One Navy Vietnam veteran learned that a little bit of cinnamon each day helped improve his health and his wife’s emotional well-being. His therapeutic dose wasn’t the kind that lends its powerful aromatic appeal to rolls, pies or chocolates, but was rather the four-legged variety.
Christopher joined the Navy in March 1974 during the Vietnam War and served til March 1978. During his four years, he was attached to the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Five, known as the Seabees, out of Port Hueneme, California.
“I was lucky not to have to go to war,” he says, “but I still deployed for long periods of time, specifically nine month tours to Rota, Spain, Diego Garcia, Indian Ocean and twice to Puerto Rico.”
Christopher joined the military because he had a hard time finding a decent job. His military experience provided him with valuable skills in the construction trade, however, he admits the lifestyle and deployments were not always easy on his wife, Peggy. In spite of the hardships both personally and at home, the Navy veteran had some positive and memorable moments during his service.
“I enjoyed most of the people I encountered, especially in Spain where I met Jesse Miller,” Christopher said.
Miller was an interesting spiritual man who survived the Bataan Death March and, until he passed away several years ago, the two men kept in touch.
Cinnamon and spice, and everything nice
Fast forward 34 years to upstate New York where Christopher and his wife live, surrounded by their six granddaughters and one grandson, all of whom visit often. Christopher is currently unemployed and Peggy, disabled, spends her days at home mostly alone, though with some company from the couple’s aging dog and two parakeets.
An ever loving husband, Christopher wondered if adopting a small lap dog might lift his wife’s spirits and alleviate her depression.
While on the hunt for a new companion at the Lollypop Farm Humane Society of Greater Rochester, Christopher and Peggy learned about Pets for Patriots, but also met and fell in love with a two-year-old beagle mix. The adult dog had just the right amount of “spice” for the couple and their lifestyle.
“I had no idea about Pets for Patriots until we were at Lollypop Farm and saw the information,” recalls the Navy veteran. “We decided to apply because my wife and I wanted an older dog, and with my job situation the financial assistance they offer really helped achieve that goal.”
A dog who both needs – and gives – real healing
Cinnamon, the beagle so sweetly named, was a stray with an uncertain past. When Christopher and Peggy brought her home the dog was a bit nervous – not uncommon during the “honeymoon” period with a new pet. These days, Cinnamon follows Peggy everywhere, and when the two are on the couch together the little dog will rest her head on her new mom’s lap.
“She is a little bigger than a lap dog, weighing in around 20 pounds,” Christopher says. “She is so easy to handle and maybe it’s because she is older, but she seems to learn quickly.”
Likely due to events in her past, Cinnamon is more ambivalent around the Navy veteran, at times vocalizing to him and at others curling up for affection.
“She’s still a little anxious around me,” Christopher says. She will bark at him in the kitchen or if he has stepped outside for a few minutes, but when he sits down she runs and jumps on his lap, looks back at him and lays her head on his chest.
Cinnamon has brought some much-needed fun into the Navy couple’s life. The simple joy of watching her play makes them happy and enlightens the lives of every member of the family, visiting grandchildren included.
“I tell other veterans about this program all the time,” says Christopher. “You can get a cat or dog that is older and most likely has been abandoned and needs some love, and it’s a good cause for veterans as well.”
It’s a win-win situation for military members who join Pets for Patriots, gaining access to their national network of veterinarians and animal welfare organizations. Adult or other at-risk pets in need of forever homes find veterans or service members looking to add a little “Cinnamon” to their lives.
How has an older shelter pet brought healing into your life?