Love conquers all for widowed Navy veteran and abused shelter dog

They say that time heals all wounds, but for John, a widowed Navy veteran, it took a lot of love as well to help a once-abused dog overcome her fears and live the life she deserved.

A waterman joins the Navy

John always harbored a passion for the water and sailing.

In 1962, after graduating high school, John enlisted in the United States Navy as a quartermaster and served for two years active duty before transitioning to the Naval Reserves for another three.  He recalls fondly earlier times when people used the stars to navigate, an art long lost to GPS.  Although he misses those days he admits that he, too, has “sold out” to convenience and technology. John and Kandi

Yet it was not the ability to navigate by the stars that John remembers most; it is the people he met and relationships he forged through his five-year Naval career.

“I met some wonderful people,” he says, “I enjoyed it thoroughly.”  

To this day, John stays in touch with close friends he met through his military service and sees them at least once a year. 

After serving his country on a Navy cruiser, and deploying to such far-flung places as the Mediterranean and the Panama Canal, John disembarked on the West coast and was reunited with his wife and children. The cruiser continued its voyage to Vietnam. 


John started work at a factory to support his young family, but soon returned to school on the G.I. Bill to pursue a career in education. Initially he taught elementary school, but found teaching high school to be his real passion.

The Navy veteran decided to retire after 25 years of teaching and the devastating, premature loss of his beloved wife. She fought cancer for eight years after being told she likely had no more than six months to live. Her death hit John particularly hard since he lost both of his parents to cancer. 

John was widowed, but not alone.

Adopting “the one”

Despite the depth and tragedy of his losses, John found happiness with his granddaughter, whom he cares for during the week, and his rescued feline companion, known simply as Cat.

“I’m just an old man that’s [sic] happy,” he shares, “and I don’t mind being a bachelor.”

John’s granddaughter has found a father in the Navy veteran and even calls him “Dad.” In fact, it is his granddaughter who knew that a big, white and brindle Boxer mix named Kandi was the just the right addition to their small, loving family.

The pair walked into the Humane Society of West Michigan together and, upon seeing Kandi, John’s granddaughter declared their search over. 

“Dad, that’s the one!” she cried out. 

And so it was.

As a veteran, John was eligible to adopt Kandi through the shelter’s partnership with Pets for Patriots. He received an adoption fee discount, a generous contribution towards food and other basics for Kandi, and high quality, ongoing discounted veterinary care from participating veterinary practices in his community.

Love to the rescue

John and his granddaughter took Kandi home, but the big dog’s transition into the family was just a little short of seamless.  

“She ate all my plants!” John exclaims, with the mix of exasperation and understanding of a parent.

The Navy veteran knew that Kandi had a rough start in life. Shortly after bringing her home, he discovered that “she had been struck” and was understandably afraid that John would hit her, too. Yet this man who had endured so much pain in his own life was resolute; he was “willing to invest the time, love, care, and patience that she needed.” 

It took a while before Kandi would come to trust John, but he says, “once she saw I wasn’t going to hurt her, she came right to me.”

Other aspects of Kandi’s prior life would test John’s resolve.

The big dog was not accustomed to being indoors. For the first nine months of her life she ran around outdoors until she was finally caught in Calhoun County, and ultimately brought to the Humane Society of West Michigan for adoption.

Just as the Navy veteran had to earn Kandi’s trust, she had to prove that she could be trusted as well. At first she was crated, but now has full roam of the house. She waits for John to leash her up before going anywhere and, as soon as John unleashes her, Kandi runs right back to the house.

The once-abused dog who roamed the streets was finally home.

“It’s work,” John admits, “and you have to really like dogs.” 

Living by example

John tries to live his life to the fullest, and makes conscientious choices to try and live as healthily as possible. 

The widower believes that the right attitude makes a world of difference. After losing the people he loved the most, he tries to get regular exercise – a task made easier with Kandi in his life – and eat nutritious foods. He does not smoke, especially since his father passed away from lung cancer. And he works hard to instill good values in his granddaughter by providing her the best of care and setting an example with how he lives his life.  

John’s story has touched many people. It is not surprising that a local news station chose to interview him, though this was not his first appearance on television. When he was a young boy John was on The Bible Hour, but this local celebrity could not be more humble.  His only interest is to do right by others and, in so doing, do right by himself.


  1. Marsha Collins

    Wishing you and Kandi all the happiness in the world. It’s strange how we rescue our pets but if the truth be known, their the ones who actually rescue us. GOD BLESS YOU BOTH.

  2. Jacquie Nichols Mikolaczyk

    Thank you for your service Sir! Good article!

  3. Sara Nolte

    You’re a good man John. So kindly taking in this dog. She will be forever a faithful friend.

    My parents helped me with watching my son when he was young as well. They have such

    a good and close bond. Wishing you many years of love and happiness with your pup!



  1. Pets for Patriots | BlueStar HonorCare - […] There are wonderful adoption stories featured on the Pets for Patriots blog. The photo above  features a widowed Navy veteran and…

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