Still grieving over the sudden loss of their beloved pet, a Navy family found healing with a last-chance dog who helped them rediscover their capacity to love.
No place like home for Navy veteran
In 1984, Angela enlisted in the United States Navy. The majority of her enlistment was served in Norfolk, not far from her native Virginia Beach. During her military career Angela spent two years at CINCLANTFLT (Commander in Chief, US Atlantic Fleet) and three years at Amphibious Base, Little Creek. She completed her final year of military service at NSA (Naval Support Activity) New Orleans.
Angela has nothing but positive things to say about her military career.
“I am happy to say I still have a strong connection with my very best friend from my first command,” she says. “We have both been there for one another over the years. I am so blessed to have so many great memories from the first five years in service – what a lasting impression!”
The Navy veteran remembers another lasting impression from her time in service, albeit a traumatic one.
“The day that I’ll never forget,” she shares,”was standing on the quarterdeck at my command with my best friend and watching the TV as the space shuttle Columbia lifted off, then crying when we witnessed it explode.”
In 1991 Angela separated from the Navy with an Honorable discharge and returned to Virginia Beach. She continues to live there with her husband Kurt, their son, and two dogs, Michaela and Lucy.
The veteran’s military career prepared her well for her civilian life. Angela works as a business information analyst for a large health insurance company.
“Surprisingly I am using some of the skills I picked up while I served in the Navy as a data processor, despite working in various industries across the United States, including oil and gas, airline and manufacturing.”
Last-chance dog inspires a leap of faith
Sophie was a four-and-a-half year-old Puggle, much beloved by Angela and her family. It came as a crushing shock when the young dog died of degenerative disk disease.
The Navy veteran recalls a conversation with her sister, who encouraged her to adopt another companion pet who risked “being taken before its time.”
“She said it would heal our hearts to give another our love,” she says. “We struggled with this because we felt Sophie couldn’t just be replaced and we weren’t ready to put ourselves through that.”
Despite her ambivalence, Angela visited the Virginia Beach SPCA, a Pets for Patriots partner offering discounted pet adoption fees and access to their low-cost veterinary clinic. While there she met Michaela, a stunning German Shorthaired Pointer mix. The large breed dog qualified for adoption through our partnership.
It was a leap of faith that inspired Angela to adopt this last-chance dog in January, 2013.
“Not only did things work out,” she says, “but this little girl wiggled her way into our hearts and has been so good, smart and just loves us unconditionally.”
Michaela proved to be a work-in-progress in spite of her obvious charms. Shortly after adopting her pup Angela learned that her newest charge loved to chew – anything and everything – including a seemingly “indestructible” mat for her crate. Yet she proved to be an able and willing running partner for Kurt, who took Michaela for long jaunts on the beach when he was training for a half marathon.
Double the dog, double the love
Michaela – affectionately known as Kayla – has helped her Navy family cope with their grief following Sophie’s death. Nearly three years after saving this last-chance dog Angela returned to the Virginia Beach SPCA to add another four-legged member to her family.
“The adoption of Michaela healed us,” she explains, “and expanded our hearts to adopt our newest addition to the family, Lucy.”
The two dogs are well-matched in both size and temperament, and “get along very well.” Angela observes that Kayla has adopted a maternal role towards Lucy, “training and nudging her along the way.”
Adding Lucy to the mix did not make Kayla any less special, and perhaps only heightened Angela’s appreciation for those things that she loves most about her spirited rescue dog.
“She acts like she is really listening to every word you say and cocks her head sideways,” the Navy veteran says, adding, “She really makes me laugh when she does the ‘I just pooped and I liked it’ dance.”
Angela confides that she and her family worried that adopting Kayla would somehow disrespect Sophie’s memory – a common concern of people bereaved over the loss of a beloved pet.
“We have not forgotten about Sophie as we feared,” she says, “but we found even more room in our hearts for our two girls.”
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