A healing hotel hound sailed home with a Navy family grieving the loss of a beloved dog, thanks to an innovative new partnership between a Nashville hotel, an animal shelter, and Pets for Patriots.
“Making ships move through water”
In 1997 Mike started what would become a long military career. He served as a Navy machinist mate and worked primarily in steam plant operations.
Machinist mates are mechanically-inclined professionals who touch nearly every aspect of a ship’s operations to ensure that they are mission ready.
Mike has since retired, but sums up the ultimate goal of his role in five simple words:
“Making ships move through water.”
The Navy veteran acquired many cherished memories over the course of a military career that spanned more than two decades. But perhaps the most enduring is when he made chief petty officer after 16 years of service.
Finally in 2018 – after 21 years in the Navy – Mike retired to start life anew with his wife and family by his side.
At the time Mike and his family were living just outside of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. But their lives were upended a few months later when their home was flooded in hurricane Florence, forcing them to evacuate.
The Navy veteran and his daughter decamped for a few months at his parents’ home in Tampa, Florida.
Mike’s wife remained in North Carolina, where she worked at a small hospital as a cardiac rehabilitation nurse.
“The original plan was for me to finish my degree in fish and wildlife management,” Mike shares, “and figure out where we were going to move as a family as we never planned to stay in North Carolina.”
However, those plans would be upended once again.
Mike’s wife found another job as an assistant nursing manager for a large Nashville, Tennessee hospital, prompting the family to relocate.
Incredibly, yet another change in course would follow.
Shortly after completing his degree Mike found the fish and wildlife industry to be extremely competitive.
Ever adaptable, the retired veteran pursued a career in healthcare facility management, where he remains to this day.
Despite the major upheavals in their lives Mike’s family remains resilient. They enjoy many outdoor activities together, such as boating and hiking, and experiencing new cuisine. Eventually their adventures would include a hotel hound who was in training for a home and family of his own.
Mike has long enjoyed the company of dogs. While stationed in Guam his family adopted a dog, Melona, who died in late 2022 from spleen cancer.
Every companion pet we lose leaves a unique hole in our hearts. Melona would be no different, and Mike confides that he still misses her. However, he believed that one day he would seek out another four-legged family member.
“We had been told by a close friend that we would know if we were ready for another dog,” he shares.
And in the spring of 2023 that time would come when Mike’s wife saw a Facebook post from Nashville Humane Association.
The organization had recently joined our free shelter partner program. Around the same time we were contacted by Bobby Hotels Nashville about an innovative partnership to place a healing hound with a veteran in the community.
At the time, the hotel had a dog in residence who had been rescued from Nashville Humane.
Aptly named Hairy spent his days socializing with two- and four-legged hotel guests alike. He was trained to Canine Good Citizenship standards and went home with a hotel employee each night.
However, Hairy was not meant to spend his life as a hotel hound, but rather as a healing companion to a local veteran.
Pets for Patriots would find that one veteran who would be Hairy’s perfect match, and help other veteran applicants find a well-suited pet of their own.
There’s something about Hairy
Mike was unaware that his wife was making inquiries about Hairy, though he was certain that something was afoot.
“The wife actually started the process,” he recalls, “and started asking me some odd questions before filling me in.”
Together with our partners at Bobby Hotels Nashville and Nashville Humane Association, we decided to promote Hairy’s search for a home around the Memorial Day holiday.
Hairy’s eventual adoption would not only be our first through this unique partnership, but our first through Nashville Humane Association as well. The organization offers all veterans in our program fee-waived adoptions.
Several area veterans expressed interest in Hairy and applied to adopt him. No doubt they were attracted to his tousled good looks as well as his comfort with both people and other pets. And he was already accustomed to home life, having been fostered by a hotel employee named Heather.
However, in the end only one veteran could adopt the hotel hound. Mike had a good feeling upon meeting Hairy for the first time with his family.
“Hairy kind of called out to us,” he shares.
Each Nashville area veteran approved by Pets for Patriots was given the chance to meet with Hairy. All were given the opportunity to adopt any program-eligible pet through our new partnership with Nashville Humane Association.
In the end, the peanut butter-loving hotel hound chose Mike and his family. And so they set sail together after the hotel staff threw Hairy a bittersweet going-home party.
“…no love like a dog’s”
Hairy made the transition from hotel to home fairly easily. The loving care and socialization that Heather provided paid off. And perhaps the former hotel hound knew that it was Mike’s wife who was the one who discovered him since he is particularly attached to her.
“Hairy is doing great!” Mike shares in an early post-adoption follow up with our team. “He took a few days to adjust, but he’s absolutely in love with my wife and daughter. He tolerates me!”
In the end a shelter dog was given the chance of a lifetime and a second chance at life. The three-way partnership that made it all happen is new.
However, our work helping the most vulnerable animals move from homeless to home is proven to the tune of more than 4,100 adoptions – and counting.
Mike appreciates the benefits we give to every adoptee, including a year of post-adoption follow up.
“They were amazing through the whole process,” he says. “Also very responsive through emails as well.”
Pets for Patriots will continue to explore innovative ways to help shelter animals find loving homes and give veterans the emotionally restorative companions they need.
Mike and his family are already reaping the benefits of a well-matched companion pet. A dog who found himself in a shelter, became a popular hotel hound, and is now in his forever home.
“It’s amazing to have someone so excited to see you when you get home. Even if you were only gone for five minutes,” he says. “There’s no love like a dog’s love.”
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