Jerry acquired many skills and even more memories over the course of more than two decades in the Navy. However, a sweet, but eccentric shelter hound would teach him the most important life lesson of all.
Life at sea
In 1974 Jerry enlisted in the United States Navy. It would begin a military career that spanned more than 20 years, highlighted by the majesty of sailing the high seas.
“I served mostly in the weapons department onboard aircraft carriers,” Jerry says. “I made deployments on USS Oriskany (CV34), USS Enterprise (CVN65), and the odd ship out was a submarine tender, [was] USS Frank Cable (AS40).”
Jerry advanced to chief petty officer following his tour on the Frank Cable. He served as an instructor with a nuclear weapons training group as well. But before retiring in 1996 he sailed with the USS Enterprise for one final tour.
It would seem an impossible task to hold a singularly memorable moment from such a long career. However, Jerry recalls the almost unworldly experience of being out in the middle of the sea.
“I think one of the most memorable things was when we were sailing the Indian Ocean. I was struck by the sheer size of it, and the fact that the water literally looked like glass,” he recalls.
“The only real movement in the water was created by our ship. It was very surreal and not the way I had always seen or imagined the ocean.”
Finally – after more than two decades of military service – Jerry retired from the Navy. He lives in South Eastern Virginia with his wife, Cathy, who works at a local hospital.
The couple has two adult children and has long had a dog – or two – in their family.
“Besides hanging with the dogs,” Jerry shares, “I enjoy golf, walking, and bowling.”
Set sail for home
The Navy veteran’s household has long been graced with the presence of companion pets. It is not unusual for Jerry and Cathy to have at least two at a time so that one pet can keep the other company.
“We’ve had both dogs and cats pretty much our whole married life,” Jerry says.
So in 2021 the couple visited Virginia Beach SPCA to adopt a dog as a companion to their resident dog, Mikey. A shelter volunteer told Jerry about Pets for Patriots and our companion pet adoption program for military veterans.
Virginia Beach SPCA has made hundreds of adoptions through our partnership since 2012. They offer veterans in our program 25 percent off adoption fees and access to their low-cost veterinary clinic without proof of income eligibility.
At the shelter Jerry and Cathy met a dog named Hayden. He was a large hound mix, approximately one year old at the time.
Nothing is known about Hyden’s life prior to entering the shelter, like most animals who find themselves homeless.
But the eccentric hound’s sweet nature was readily apparent and – just two days after being approved into our program – Jerry welcomed Hayden home.
The retired Navy veteran could have adopted Hayden without Pets for Patriots’ assistance. But he saw our program as a benefit to all parties involved.
Jerry even used the adoption fee savings to pay it forward to help another animal at the shelter still waiting for a home.
“Adopting through the program was really a no brainer,” he shares. “With the savings involved for the adoption we were able to donate the difference directly to the SPCA. It was a win-win.”
Hayden was soon renamed Duncan. He adapted quickly to his new home despite some initial and normal reservation about his new circumstances.
“The first couple of days he was a little timid and unsure, but he seems to have come into his own and is assimilating very well,” Jerry shares during one of our post-adoption follow ups. “When he’s not chewing his bone, he loves running laps around the backyard while checking for critters to clear out. He seems very happy and we are glad to have him as part of the family.”
Jerry was elated that his eccentric hound was finding his place in the family. However, his joy at finding a buddy for the family’s resident dog Mikey would not be not long lived.
“Sadly,” Jerry shares, “Mikey died suddenly from a liver disease about a month later.”
After Mikey’s passing Duncan stepped in to fill the aching void in Jerry’s heart.
The big dog has become equal part security guard – from threats real or imagined – and family entertainer.
“Duncan is a very sweet and loving dog. He’s sort of a goofball, but he see’s himself as the protector,” Jerry observes. “He’s very vocal and barks at every opportunity. He’s always on squirrel patrol and general neighborhood watch.”
The sweet, eccentric hound is soon approaching his two-year adoption anniversary. He is fully acclimated to his new home and family, and continues to thrive with their loving care.
For his part, Jerry appreciates having adopted Hayden through our program. While the financial savings are a big help it is our ongoing, personal outreach that makes all the difference.
“Adopting a shelter dog is very rewarding. To see them accept and learn to trust you is a joy,” he shares.
“This program helps to facilitate that process and the pet becomes a member of the family.”
To thine own self be true
Duncan continues to be the quirky yet lovable creature he was the day Jerry and Cathy welcomed him home. He is equally sweet, protective, goofy, and sociable. He finds a way to fit in no matter the situation.
“Duncan is very good natured. He will bark at people but when they come in the house he will greet them and often sit with them. He likes to be in our company and will hang out with different members of the family,” Jerry says.
Yet somehow this ball-catching, stick-chasing, squirrel-hunting, house-protecting eccentric hound holds a life lesson for us all.
“I think Duncan helps to remind us,” Jerry says, “that it’s okay to just be yourself.”