Joyful rescue dog sails into Navy veteran’s life when she needs him most

Joyful rescue dog sails into Navy veteran's life when she needs him most

A Navy veteran had been going through a rough time in her personal life until an eternally joyful rescue dog turned her ship around.

Proud to serve

Melissa served two tours of duty in service to our nation. During her initial tour she served as a culinary specialist aboard the destroyer USS Gonzalez.

Culinary specialists are tasked with a wide range of critical duties on both ship and shore. These professionals prepare meals, operate kitchen and dining facilities, and serve sailors, officers, dignitaries, and visitors – among many other vital duties.

Melissa re-enlisted after her initial military obligation was satisfied. She completed her second tour at Walter Reed Medical Center where she tended to the unique dietary needs of sick and injured service members.

“I loved preparing meals for the crew,” she says, “and discussing meal options with patients.”

Still, Melissa recalls one particular highlight of her career when she was recognized for her dedication and hard work.

“My most memorable experience was on the Gonzalez making my first rate. My commanding officer broadcasted [it] over the intercom,” she recalls.

“It was exciting, and an honoring experience. I felt really important.”

Life after military service has been no less fulfilling for Melissa.

The Navy veteran works in an administrative capacity at the United States Department of Agriculture. And together with her husband of 19 years she has two children, Eden who is 20 and 13 year-old Nassi.

In time, however, Melissa would find herself navigating turbulent seas. A joyful rescue dog would soon right her ship.

Timing is everything

It was June 2022 when Melissa decided to add a companion pet to her family. Both of her children were maturing and the dynamics of their home life changed as well.

“I chose to adopt a pet because my oldest entered into college at the time and my 13 year-old, well, has his own world,” she says, “so I figured it would be a perfect time to get a pet.”

Many people decide to adopt a companion pet during major life transitions. Veterans who separate from service often find that a pet helps them acclimate to civilian life.

Melissa was entering unchartered waters. The support and benefits we offer made it easier for her to welcome a pet into her home.

“I chose Pets for Patriots after doing research and I saw that they could help me obtain a pet, which was wonderful as I didn’t know what to do,” she shares. “And they walked me through the whole process and stayed in contact with me after [the adoption].”

Buying a pet from a store or a breeder was never an option for the Navy veteran. She knows that animal shelters are brimming with dogs and cats who make wonderful companions when given the chance.

“There are a lot of loving animals that need some love.”

Bandit steals her heart

At the end of June, Melissa visited Anne Arundel County Animal Care and Control.

Since 2016 the shelter offers veterans we serve fee-waived adoptions when they save program-eligible dogs and cats.

Staff told Melissa about our partnership and she applied right away.

A then five year-old dog named Bandit had entered the shelter just a couple of weeks prior. Little is known about the stunning brindle Boxer’s previous life.

Bandit was in good spirits despite whatever circumstances led to him become homeless. However, the happy hound was not on top of Melissa’s list – until they met.

Best choice not first choice

At the time Melissa was emotionally depleted. In the midst of the adoption process her mother passed away and her child was having challenges of his own.

“And I [was] totally burnt, and when I went to the animal shelter I just wanted to spend time with some furry friends as they don’t ask for much,” she explains. “I needed some peace, and originally Bandit wasn’t my first choice. However, when I met him I knew he was just right for me and my family.”

So in the very early days of July 2022 Melissa gave Bandit his freedom and Bandit gave her a part of her life that she did not even realize had been missing.

“…the missing piece of my life”

Since coming home with Melissa, Bandit has shown himself to be the joyful rescue dog that captured her heart at the shelter. He has grown to be protective of his family – even scaring away people who come to the door with his booming bark.

Melissa jokes that she is always telling visitors that Bandit is just a “big softy” and means them no harm.

The brindle Boxer has proven his mettle in other ways as well. He is particularly attuned to Melissa, taking cues from her behavior to dial up – or down – his energy.

“He is the best dog ever,” she says with pride.

“He is really patient with me and I with him. I have been having issues walking due to nerve damage and he has been so patient, like he knows when to pick up the pace and [when] to slow down.”

Of course there are other members of the family with whom Bandit shares his love and good nature – feelings that are mutual.

The Navy veteran believes her joyful rescue dog is nothing short of “the greatest.”

Bandit might not have been Melissa’s first choice when she visited Anne Arundel County Animal Care and Control, but he was the right choice. The best choice.

Bandit not only assumes the roles of family member, friend, and protector, but fills a void that Melissa struggles to put into words.

“Having Bandit has been the best decision I have ever made,” she confides. “He has filled the missing piece of my life. I don’t know what I would do without him.”


  1. Rose Helmich

    Many blessings to you and Bandit and your family going forward! Thank you for rescuing this dear soul! He is a beautiful dog!!

  2. Mary Eaton

    Bandit is a gentle giant with a kind soul. May you have many years of a treasured bond.
    Thank you for your years of service in the military and private sector.

  3. Alyson A.

    Thank you for your service. Hearing about Bandit – and the fact that he is so in tune with you – made me smile. I’m so glad you found each other – what a blessing. 🙂

  4. Diane C Chalberg

    Bandit is adorable! Thank you for adopting. It is amzing the love these pets give us!

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