Scooby is a little rescue dog with big paws to fill: curing the aching heart of a Vietnam veteran following the death of his senior dog.
For his entire life, Andrew has been a natural caretaker. He ministered to both of his parents during their final years, but after his 12 year-old Labradoodle died he did not think that he could care for another dog. Yet in time he was not just alone, but lonely – and knew that a companion pet would change his world for the better.
A man of peace during a time of war
In 1962, Andrew enlisted in the U.S. Army and he served for three years as a chaplain’s assistant.
“My boot camp was at Fort Knox and the rest of my tour was at [Fort] Dix,” he recalls. “My tour was an uneventful time, as not much happened.”
The day President Kennedy was assassinated, however, was uniquely memorable.
“I would say the one scary time was when President Kennedy got shot and the Fort was put on lockdown,” Andrew says, “and everyone had to carry their firearm or rifle with them at all times.”
In 1965, Andrew left the Army with an honorable discharge, but there was uncertainty about whether he would be reactivated.
“I knew they were starting to send troops over to Vietnam,” he remembers. “I heard that they could freeze discharges so they would have enough troops to protect the country and still send some overseas…I was keeping my fingers crossed and saying a lot of prayers.”
It seems that the young veteran’s prayers were answered; he was never pressed back into military service.
Life after wartime
Now in his early 70’s, Andrew spends his days enjoying his many hobbies.
“I have been retired for 10 years and it went by fast,” he says. “I like to putter around in the yard. I have a large flower bed that I am currently fighting with the weeds, so I can plant some flowers. I like to watch sports on television, mostly baseball.”
Regardless of the season, Andrew stays busy and maintains an active social life.
“I currently bowl in two leagues in the winter and one in the summer,” he says. “I also am the secretary for all three bowling leagues, so that keeps me busy. I also like to take the car out and just enjoy driving around.”
Oh, to have loved and lost
Andrew is familiar with the bittersweet nature of love and loss.
“I have always taken care of someone in my life. I took care of myself until my dad got sick, then I helped my mom take care of him.” he explains. “When he passed on, I stuck around and took care of my mother till she passed on. Then I took care of my dog and when he passed on I didn’t want to get another [dog], as I was getting older.”
The Army veteran has fond memories of the four-legged best friend he lost to cancer.
“I had bought a Labradoodle and it was the best dog I ever had,” Andrew says. “[He] was friendly, hardly barked, and learned fast. I had him for 10 years. I had trained him to be a therapy dog and we visited a few nursing homes for a while, ’til he got cancer. Then I stopped going.”
Andrew’s dog received chemotherapy for two years and while the cancer went into remission, the dog’s back legs “just gave out.”
“I couldn’t see him suffering,” he says, “so I had to put him to sleep.”
The incredible pain of losing his beloved dog soured the Vietnam veteran on getting another pet; he vowed that he “didn’t want to go through it again.” Yet eventually Andrew was struck by a deep sense of loneliness. Sometimes it showed itself in little ways, like how he noticed that he was “watching too much television.”
Andrew chose to adopt through Paws and Prayers in Akron, Ohio, a rescue organization comprised of a volunteer network of foster homes that shelter pets until they can be adopted. While in a home environment, the dogs receive socialization, all necessary medical care and the warm embrace of a person or family who promises to care for them until they have a permanent home of their own.
While there were a few dogs that interested Andrew, most were not well-suited to a senior living alone.
“I filled out a lot of adoption [applications], but the dogs always went to families,” he says, “so I was going to give up ’til spring time.”
Then out of the blue the rescue emailed Andrew; they thought they had the perfect dog for him: a four year-old Mini Pinscher.
“Along came Scooby,” he says, “the complete opposite of the dog I just had, but he is a good dog and buddy and friend.”
The ties that bind
It was the rescue that told Andrew about their partnership with Pets for Patriots. Once Andrew joined he was able to receive a 50% adoption fee discount for Scooby, and Pets for Patriots provided a generous pet store gift card to help the Vietnam veteran buy whatever he needed for his new companion dog – in addition to a range of other cost-saving benefits.
Most of all, Andrew believes that Pets for Patriots helps cement the bond between a pet and his – or her – adopter.
“It’s a good organization and they do a lot of checking, making sure everything is going good between you and your new friend,” he says. “If you have problems with your adopted animal, they will work with you.”
The Vietnam veteran and little rescue dog had a relatively uneventful adjustment period. For his part, Scooby gives Andrew something that had been missing since the death of his Labradoodle.
“He has made me feel needed,” Andrew says. “I just hope I can live longer than Scooby so I can give him the best life a dog could ever have, and when he passes on he can brag in heaven.”
“A reason to live”
The Army veteran has gone from watching too much television to having an enthusiastic partner who wants to go with him everywhere. The pair even rode in Andrew’s PT Cruiser in his town’s Memorial Day parade.
“The thing I love best about him is he loves car rides, and I love to take him for rides or wherever I go,” says Andrew. “If the garage door is open and I let him out, he runs right to the passenger car door and sits there.”
Even Scooby’s occasional slobber isn’t a problem.
“I don’t mind that he messes up the windows and messes up the back,” he says, “or jumps in the front passenger seat and tries to get into my lap.”
The little dog is a big hit in the community, too.
“The neighbors all like him and the neighbor’s dog likes him too,” Andrew observes, adding, “although he keeps eyeing the rabbits next door.”
In the end a little adult rescue dog named Scooby got a person of his own, and a Vietnam veteran mourning the loss of a trusted friend is lonely no more. Every adoption truly saves two lives.
“I am happy I adopted Scooby, we might have been made for each other,” Andrew says. “We both like to curl up on a nice chair, with a blanket and snooze…he is my friend and buddy.”
Yet Andrew suspects that his adopted dog has an even more noble purpose.
“He gives me a reason to live and take care of myself, so I could take care of him.”
How does your pet give your life new meaning?