Diana’s adoption plans gained new urgency when her family went into quarantine during COVID-19. But the Air Force veteran was unsure if she was ready to adopt another pet years after the death of her beloved dog.
Seeing the world on the wings of the Air Force
The Air Force opened up the world to Diana in ways she never imagined.
For 10 years, Diana served as an air battle manager and flew on the E-3 sentry aircraft. In this role she was responsible to use knowledge of aircraft, weapons, and surveillance systems to create aerial battle plans.
The Air Force veteran considers herself lucky to have traveled the world during her decade-long military career.
“I was stationed in Florida, Oklahoma, Korea, and Germany,” she says. “Those locations allowed me to travel and see the world in ways I never planned or thought possible.”
Diana now lives in St. Louis with her husband, Bryan, and their nine year-old son, Blake. She recently started working for the Department of Defense as a civilian.
Veteran decides to add to her quarantine team
In 2017, Diana and her family lost their 16 year-old dog; they were all devastated. It would be two-and-a-half years before she even considered adopting another pet. But her son Blake had been begging for a companion dog.
“He had been saving up to get a new dog and asking,” she says. “We were going to wait, partially because I wasn’t ready and we wanted a more oversized yard.”
Adding a pet to the family should always be a thoughtful decision, especially when children are involved.
But COVID-19 and the subsequent quarantine changed Diana’s calculus about adoption. Blake was away from his friends, and needed a playmate and pal – someone to make him feel less lonely.
“We were hesitant to add a furry friend,” Diana confides, “but realizing that we would be home for a while it only made sense to open up our home to a rescue.”
And dog makes family
About a year earlier Diana heard about Pets for Patriots and our companion pet adoption program for military veterans. It would be many months later that she would apply, once the reality of quarantine set in.
The Air Force veteran did not find her four-legged match right away. Adding a family member is a serious consideration and she needed to find a child-friendly pet. However, Diana appreciated our support before, during, and after the adoption.
“The program is great, so helpful in finding us a dog that completes our family.”
Diana visited our partners Care STL, which joined our shelter partner program a little more than one year earlier. The organization waives adoption fees for veterans in our program who adopt eligible dogs and cats.
It was there that Diana met a then four year-old Pit Bull mix named Arya – the dog who would complete her family’s quarantine team.
Pit Bull with a pitiful past
It was not until some time after Arya’s adoption that Diana learned about the dog’s tragic past. She confesses that the knowledge concerned her.
“After adoption we found out she had a pretty rough past and honestly, had I known, I probably would have not adopted her,” she shares. “Not because I don’t believe dogs can be rehabilitated – they can – but with a young child I didn’t know if we would be a good fit.”
The shelter suspected that Arya had been formerly used for dog fighting – a felony in every state – and breeding.
At the time of Arya’s rescue she displayed aggression towards other dogs and people, particularly men. These behaviors are understandable in light of the abuse she suffered. In addition, the big dog has a high prey drive and does not like cats.
Still, Diana was won over by the Pit Bull’s sweet, loving nature – even as she is mindful of her prior life.
“Arya has been great, but has had a past and a history,” she says. “She’s 90 percent great, but that 10 percent unknown is scary.”
Arya the quarantine queen
Working with Arya has been both challenging and rewarding. She still has an aversion to men and is working on her fear aggression of other dogs.
Yet Diana believes that she is up to the task to help this dog who had such an unfortunate start in life.
“But I think – I hope – with love, confidence, and training, we will be fine,” she says, “and she will be a great family dog.”
Dog fighting and other forms of animal abuse exact a terrible toll on their victims, both physical and emotional. Positive reinforcement training and rehabilitation can often transform these broken lives. Of the 51 dogs seized at the property of former NFL player and convicted animal abuser Michael Vick, 48 had a second chance at life.
Diana knows that Arya is a work in progress. And the effort must come from both person and pet.
“She is so sweet, affectionate, loyal, and protective,” Diana shares. “She’s still working on her manners and isn’t always polite, but she’s trying. And she proves that no matter what our past is, we all deserve a chance and love. Sometimes it just takes more time to prove that we are trustworthy – on both sides.”
“…I knew we were her people”
It was not long after their adoption that Diana began to realize that Arya was a good fit for her family. Even with the Pit Bull’s horrific past, Arya was showing her capacity to give love – and receive it, too.
“I still wasn’t sure at first – would she be aggressive, would she be the dog the neighborhood was afraid of, would we be a good fit?” she shares. “It’s so much harder when they are older. But after a week, I knew we were her people.”
Perhaps the months in quarantine together sped up the process of Arya bonding with her people. She is able to sense when something is awry and hastens to make things better.
“Arya knows when someone in the family is upset and is quick with the kisses. Dogs have excellent instincts about people and their needs,” Diana shares. “Arya is no exception.”
“…we all have a past…”
The Air Force veteran appreciates how we helped her navigate all aspects of her experience in our program. The application process is easy and quick, we assist before and during the adoption with our shelter partners, and follow up after adoption for at least a year.
“Pets for Patriots is great, so helpful, and stepped in to help me when there was some confusion with the shelter,” she says. “I felt like they truly cared about my situation and wanted to make sure it was a successful adoption.”
Despite Diana’s misgivings about Arya’s past the Air Force veteran is grateful that she gave the hard-luck dog the chance she deserved.
The sweet Pit Bull mix has made the many months of quarantine not just bearable, but joyful as well. Arya has embraced her new life and family with abandon.
“Even if we are gone for 10 minutes, she does a little dance and gets so happy to see you,” Diana says, “like ‘where have you been and why did you leave me?'”
Arya’s years of abuse are behind her; now she can just be a beloved companion pet. She enjoys following Diana around the house and playing hide-and-seek with Bryan. And she adores Blake, a feeling that appears mutual.
There is a saying that past is not prologue. We all have an opportunity to author a different future from whatever experiences we may have had.
“My last dog was easy, so this has been challenging,” Diana says, “but I guess we all have a past and need to learn to move on from it, and not let it define us.”