Army veteran seeks redemption from his troubled past by saving dogs in need

Army veteran seeks redemption from his troubled past by saving dogs in need

During his youth Rocky admits that was not always kind to animals. But now the Army veteran seeks redemption by rescuing dogs no one wants – dogs who, in turn, are saving him.

Doing the right thing

Long before he enlisted in the Army Rocky took a less noble path in life. As he matured, however, he knew that his very survival demanded that he leave life as he knew it behind.

Rocky struggled despite his efforts to turn a new leaf.

“I am not one of the ones that found this to be a good journey,” he shares.

Rocky’s family disowned him. And his hopes that joining the Army would make things right were met with disappointment. Still, enlisting in the military was a step away from an ill-fated life and a step closer to one with greater promise.

With the passage of time the Army veteran is learning that redemption is a work in progress.

No man is an island

After he separated from the Army, Rocky suffered with a gnawing sense of unease. He felt alone and unworthy. A man without family, or friends he could trust.

“Needless to say I was very anxious for many years,” he says. “Trying to do right, while receiving mostly prejudice treatment in return, made me feel like I wasn’t worth much.”

Then one day Rocky had an epiphany. He recalled one friend who never judged him. Army veteran seeks redemption from his troubled past by saving dogs in need

“But then I remembered a dog I once had, and that pets could care less about my past,” he shares.

“So I went to the pound to look for a buddy through a home-to-home program that I found at the pound.”

Home-to-home programs connect people who need to give up their pets with those who want to adopt them. These initiatives help many pets bypass the shelter system altogether. This is especially important since so many animal welfare organizations are at or near capacity. And even the best-run shelters are poor substitutes for a loving home.

Spit – short for Spitfire – is a Pit Bull mix who appears to have had a troubled past. Rocky believed he could find some measure of redemption by helping the dog overcome his previous trauma.

“Talk about pets being like their owners,” Rocky says. “He suffers from anxiety and I’m pretty sure even PTSD. So we understand each other pretty well, then I ran into a problem. My disability is getting worse, just because of the ‘old fart syndrome’ that we all get as we get old.”

Spit meets Spot

The Army veteran decided that he would adopt a four-legged buddy for Spit and visited our partners The Humane Society for Tacoma and Pierce County. Since 2012 the organization offers veterans in our program a reduced adoption fee of just $16 when they rescue eligible dogs and cats.

Shelter staff told Rocky about our program that gives veterans the emotional support they need through companion pet adoption.

It was June 2023; Rocky applied to our program and was approved promptly. But it would be several more weeks until he met a dog who, together with Spit, would help him on his journey to redemption.

At the time Luna was a large Pit Bull mix who had been surrendered by her previous family. Her beautiful chocolate coat and white markings caught Rocky’s eye. In fact, it was one particular white patch of fur on her back that earned the big dog a new name: Spot.

In August – just days after Spot entered the shelter – she started her new life with Rocky and Spit.

The ‘hallway of doom’

Spot’s youthful exuberance brought newfound energy to Rocky’s home. While she is sometimes a too-energetic sibling to Spit, the trio nonetheless have found their own balance in the household they share.

“She keeps both of us active, and our minds busy,” the Army veteran says. “Needless to say I am more at ease, and have someone to look forward to come home to.”

At times Rocky wonders why such a wonderful animal was surrendered by her family. He acknowledges it could be for financial reasons, or simply not knowing how to raise, train, and care for a young dog.

However, one person’s trash is another’s treasure. These days Spot is fond of doing zoomies in what Rocky calls the ‘hallway of doom,’ so named because he and Spit once collided while running back and forth in play. And like most dogs, Spot is fond of shredding her toys.

“Normal puppy stuff.”

Tres amigos

So far Spot has proven herself to be just the right fit for Rocky’s household. Her spirited nature is a good compliment to Spit, who – like Rocky – still suffers the invisible wounds of his past.Army veteran seeks redemption from his troubled past by saving dogs in need

“I could tell he had a tough upbringing. He’s never gonna get over that ‘bs,’ but that’s why I got him Ms. Spot,” he says.

“The only problem is that one of his triggers is sudden, rapid movements, both of which this stinky butt loves to do. So we’re working on that.”

True to his nature, Rocky tries to cope with life’s setbacks with humor – even though he believes some people mistake that for weakness.

In the months since Spot’s adoption Rocky experienced some health problems that limited his usual activities with the dogs. Yet Rocky is nothing if not resolute in his efforts to redeem himself from his past life. When he encounters an obstacle he now simply finds away around it.

“The dos amigos seem to be doing okay. They’re waiting for the third amigo to be able to run around with them,” he says. “I’m having some weakness, dizziness, and headache problems that I’m trying to figure out.”

So the Army veteran built an obstacle course in the yard for Spit and Spot. And minimal furniture in the house makes it easier for the two dogs to run about and play while they await Rocky’s recovery.

Road to redemption

Rocky may never feel completely redeemed as he seeks to make amends with his old life by building a new one, albeit one that revolves around saving unwanted dogs. There remains some loneliness – and aloneness – both of which take time to remedy. Army veteran seeks redemption from his troubled past by saving dogs in need

“I’ve been left alone by my past,” he confides.

For the most part the Army veteran’s road to redemption is traveled primarily with his two dogs, but he has acquired some human acquaintances along the way.

Rocky stays in touch with the people from whom he adopted Spit and – finding them to be nice – has arranged some dog play dates with them.

Still, the Army veteran is plagued by feelings of isolation, in spite of creating a canine family that loves and accepts him as is. It is normal to still yearn for the validation of other people; it is all part of the human experience. For the time being he relies on Spit and Spot for nearly all of his companionship. Some days he feels that is all he needs.

“We lean on each other for support,” he says.

Rocky believes that poor decisions he made early in life continue to haunt him today even as he seeks redemption by saving unwanted dogs. Still, he is a better man than the one he left behind. Sometimes that means grappling with moments of aloneness that even his dogs cannot fully redress. And it always means taking care of his family – Spit and Spot – who love him as he is, without judgement.

“I already know that nobody cares about me,” he shares, “so I have to make sure we try to survive.”

 

2 Comments

  1. Christine E

    I am so happy you are helping pups who need a friend and they in turn are friends for you. There’s no love like the unconditional love of a dog! Wishing you many happy years with your furry companions. Thank you for your Service.

    Reply
  2. MJ

    You did a wonderful thing by rescuing those two dogs. Give yourself credit for that! And continue to thrive with their love and human companionship will follow.

    Reply

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