Dewey is a disabled Vietnam veteran who came to the realization that he “needed a therapy dog to help fight depression.” At the same time he had a strong desire to help a dog in need, so he returned to the Michigan Humane Society where he and his wife had previously adopted companion pets.
“I knew at the “Michigan Humane Society there was a dog that needed the therapy of a home and love,” Dewey says.
As it turns out that dog was Lizbeth: a 30-pound, nearly purebred Beagle with loving brown eyes.
The Vietnam veteran’s first encounter with Lizbeth was nothing short of “love at first sight,” despite the young dog’s special needs. In addition to needing care for recurring urinary tract infections Lizbeth was obese, and subject to severe arthritis and back problems that are seen frequently in overweight Beagles.
In only two months since adopting his new companion, Dewey is proud to report that Lizbeth slimmed down to her target weight and has not had another urinary infection. However, both problems require his continued vigilance and care.
Dewey served in the First Air Cavalry in Vietnam. The unit was considered an important wartime innovation for its use of helicopters to move and position light infantry across the battlefield. Reflecting on his service, the now disabled veteran believes it gave him the opportunity to fight for his country and experience life in a foreign nation.
Upon returning home Dewey was able to earn both Masters and Specialist degrees in Special Education through the G.I. Bill.
Of squirrels, cuddles and football
All the animals that Dewey and his wife have welcomed into their home over the years have been adopted through the Michigan Humane Society Rochester Hills location, so the decision to return there in search of a new dog was a natural one. The shelter offers a generous adoption fee discount and ongoing, reduced cost veterinary care to all veterans who adopt through its partnership with Pets for Patriots, while Pets for Patriots provides generous benefits to veterans like Dewey once they adopt a program eligible dog or cat.
Lizbeth – or “Beth” as she is affectionately nicknamed – now lives a very different life. She spends her days cuddling and watching football with Dewey, and bringing her toys to him when she wants to play. She especially loves it when he throws a ball for her to fetch, but only as long as she gets a treat in exchange.
Although Beth enjoys lazing about the house, all that changes when she and Dewey go out for a walk. The adopted dog is then officially on squirrel patrol.
“[She has] pulled her 240-pound master to the ground twice while rearing up on her back feet and struggling to get that doggone squirrel,” says Dewey.
On one occasion Beth broke free and Dewey had to dive to catch her leash. He is now working with her to stop her neighborhood squirrel obsession – or at least to make it more manageable for Dewey. The Beagle has been known to “exhaust herself” barking at the squirrels she can see through the window in her room. As it happens, Beth’s twin obsession is treats – which Dewey uses judiciously to guide her to do his bidding, such as when he needs to lure her back into the house after an episode of squirrel watching.
“I buy the long treats and cut them down to short pieces,” he explains, “and gladly she runs to me. I grab her leash and gleefully we go into the house.”
Caring for Beth has given Dewey a renewed sense of purpose, and has helped alleviate his nagging depression. The disabled veteran sees the dog’s health issues – her propensity for urinary tract infections and ongoing battle with her weight – as worthy of every special effort. In the end, Dewey understands what is most important to his newfound friend: “giving back love while receiving love.”
Learn more about what makes special needs pets so special here.