Love at first sight for disabled veteran and stray dog

Michael and Dixie

It was “mutual love at first sight” for a disabled Air Force veteran battling near-constant pain from advanced degenerative arthritis and the little nine-pound stray dog, aptly named Angel, who brought much needed hope and healing.

Michael was looking for a canine companion to share his life and help distract him from the crippling pain he experiences every day. Because his arthritis makes it difficult for him to lift more than 20-25 pounds, he knew that only a small dog would fit the bill.

The Air Force veteran started his search online, and eventually saw a little dog on the website of the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services, which since 2011 has been a Pets for Patriots adoption partnerDixie (Michael)

Michael decided that he had to meet the then five year-old tri-color Chihuahua, named Angel at the time.

The waiting is the hardest part

It was a Sunday when Angel’s online profile first caught Michael’s eye, but he would have to wait two days for the chance to meet her.

”The shelter is closed Sunday and Monday,” Michael recalls. “I found that the shelter opened at 9:30 Tuesday. I arrived at 10 hoping that she hadn’t been adopted.”

Luckily for both man and dog, Angel was still available.

“As I neared the stall she was in, I noticed that there were three dogs in it,” says Michael. “A black Chihuahua that barked and barked at me even as I petted him and a Dachshund mix who smelled everything. Then there was Angel who was so very happy to see anyone. Ears down and tail wagging.”

The little dog’s sweet disposition charmed the Air Force veteran, who asked for an interaction. The shelter staff brought Angel into a “meet and greet” area. Despite her previous life as a stray, Angel carried herself with a sense of dignity that touched Michael’s heart.

“As they brought her into the interaction area I could tell she was a proud little dog by her stance.”

At first, Angel seemed oblivious that Michael was even there; she was too interested in her new surroundings to notice.

“Angel walked around the area smelling and scent-making, and then noticed me,” says Michael. “She immediately jumped into my lap and started greeting me happily as though she had known me. It was obvious that I had to adopt her.”

Happy dog, happy life

Michael is a changed man and can’t imagine life without his nine-pound bundle of joy.

“She has fit seamlessly into her new home and is now my best friend,” says Michael of his new pet friend, since renamed Dixie. “She has to be the happiest dog I have ever known and is happy to make new friends.”

The pint-size dog has brought big and positive changes to the disabled veteran’s life. Michael and Dixie

“Dixie is very glad to go out for walks and explore all that is around us,” he says. “She has already established her favorite walks, and I am happy to get up and do the exercise.”

The Air Force veteran could not have known that his first pet adoption would be such a transformative experience. In addition to benefiting Michael’s physical health, his canine companion is something of a four-legged therapist, too.

“I find her upbeat outlook a very positive influence on my own life!”

A helping hand, and paw, when it’s needed most

Once adopted and recovering from her spay surgery, Dixie suffered a minor setback when she developed a sinus infection. Fortunately for Michael, the benefits he received through Pets for Patriots helped him afford to give Dixie the care she needed.

“I took her to the veterinarian’s office to have her checked out,” he says. “I was able to afford the addition monies needed to pay for her tests and blood work. It would have been impossible for me to have afforded that without the discount.”

The Air Force veteran has some advice for anyone on the fence about pet adoption.

“Plan to spend the day, and go down to your local shelter and adopt a friend,” the veteran says. “Take your time and pick an animal that appeals to you, and do it! Adopting that animal will make you a hero in his or her eyes.”

Although his arthritis continues to be a daily challenge, Michael still manages to keep up with Dixie. She has brought optimism, energy, and a new sense of purpose to his life. For all that she has given him, Michael is grateful that Pets for Patriots made it possible.

“Thanks to everyone working at Pets for Patriots for helping me adopt my forever friend and allowing me to be Dixie’s pet hero!”

How has your pet’s outlook on life inspired you?


  1. Marianne

    What a wonderful Story of love 🙂

    I wish there would be a lot of people to help and adopt abandoned pets.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    Just want to share about Daring to Love Stray Dogs in Nepal


  2. Deborah Dirk-Haley

    All dogs large and small deserve to have a chance to make a difference in someone’s life. Being a companion and service dog is the best way for animals to show they up to the task that they were meant to be in this world! thank God for those who have the insight to give all dogs their purpose in life!

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