Stephanie had a long Army career before she separated from service and became a first time pet parent. The Afghanistan veteran found a pair of pups, years apart, with whom to enjoy life’s adventures.
Living Army strong
For more than 15 years Stephanie served in the Army – active duty, National Guard, and Reserves. It was a challenging way of life that inspired her to be her best and help other soldiers reach their potential.
“I worked hard to become a squadron sergeant. Leading the way for all the troops, excelling in weaponry and physical fitness,” she says. “I always have been competitive and I was very grateful for the time I had in the military.”
Over the years Stephanie would serve the world over, most memorably in Korea and numerous times in war-torn Afghanistan. Now separated from service, the Army veteran lives in Tampa and has a civilian job at nearby MacDill Air Force Base.
While Stephanie’s job is rewarding, she knows that there is more to life than work. She loves attending church – “showing my community” – and enjoys the many pleasures of Florida life.
“I love walks, gardening, beaches and sunsets,” she shares.
The Afghanistan veteran could not have foreseen that, in time, a pair of dogs would share her house and home.
“…it was time to finally get a dog”
It was 2017 when Stephanie became a first time pet parent.
The Army veteran devoted years of her life to the military, including serving in one of the most hostile places on the planet. Although the war was behind her, Stephanie found herself needing the emotional support that only a companion pet can deliver.
“I am excited to finally be able to give and receive love from a dog,” she shares.
Stephanie’s sister told her about Pets for Patriots and our companion pet adoption program for military veterans.
Just two days after being approved into our program the Army veteran visited our partners Humane Society of Tampa Bay.
Since 2011 the shelter has waived adoption fees for veterans we serve who rescue qualifying dogs and cats. Two years later they opened their full-service animal health clinic, offering 10 percent off fees for veterans adopting through our partnership.
“I never had a pet growing up,” Stephanie says. “When I finally stopped serving in the military and contracting around the world, and bought a house, I knew it was time to finally get a dog.”
In 2017 Brando was a then five year-old Chihuahua mix in the care of Humane Society of Tampa Bay. He barely tipped the scales at nine pounds. Because Brando was found as a stray little is known about his life prior to entering the shelter.
Brando seemed like the perfect dog for a first time pet parent. He has a gentle disposition, loves to play with toys, and during his time in a foster home he got along with both cats and other dogs.
Stephanie was smitten and made the adoption official just two days after being approved into our program.
“I am so thankful for organizations like Humane Society of Tampa Bay that allows people like us to get dogs to give us love and support.”
When two is better than one
Over the years Stephanie and Brando settled into a routine – one that includes plenty of walks and visits to the beach.
The Army veteran pays it forward by supporting Pets for Patriots through AmazonSmile. This free program allows people to make micro-donations to their favorite nonprofit organizations every time they shop – at no additional cost.
However in June 2020 the Army veteran thought that she and Brando were ready to grow their pack.
Once again, Stephanie visited Humane Society of Tampa Bay to find another dog. And once more, she would adopt through our partnership and receive all of the benefits we have to offer.
“It is good to have a companion,” she shares, “and Pets for Patriots really makes it easy to transition to having an animal in the family.”
And then there were three
At the time Tito was a six year-old Chihuahua mix with a heart murmur, as well as arthritis in his back due to a herniated disk. And he bore a striking resemblance to Brando.
Many adopters would have shied away from adopting a pet with special medical needs, but not Stephanie. She never hesitated to rescue Tito and marvels at how compatible her now two pups have become – both with each other and with her, too.
“Although I got Brando and Tito three years apart they look an awful lot like brothers, and they act as such,” she says. “We love doing walks, playing ball, [and] going to the beach.”
It is not uncommon for veterans to experience impacts of their military service months, years, even decades after they transition to civilian life. This applies to veterans who may have never deployed or been involved in hostile actions as well.
Stephanie left the Afghanistan war behind her, but in many silent, unseen ways, the war never quite left her. Becoming a first time pet parent was a positive, life-affirming act – and one that she believed was worth repeating.
“Having a dog in my life really assisted me, allowing me to get emotional support,” she says, “and just generally always having love at home.”
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