Mike is a young Marine Corps veteran who admits he did not know what he was getting himself into when he decided to adopt a dog. But the journey has proven to be a learning experience, both for him and a wayward mutt named Milo.
The few and the proud
Mike always knew that he wanted to serve in the military. Many people around him thought that it was too tough for him, which only strengthened his resolve.
After graduating high school and still a teenager, Mike enlisted in the Marine Corps. He now calls San Diego home despite having grown up in Maryland.
In 2018, Mike separated from service after being stationed for four years in San Diego as an electrician. In this role he did preventative maintenance on diesel generators, and other electrical work vital to military operations.
Currently Mike works for a defense contractor and attends college as a business major.
Life keeps Mike pretty busy. Yet the young Marine Corps veteran finds time to go hiking, spend time with friends, or just relax at home watching movies.
Searching San Diego
Many veterans transitioning from service to civilian life are eager to adopt a pet; Mike was no exception. He did a significant amount of research when he first started the adoption process and learned some hard truths along the way. He was shocked to discover that were a “huge amount of dogs going into the system and not coming out.”
Before Mike was aware of Pets for Patriots he visited a San Diego shelter and adopted a Husky. He would soon learn that she had separation anxiety, and in addition did not care much for human attention or affection.
Still, the Marine Corps veteran craved a more loving canine companion.
So it was with a heavy heart that Mike decided that the two were not a good match. He returned the dog to the shelter.
“Nothing was wrong with her. I still feel bad because I don’t like being that person that just gets rid of a dog,” he says. “She was a great dog, she just didn’t care for people much.”
During a future shelter visit Mike was relieved to see that the dog had already been adopted.
The young veteran wants other prospective adopters to learn from his experience so that they never feel the need to surrender a pet. As a result of this first failed adoption, Mike understands that adopting a pet means making a commitment to that animal for life.
A mutt named Milo
Mike always loved Boxer and Bulldog breeds. So it was no surprise when there was a tinge of love at first sight when he saw a young Boxer mix named Milo at the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services.
The Marine Corps veteran would learn that the shelter partners with us to help place the more overlooked dogs and cats in their care into loving military homes. In exchange, the shelter offers deeply discounted adoption fees in addition to the benefits that Pets for Patriots provides.
When Mike and then three year-old Milo locked eyes there was a definite connection. However, Mike admits that adopting a dog presented a lot of challenges at first.
“It’s a learning experience for both of us,” he says.
Now Mike and Milo are well acquainted. And the big dog adds some welcome unpredictability into the young man’s life.
Lean on me
The mutt named Milo was found as a stray so little is known about his life prior to arriving at the shelter. He had some slight behavioral issues while in their care and was known to snarl occasionally at staff members.
This is not unusual since shelters are very stressful environments for most animals and long-term sheltering can impact their behavior.
Although Mike never observed any aggressiveness, he noticed that Milo can be anxious around other dogs. Perhaps because of his previous adoption experience, Mike is even more committed to making it work with his four-legged charge.
“I felt like I should keep him because I have issues and he has issues, so it was like we compliment one another,” he says. “He knows I’ve got issues and he’s not going to leave me and I know he’s got issues, and I won’t leave him.”
Although not much is known about Milo’s former life, Mike suspects the dog may have been abused. He tends to be anxious, especially so when it comes to loud noises or shouting. Mike admits this makes it difficult to discipline Milo when he misbehaves. But the young veteran is learning how to moderate his own behavior when correcting Milo.
Despite his anxiety, Milo is energetic and loving.
“I would like to think that I’ve shown him that someone can care about him.”
Love and laughter
The pair are becoming more comfortable with one another with each passing day. Mike jokes that he can always hear Milo coming before he actually sees him because of how hard his tail thumps as it wags against the floor.
“He’s a dog, so he doesn’t quite realize that what he’s doing is hilarious,” Mike laughs. “He’s just being a dog, but it’s hilarious to me.”
The once wayward mutt is always looking for a hand to pet him, even if that means nudging Mike’s arm for attention. The Marine Corps veteran says life is “certainly funnier” with Milo in the picture.
But most of all, Milo truly cares about the hero who saved him. When Mike had a recent bout of stomach flu Milo was never far from him, making sure he was alright.
“Okay, I guess you care somewhat,” Mike jokes about his four-legged friend.
In all candor, Mike recognizes that both person and pet have issues to overcome. And now they can grow and heal together.
“Milo is a lot more needy, and I’m a needy person,” Mike admits. “That’s what I needed. I needed someone to need me, and I needed something in return.”