There are seven members in Caleigh’s Marine Corps family, including a hard-luck shelter dog who escaped a life of abuse and now lives a fairytale life.
“We are a family of seven,” she says. “My husband Chuck and I, our two sons Jameson and Jaxon, and our three rescue dogs Cadence, Relli and Big Boom.”
Caleigh serves in the Marine Corps Reserves and, like all military spouses, works hard to keep her family together when her husband is deployed. When she joined Pets for Patriots in 2012 Chuck was on his fourth combat tour to Afghanistan, and she decided to add another rescue dog to her pack.
“We wanted to adopt a dog companion for our dog Cadence,” she recalls, “so we started looking at the rescue group Paws and Prayers in Akron, Ohio and saw the Pets for Patriots symbol that was listed on some of the dogs that were available for adoption.”
Our charity provides various free tools for shelter and rescue partners to promote program-eligible pets in their care, including digital badges that let visitors know a dog or cat is available through our partnership. Paws and Prayers put those tools to good use to increase the visibility of the most overlooked dogs awaiting adoption in their network of foster homes.
The Marine Corps Reservist admits that, at the time, she had not heard of Pets for Patriots.
“I looked more into the cause,” she says, “and it seemed like such a no-brainer for us: rescue the dogs that need us the most.”
Hard-luck life turned fairytale for Cinderella
It was 2012 and Cinderella was a then six year-old dog and victim of prior abuse. The dog had been repeatedly beaten and, even in the years since her adoption, occasionally reveals that her past is never completely behind her.
“She grew to trust us,” Caleigh shares, noting that although “she still has her moments when she shows you her past, she is honestly an amazing dog with an amazing heart.”
Like many animals who endured horrific abuse, Cinderella, mostly known as Relli, shows an incredibly capacity to love. It is this irrepressible spirit that Caleigh and her Marine Corps family find so endearing.
“From what I know of her past she should have no reason to trust or love a human again, but she does. She truly has a heart of gold,” she says. “She just wants to be around us and cuddle and steal every bit of love that we have to give.”
Rescue dogs in Marine Corps family ‘make the day better’
For now, Caleigh is content to have three rescue dogs as part of her very active household.
“There is no better feeling than coming home after a long day and, as soon as you open the door, there are 12 paws and three wiggly tails running for you because they are so excited to see you,” she shares. “They make the day better, whether it is just a lazy dog snuggled up on the couch or a nice long walk.”
And companion pets are good for military children as well. They offer nonjudgemental friendship for these children who experience the unique challenges of military life – including having a parent deploy – yet may not have the skills to cope.
Relli seems particularly tuned into her human brothers, even taking part in some of their daily routines.
“I love when it’s nap time for our boys and it’s her favorite part of the day,” Caleigh says. “She follows the boys right up to their room and snuggles with them until they wake up.”
And they all lived happily ever after
Although Relli’s first several years of life were marked by abuse, the once hard-luck dog is now like a character in a fairytale. She has not one, but two Marine Corps parents, an equal number of adoring little brothers and two other dogs who – like Relli – know what it is like to be saved.
Most of all, she has the undying love of her Marine Corps family.
“What’s not to love about her?” Caleigh asks, rhetorically. “She is such a good girl, and she loves her family. No matter what you’re doing she just wants to be near you.”