The last thing Elizabeth had on her mind was adding a homeless dog to her household, but a chance meeting between the Navy veteran and a Chihuahua mix with “the saddest eyes” changed everything.
Serving in the wake of 9/11
Elizabeth served for four years in the Navy as a Cryptology Technical Operator (CTO), during which time she was stationed at the Diego Garcia military base in the British Indian Ocean, and with the Naval Security Group Activity (NSGA) Kunia in Hawaii. The NSGA Kunia was de-established shortly after Elizabeth separated from service, and integrated into what would become the Navy’s largest operational command security group.
For an additional year, from 2004-2005, Elizabeth was based out of Pensacola and New Orleans, respectively, with the active Reserves. In 2005, the Navy veteran separated from service with an Honorable discharge and started the task of re-integrating to civilian life.
One of the Elizabeth’s most memorable days in service is a day most Americans will never forget; she was on duty on 9/11.
“Very sad day,” she reflects.
Chance meeting with a “sweet, pitiful face”
A decade has passed since Elizabeth left the military. She is now a proud mother, and a full-time student pursuing a degree in wildlife and fisheries management.
With her hands and schedule full, Elizabeth had no intention of adding to her responsibilities at home. Yet a chance meeting with a homeless dog felt more like fate when she visited the Blount County Animal Shelter in Maryville, Tennessee, where she learned about their partnership with Pets for Patriots to help military veterans adopt the most overlooked homeless companion pets.
The shelter waives pet adoption fees for veterans approved by Pets for Patriots, after which we provide a range of generous benefits – including access to ongoing, discounted quality veterinary care – to defray the costs of pet parenthood for our nation’s military veterans.
“I had honestly never heard of this wonderful organization until I asked what the Pets for Patriots sign meant,” she said. “I’m glad I asked and feel it’s such a blessing.”
Elizabeth had taken her little brother to the shelter to adopt a puppy for his birthday. Adopting a dog for herself was not on the agenda – until it was.
“While he was looking around, I noticed this sweet, pitiful face looking up at me with the saddest eyes.”
Love at first sight
It did not take much for the Navy veteran to be smitten by the then five year-old Chihuahua mix, named Sandy at the time.
“I asked if I could spend some time with her,” she recalls, “and the moment I held her, I fell in love.”
Elizabeth is philosophical about the unexpected encounter than inspired devotion to a homeless dog in need of the love and lifetime commitment she found herself prepared to give.
“I wasn’t looking for a pet, but I’m so thankful I was the one to take my little brother in that day,” she says, adding, “It was meant to be!”
Four-paw blessing for Navy family
The Blount County Animal Shelter allowed Elizabeth to foster Sandy – since renamed Roxie – in order to give the veteran an opportunity to apply to Pets for Patriots. Once approved and after Roxie was spayed, the adoption was finalized.
Roxie officially became the newest member of Elizabeth’s young and growing family. And the Navy veteran was surprised at how deeply she felt towards her newest charge.
“She is perfect!” she exclaims. “I could have never imagined such a strong bond and love for a pet in such a short amount of time. She is truly amazing.”
Sometimes adult dogs will have difficulty adjusting to a family with so many young children; they may be unaccustomed to the high level of activity – and noise – and can express their anxiety in any number of ways. Not so with Roxie.
In fact, Elizabeth marvels at how loving she is, despite being extremely shy around most people.
“It took her some time to come out of her shell and she doesn’t trust just anybody,” she says, “but she is right at home with my family.”
“Roxie is just an all-around perfect girl,” she says. “We are such a perfect match, and I really enjoy coming home from school to find her sweet face waiting for my return. My children absolutely adore her as well.”
During our months of post-adoption follow up, Elizabeth has never waned in her love and enthusiasm for Roxie. In the end, what at first seemed like a chance encounter was in fact the beginning of a special relationship for person and pet.
“My family,” Elizabeth says, “has been truly blessed with her.”