At 89 years of age Carl is an elderly veteran, but age was no obstacle to him traveling 1,200 miles round trip to adopt a disabled dog named Belle.
Decades earlier, Carl demonstrated the same type of determination during his military career. From 1965-1974, he served in the Air Force in cryptographic intelligence where he deciphered enemy code – a responsibility that required intense focus and vigilance.
Today the Air Force veteran lives in Florida with his wife, Suzanne. We met the couple several weeks after they lost their beloved dog, Enga, to cancer.
Saying goodbye to one friend and hello to another
Carl has always been an animal lover. He has a particular soft spot for those who have been abused or mistreated, wanting to give these dogs the love and care they deserve. Shortly after the death of their dog Enga, Carl and Suzanne heard about Pets for Patriots from a friend.
“I had a shepherd, Enga, and she had recently passed,” Carl says. “We were looking to adopt an abused or mistreated dog, and someone recommended a shelter in Tennessee where Belle was, so we made the trip up from Florida.”
Belle was a then year-old German Shepherd mix who had been born with severe deformities in both of her hind legs. The left one was missing toes and her right leg was missing its lower half, requiring her to wear a prosthetic leg and special socks for stability. At the time Belle was in the care of Monroe County Friends of Animals, a Pets for Patriots adoption partner in Madisonville, Tennessee.
Despite Belle’s disability – or perhaps, because of it – there were many people who wanted to adopt her. Carl was one of them.
Although Monroe County Friends of Animals is nearly 600 miles from Carl’s home the elderly veteran was undaunted. After being approved by Pets for Patriots and confirming that the shelter would entertain an out-of-state adoption, Carl and Suzanne started their road trip from Florida to Tennessee without any guarantee that they would be the chosen adopters.
The long road home for Air Force veteran and disabled dog
While the couple made their way north, Belle was only finally getting accustomed to her new prosthetic device.
Monroe County Friends of Animals had the disabled dog’s leg cast at the University of Tennessee veterinary clinic, and a company in Virginia specializing in prosthetics built her device. The young Shepherd’s first attempts to walk with her new gear were awkward, and she tried her best to remove the prosthetic. In time she began to rely on her new leg and did not resist when her foster parents put it on each morning.
The trip from Florida to Tennessee was tiring for Carl and Suzanne, despite an overnight stay along the way. Still, the Air Force veteran remembers when he first saw the sweet, disabled dog.
“Belle was very shy around people, especially men,” Carl recalls. “So I sat at the picnic table, thinking I would give her space, and when she came out she came right up to me and greeted me. Well, that was just the icing on the cake.”
Belle was finally ready to step out – though she could not have imagined that would mean traveling hundreds of miles to her new home. Carl, Suzanne and their newly beloved Belle hit the road for Florida and never looked back.
Home at last
The disabled dog has settled in well to her new life, and by all accounts is a perfect fit for her new family.
“She brings joy and comfort to Carl on a daily basis,” Suzanne says. “Belle does not break the rules at our house, she simply changes the rules to fit her needs and desires – it’s the Belle way!”
Since her adoption Belle has turned into quite the socialite. She gets along well with Emma, the couple’s other dog, and their senior cat – and particularly enjoys visiting the local dog park where she seeks out other dogs to play.
“She has come light years from the dog cowering in the corner of the kennel at the rescue facility,” says Suzanne, adding that the disabled dog sleeps with Carl every night.
For his part, the Air Force veteran counts his many blessings – among them his beloved Belle.
“I am blessed to be alive,” Carl says, “and I am blessed to have that dog with me.”