Darren is a man who is dedicated to helping others. So it was no surprise when the Army veteran adopted an abandoned dog after losing a beloved family pup.
Devotion to country is a family affair
During his junior year in high school Darren entered the Army Reserves. He was just 17 years old, but military service runs deep in his family. In time he would be the third generation of military police (MP) after completing his training at Fort McClellan, Alabama.
MPs perform many duties similar to civilian law enforcement, including crime scene security, arresting suspects, and law enforcement patrols. They are vital to the security and operations of military installations worldwide.
One of Darren’s overseas assignments was in support of Operation Desert Storm. This was a multi-national force to repel Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.
While helping others and devotion to service are part of Darren’s DNA, so is his commitment to family. Therefore it is understandable that one single event from his Army career stands out above all the rest.
“My best experience was when I was assignment to 18th MP Brigade at Coleman Barracks in Mannheim, Germany,” he recalls.
“During time I got promoted to sergeant and my brother, who retired as an MP for 25 years, was able to pin my sergeant stripes on me.”
Out of the military, but not out of service
Many veterans struggle with translating the knowledge and skills they acquired in the military to demands of civilian life.
Luckily, Darren was able to put his law enforcement training to good use after he transitioned from the military.
In the Army veteran’s new role he is able to continue his mission to help and uplift others.
“I’m a police officer with the Veterans Affairs hospital,” he says. “I’m currently helping veterans as well as receiving treatment for medical issues.”
At the end of the work day Darren enjoys a gratifying family life. Like many families that life included a dog, one who passed away tragically and left a void in Darren’s household.
“We just had lost our dog of 12 years – Sam,” he says. “We were totally lost without a dog around the house. Sam was the first dog my son ever had and the only dog my daughter ever knew. Once Sam passed away, we knew we needed another dog.”
And so Darren’s search began to address some of the emptiness he and his family were feeling. This man who devotes his life to those in need knew he had to step up for his family’s sake – as well as for his own.
Veteran who helps others gets a little help from new friends
Darren does not recall exactly how he found out about Pets for Patriots and our companion pet adoption program for military veterans. However, he applied as soon as he learned more about the types of animals we save and the benefits we offer.
“I just happened to run across the program as we were looking for a dog,” he recalls, “and thought, what a great program for veterans.”
In time Darren would experience one of the benefits that distinguishes our mission and work: how we reach out over time to see how person and pet are bonding.
Not only do we touch base before a veteran adopts, but our post-adoption follow up continues for at least one year.
“[It’s a] great program which helps you with cost of adoption and getting your new friend situated,” he says.
So the Army veteran applied to our program and in no time found his new best friend. He did not expect it to be an abandoned dog, yet somehow it all made sense for a man who has spent his life helping others.
Abandoned dog finds her hero
Checkers was a three year-old large, mixed-breed dog. She had been found abandoned in an Atlanta-area home and even at 62 pounds was quite underweight.
Animal abandonment is illegal in every state in the country. Yet in most cases the previous owners are long gone by the time an animal is discovered and rarely face the consequences of their inhumane behavior.
Checkers was in the care of LifeLine at DeKalb County Animal Services, one of a trio of Atlanta-area shelters managed by the Lifeline Animal Project. All three shelters joined our partner network in 2015 and waive adoption fees for veterans in our program.
The shelter staff described Checkers as friendly and playful despite the sad circumstances of her rescue.
Still, many adopters are deterred by large dogs due to concerns about their cost and manageability. In addition, Checkers was already an adult with an unknown history – including no information from the people who abandoned her so cruelly.
“…a blessing to our family”
Darren was undeterred by Checkers’ size, age, and the circumstances of her abandonment. As a lifelong giver and caretaker all he saw was a soul in need. And so as he has done so many times in his life, the Army veteran stepped up and adopted this unwanted dog.
Just three days after being approved into our program Darren made the adoption official. In celebration of Checkers’ new life came a new name, too: Sadie.
“Sadie has brought some much joy to our family and she is a handful,” he says. “Very good, smart dog that we learn more and more about each day.”
One of the joys of companion pet adoption is how animals’ personalities emerge over time.
Over the course of weeks and months – sometimes even years – adopted dogs and cats slowly reveal themselves to us. It comes with them developing confidence and trust, and is one of the most gratifying aspects of rescuing an animal in need.
Sadie is flourishing with her new family. The once abandoned dog understands that she is finally home with people who will love and care for her forever. And she repays them by being equal part friend, protector, and playmate.
“Sadie is so observant about her surroundings. Nothing gets by her,” Darren says. “She is protective about the house, but loves every kid she comes in contact with.”
No one knows for how long Sadie was abandoned before she was rescued. Even at 62 pounds she was severely underweight. Yet love and a good diet has changed all that, and she is now a healthy 102 pounds.
So a man who has devoted himself to helping others is repaid with the gratitude of an adopted pet. Yet to Darren, his sweet Sadie is nothing short of “a blessing to our family.”