Following a divorce and separation from his military friends, an Army veteran found renewed purpose and companionship in the company of a shelter dog many would consider less adoptable because of his breed and size.
Ryan joined the military right out of high school. His first Military Occupation Specialty, or MOS, was as a 13B cannon crew member, which satisfied his desire to have a combat arms job yet not be infantry. He was soon stationed in Schweinfurt, Germany, but his longer term goal was to finish his military career in Colorado Springs. Some of his most memorable military experiences, however, came much farther from home.
“Being in some places in the world such as Bosnia, Iraq, etcetera,” he reflects, “made me really appreciate how fortunate I was to be born in the United States, and the wealth and freedoms that we have.”
Following his first tour of duty, the Army veteran re-enlisted and chose Fort Carson, Colorado, as his choice of duty station. While working there he learned about other MOS that could lead to better post-military careers. From that moment forward Ryan knew his days in artillery would be short lived.
“I met several people in the Army and Air Force who were doing satellite communications jobs, and getting out into quite lucrative positions,” he says, “whereas since there is not much use for artillery outside of the military, my friends were getting out with jobs like security guard, or other manual labor jobs.”
When Ryan enlisted for his next tour of duty, he changed his MOS to Satellite Communications (SATCOM), spending a year at Fort Gordon training at the Signal School before being deployed to South Korea. Although he now had a more lucrative skill, Ryan was not entirely satisfied with his new role. SATCOM felt more like job than being in the military – and the seasoned Army veteran was not quite ready for just any job.
“I wanted more work experience as well as wanted to have more of a thrilling job,” he says, “so I re-enlisted again with choice of duty station for Joint Communications Support Element (JCSE) at MacDill AFB in Tampa, Florida.”
“This enabled me to have a knowledge based job while still being able to shoot things [and] blow things up,” Ryan says, “so it was the best of both worlds.”
Losing friends, but finding faith
Now separated from service, Ryan settled in Florida as an engineer for a communications company that works with the nation’s E911 system. Despite his careful and thoughtful planning, his transition to civilian life has not been as smooth as he would have hoped.
“I am in a bit of a particular situation,” he says, adding that he bought his home in 2005 before the housing market crashed. Owing more than the home is currently worth, Ryan is, in his own words, “stuck.”
The value of his residence is not the only thing the Army veteran lost, however.
For the two years after he left the military, Ryan had a job which required 100% travel. During that time most of his military friends either left the service or received Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders and moved away. In his current job, Ryan works from home during the night shift – limiting his opportunities for socializing – and he no longer maintains relationships with the few people he met through his now former wife.
Yet a turn to faith led the Army veteran to a new relationship, one that would fill his home and spirit.
“I met some people through a sport bike group that I am a part of,” Ryan says, “however I have begun to study the Bible on a regular basis, and have come to realize that those people were not very good association either. Basically I didn’t have anyone from my past in my life anymore, and wanted companionship.”
Of chaos and companionship
Ryan started his search for the kind of friend that would be with him through thick and thin, and who would love him without condition: a dog.
On a lovely spring day Ryan visited the Humane Society of Pinellas, where he learned about their partnership with Pets for Patriots, a nationally operating charity creative life-saving opportunities for military veterans to adopt the most overlooked shelter pets. The organization provides generous benefits to help make companion pet adoption affordable for military personnel, including access to ongoing discounted veterinary care through locally participating veterinary practices.
“Pets for Patriots is a great opportunity to help offset the cost of new pet ownership, which can be expensive at first as a lot of things are needed at the start,” says Ryan. “My adoption fee was covered 100% as well as having received a gift certificate, which really helped getting Diesel off to a good start at his new home.”
The Humane Society of Pinellas actually waives pet adoption fees for veterans who adopt program eligible dogs or cats through Pets for Patriots, further inspiring the adoption of shelter animals who are often overlooked in favor of puppies or kittens.
“Since I am a veteran I decided to look into it,” Ryan says, “and found out that the organization helps offset some of the cost of new pet ownership. The fact that pets which qualify to be part of the program might be considered to be “less desirable” to some people due to the pet’s size [or] age means that pets which might normally be overlooked have a better chance of finding a nice home.”
One such “less desirable” dog caught Ryan’s attention.
Diesel is a large American Staffordshire mix, part of a larger category of dogs commonly called Pit Bulls. Although known at one time as “nanny dogs” for their sweet and protective disposition, Pit Bulls have suffered from negative stereotypes and misinformation, often resulting in their abuse. Many municipalities and residences – including most military bases – ban any dog suspected of being a Pit Bull.
Fortunately for Diesel, Ryan did not bring judgment to bear – he brought an open heart and it has been returned in kind.
“He LOVES to cuddle,” the Army veteran says about his new best friend. “If he had his way there would be constant contact with him. He is very smart and playful, but also knows when to have quiet time. He has a great temperament. Where as many people are naturally afraid due to his breed, he is incredibly docile and loving.”
Despite his adoring ways, Diesel brings a much needed energy to Ryan’s life as well. No longer living and working in total solitude, and with renewed commitment to his faith, the veteran has a more positive, healthy and hopeful outlook on life.
“I can say that Diesel has definitely given my life a much needed shaking up,” he says. “I was going through the same routine day after day, where as he adds some needed chaos at times, gives me more of a purpose, as well as just gives me a companion.”
How does your companion pet give you a new outlook on life?