move. She is great in the car and loves the feeling of the wind in her ears.
“She just enjoys the ride,” he says.
But lately Ally spends most of her time at the family’s Ohio home. There, she offers much-needed companionship while the Army gunner is away.
Life in the military comes with many rewards – and challenges, too. It is difficult for Michael to be away from his family for long stretches of time. Ally helps make those times pass a little more easily.
The dog who survived unspeakable cruelty is the bridge between Michael and his family, the missing link who eases the strain of his absence.
“Ally has been that missing part for us,” he says. “I’ve been traveling all over the U.S. to train and Ally has been filling my spot, in a way.”
Most of Ally’s life is tragic. Bred repeatedly by someone for pure greed. Beaten and abused within an inch of her life. Yet, she endured. And she become a savior to the veteran who gave her the life she never had, but always deserved.