Cancer-stricken veteran finds ‘best bud’ in scrappy shelter dog

Johnny Charlotte Stanley 1

An Army veteran living with stage four cancer, Johnny needed something to help get his mind off the idea of living with disease. A scrappy little shelter dog the veteran and his wife, Charlotte, call their “Godsend,” turned out to be the right prescription.

“That’s not my dog”

When the couple first brought home Stanley, a mini-Schnauzer, they weren’t convinced that he was, in fact, a mini-Schnauzer as advertised at the shelter. Johnny Charlotte Stanley 2

Stanley’s previous owner had passed away and the papers proving his pedigree status got lost. His grooming fell by the wayside, giving the three year-old shelter dog more of a terrier/collie look. Priority number one for the couple was to get Stanley to the groomer, after which the little dog emerged a much different looking animal altogether.

“That’s not my dog,” Johnny recalls saying to his wife.

Over time, Stanley looked the part and quickly assumed the role of savior to this Army couple.

“My husband has never been so loving and happy,” says Charlotte, who often speaks for Johnny due to his hearing loss. “We’d be lost without our dog.”

From scrappy shelter dog to Army veteran’s ‘best bud’

“Stanley is his best bud forever…minus me,” Charlotte observes. “He enriches Johnny’s life immensely. Stanley follows him all over the house.”

When Johnny and his wife adopted Stanley through the Michigan Humane Society’s partnership with Pets for Patriots, they had no idea that their sweet little dog would turn out to be such a lifesaver – literally. The couple was coping not only with Johnny’s advanced stage cancer, but Charlotte suffers from seizures as well. Instinctively, Stanley senses when she’s about to have a seizure and stays by her side. Johnny Charlotte Stanley 3

But the little shelter dog’s healing prowess doesn’t end there.

When they first brought the adopted dog home, Charlotte took Stanley for a walk to introduce him to his new neighborhood. She became tangled in his leash, fell back and hit her head. Stanley stook on Charlotte’s chest and licked her face until she regained consciousness.

Although they had no idea that this ex-shelter dog would turn out to be such a lifesaver, Johnny and his wife were immediately drawn to the dog’s friendly nature. Now settled into his new home, the pooch loves everyone – especially people who deliver packages to the house – greeting them like long-lost friends.

“He loves to give them lappers and kisses,” says Charlotte.

Stanley does not love burglars, however.

One night, someone tried to break in to the couple’s home. Charlotte ventured downstairs in time to see a burglar trying to climb into their house through a window, and a snarling and growling Stanley forcing the would-be robber to run off.

Stanley meets his Shadow

The adopted pooch isn’t the only animal in the house vying for Charlotte and Johnny’s attention.

The couple’s cat, Shadow, didn’t warm to Stanley right away, but the little dog didn’t give up. Determined to befriend his feline housemate, Stanley would slowly creep towards a hissing Shadow until he finally won her trust. These days they’re the best of friends and even share the same food bowl, despite each having their own.

Speaking of food, Stanley has an unusual appetite for a dog: he loves vegetables.

“He is a vegetable freak,” says an amused Charlotte, and he doesn’t discriminate. Broccoli, carrots, succotash – Stanley gobbles them up. Latest to his list of likes: coleslaw and raw potatoes. Johnny Charlotte Stanley 1

Pets for Patriots a “whopper of a deal”

The Army couple cannot say enough about Pets for Patriots.

“I recommend them every time I go out,” Charlotte says. “I am a motor-mouth when it comes to Pets for Patriots.”

The couple credits the nationwide charity with helping them connect with an animal who transformed their lives in ways they could have never expected, much less imagined.

“They have enriched our lives with such a loving, intelligent dog,” says Charlotte. “It’s an honor to work with them.”

The couple’s serious health issues bring enormous emotional challenges as well, all the more reason they believe that saving Stanley in turn saved them.

“If you know anyone who used to be in the military and is down and out,” says Charlotte, “get them into this program because adopting a companion pet does lift their spirits, and it saves the shelter animal as well. It’s a whopper of a deal.”

How has your pet enriched your life in unexpected ways?

1 Comment

  1. Carol Barber

    I love to read these wonderful, miracle stories about rescued pets and veterans. It’s so heartwarming to read about the love and appreciation the veterans and their families have for these lonely but wonderful shelter pets. I am a 20-year Navy veteran, as is my husband. We currently own 3 dogs, an older Doberman (our baby), a MinPin puppy rescue, and a Doberman puppy rescue. I’m so proud that we have a house full of sweet, loving, and funny dogs. People just don’t know what they’re missing when they don’t have pets in their homes. Of course, my rug is destroyed and I’m wearing out our steam cleaner. And my shoes have a tendency to disappear from the closet. My house may be messy, but our babies are living the dream. They sleep with us, and we ensure they are always covered in blankets. My daughter loves her little MinPin, and when she comes to visit from college, she gets her dose of puppy love. I just wish you had more participating shelters and vets in the Austin Texas area. We have so many vets here. I would love to volunteer for your group if you had more of a presence here. Thanks for what you do for our veterans and for shelter pets. It’s a great thing you’re doing.


    Carol L. Barber USN CWO2-Ret

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