A dog no one wanted waited in a Georgia shelter for a miracle.
Demica is an Army veteran who turned out to be that one-in-a-million person. She took a chance on a dog so challenging that he was named for one of the country’s most notorious criminals.
Finding freedom in the Army
For Demica, the military was a way to gain freedom from strict parents who wanted her to attend school near their home in Augusta, Georgia.
“I joined as quickly as possible before I could change my mind.”
At age 20, Demica enlisted in the Army. She worked as a personnel service specialist, which is akin to a human resources professional in the civilian world. It entailed maintaining personnel files, registering identification cards, and the more sober task of creating casualty reports.
Over the course of Demica’s tour of duty she served at bases in Alaska, Georgia, and South Carolina.
The young veteran’s most memorable experience occurred during basic training. Demica had to undergo required training in a gas chamber and had exactly nine seconds to don a gas mask.
“It was absolutely terrifying,” she recalls.
Adjusting to post-military life
In 2004, Demica separated from service with an Honorable discharge after completing her tour of duty. For seven years she worked as a flight attendant, and subsequently worked as an office manager while earning a criminal justice degree.
Demica continued her education in pursuit of a masters degree in psychology. She currently works as an executive assistant for the director of a behavioral health center.
The Army veteran’s personal life is as busy as her work life. She is involved in athletics at least five days a week, plays in a kickball league, and enjoys crafting.
Despite leading what was a full life by any measure, Demica was feeling isolated. Being out of the military was “definitely different” and she felt “disconnected.”
“[I was] used to being in a close-knit community,” she says. “Going back into he real world was not the same.”
Demica’s experiences are not unique. Many veterans – including those who serve stateside – have trouble reintegrating to civilian life. The routines, structures, and tight bonds that are a hallmark of military life are suddenly gone. Many veterans, like Demica, feel unmoored.
A bad breakup only heightened Demica’s feelings of isolation; her house felt empty and she felt alone.
Demica takes a chance
One day, a friend of Demica’s tried to persuade her that a dog could be the missing link in her life. The Army veteran was never a fan of dogs, and wondered how they could possibly offer so much support. But her friend finally persuaded her to visit a local animal shelter.
Demica admits that she knew little about dogs, but preferred a smaller animal who did not require as much work. She went to Lifeline at Fulton County Animal Services, one of a trio of Atlanta-area Lifeline shelter partners that waive adoption fees for veterans in our program.
The shelter staff told Demica about their partnership with Pets for Patriots and the various benefits we offer.
A dog no one wanted
At the shelter Demica was introduced to a pint-sized pup with very big issues.
“His name was Charles Manson,” she says. “He had a giant ‘x’ on his cage, and he was very cage aggressive.”
The Army veteran was undeterred.
Demica asked for the then two year-old Papillon mix to be taken out of his kennel so that they could get acquainted. And although Charles Manson – Mannie, for short – was very spirited, he seemed well trained.
Mannie was a dog no one wanted, yet he would be the only dog who Demica visited. She decided that day to adopt him.
The shelter staff clapped when Demica finalized the adoption. She jokes that it was likely because she was the only person who would consider giving the little dog a home.
Army veteran is battle tested by pint-sized pup
It did not take long for Demica to question whether she made the right decision in adopting Mannie.
Within a day the young veteran started to look for a new guardian for her little charge. But she changed her mind and decided to give him a chance.
Demica learned that Mannie had been mistreated by his previous owner and was dealing with the repercussions. He was afraid of feet, and had to be petted on his own terms.
The Army veteran reached out to us because she was feeling overwhelmed and distraught over Mannie’s behavior.
“They were so helpful,” Demica says. “They got Mannie training, but I came to find out Mannie was already trained and it was me who needed the training.”
“We’re one and the same”
The process was long and sometimes difficult.
Demica tapped into the grit and toughness she endured during Army basic training. In doing so she discovered that she and Mannie had a lot in common.
“Mannie is very all over the place, much like I am,” she says. “He’s like a person with a bad attitude.”
What may sound like a discouraging quality to some people turned out to be what made the bond between Demica and Mannie so unique – and enduring.
“We’re one and the same,” she shares. “Mannie just wanted to show that he was the boss.”
Life at home was a lot more harmonious once Demica figured out what made Mannie tick. And the dog who no one wanted has changed for the better.
“He is a lot more gentle. He started out ferocious, now he’s a gentle, caring cuddler.”
Support system for people and their pets
Demica is grateful that she never gave up on Mannie even when it was very tempting to do so. She credits the support she received from the shelter, which she describes as “wonderful.” They answered all of her questions and even showed her how to bathe Mannie.
“I did not know how to do anything,” she says with a smile in her voice.
The Army veteran appreciates the support we provide as well, including our encouragement to give Mannie a chance.
“Pets for Patriots is a great program,” she says. “Beth is very passionate about the pets. I called her and we talked for about two hours. She helped me through the whole process. You don’t get that anywhere else.”
Despite his initial challenges Mannie has made a profound and positive difference in Demica’s life. And were it not for her, this very hard-to-adopt dog might still be in the shelter.
“We went through our trials and tribulations. Now he’s my best friend,” she says.
A person of lesser fortitude may have taken Mannie back to the shelter and forgotten about him.
Demica confides that she still does not know what made her choose Mannie, but believes their union has a purpose. She shares their unlikely tale in this video made through STAINMASTER®, one of our supporting organizations.
“He came into my life for me to realize that everything is not perfect,” she says, “but if you work with it, things pan out.”