David’s household was already a small menagerie when he visited a local shelter and added a healing hound to the mix.
An honorable experience
David grew up in Roanoke, Virginia in a family that loved dogs and serving their country. When he graduated from high school his family naturally encouraged him to pursue a military career.
“I wanted to serve my country,” he says, “so it kind of worked out great for me.”
However, unlike his relatives who have served in the Army, Air Force, and Navy, David wanted to do something different. So in 1995 he enlisted in the Marine Corps. He was stationed in Oahu, Hawaii for his first tour of duty.
The young recruit served in the motor transport division of the infantry unit. These Marines have wide-ranging responsibilities to uphold policies, guidance, maintenance, and operation of all manner of vehicles, both on base and for operating forces.
In 2000 David opted to re-enlist. He bid aloha to Hawaii, and was subsequently stationed in the nation’s capital as part of a military police unit. His most memorable experience was the solemn responsibility to lower and raise the flag at the Marine Corps War Memorial.
“That was really an honor to have,” he shares, “to be there.”
In time David would deploy to the Marine Corps base in Okinawa, Japan. He appreciated the opportunity to explore a culture and country so different from our own.
“It was great. It was a nice experience, he says. “I learned a little bit of the language while I was there.”
Finally after eight years of service David separated from the Marines to begin his life as a civilian.
David moved back to his hometown of Richmond, Virginia following his discharge. He took the next year off to figure out his plans before starting a new job. In the years since his separation he would marry.
David and his husband had two cats in addition to Harley the Boxer and a black Chow mix named Pugsley.
This great love of pets, especially dogs, arose from David’s fond childhood memories of always having dogs.
The Marine Corps veteran has long believed that it is best to adopt a pet, not shop for it.
“I actually prefer to adopt dogs out of the shelter,” he says, “just because they shouldn’t be in the shelter.”
Eventually Harley passed away and, in 2016, the couple decided to adopt a companion for their remaining dog, Pugsley.
Little did David know that the dog they saved would be a healing hound for him as well.
“…she would not leave my side”
At the time Juniper was a five year-old mixed breed hound dog in the care of Richmond SPCA.
Since 2012 the shelter offers veterans in our program a reduced adoption fee of $50 and access to their low-cost Susan M. Markel Veterinary Hospital without proof of income eligibility. Staff told David about our partnership, and encouraged him to learn more and apply.
During his visit David knew instantly that Juniper was the dog he would adopt. The homeless hound seemed to choose him from the very moment she laid eyes upon him.
The Marine veteran remembers how Juniper came to her kennel window at the shelter. He asked staff to bring her into the room reserved for initial greetings.
“She was looking at me like, ‘take me home,'” he recalls. “And so I spent about an hour with her in the room and finally got her to work her way over to me, and once I did that she would not leave my side.”
David had no need to meet with other dogs. He would adopt Juniper and promptly change her name to Scout.
“Scout was adorable. The first time I met her she was shy,” he shares. “She still is a little shy, but I fell in love with her as soon as I saw her. Like she was the right one for me.”
A sense of belonging
The Marine Corps veteran could have adopted Scout directly and not through our partnership with Richmond SPCA. However, he appreciates all of the benefits that accompany being a member of our program.
“I thin the process is really good. It’s [a] very easy process and I liked the follow up.”
Our team checks in with every adopter for a minimum of one year. This helps us nurture the bond between veterans and their pets and address any normal post-adoption challenges that sometimes arise.
For David, he values the sense of belonging he feels adopting through Pets for Patriots. This sentiment was reinforced by David’s numerous contacts with our director of veteran outreach, Ted, himself a Marine Corps veteran.
“I chose the program because [the name] Pets for Patriots,” he says, “but also all the good stuff they’re doing and hopefully continue to do, and I wanted to be part of it.”
A lifetime of pet guardianship has convinced David that adoption is the only option when people are looking to add a pet to their households. He remains a strong advocate for adopting – and for choosing shelters in one’s own community as well.
“Definitely go look at your local shelters that partner with Pets for Patriots, and give those dogs or cats some times and you’ll find the right one for you.”
Ruler of the roost
No one knows anything about Scout’s life prior to entering Richmond SPCA, but she fit into her new home with ease. The healing hound became the household’s self-appointed overseer, protector, and even peacemaker when needed.
“Scout is like the mom of the pets. All of the pets get along great,” David says.
“So if the other two dogs get out of hand Scout will run in there, make sure they settle down a little bit.”
When she is not running interference inside Scout loves to play in the yard. And while the pet population in the house has changed over the years, Scout remains manager of the menagerie. She rules over fellow dogs Gracie and Kobe, and Atticus the cat, too.
Still, even the most ardent caretakers need someone to care for them. The once homeless, healing hound will seek out David when she wants some cuddle time or her favorite indulgence: belly rubs.
While Scout was initially adopted to be a companion for the other pets and has fulfilled that hope, she is a big comfort to David as well. Her mere presence uplifts the Marine Corps veteran during his more solemn moments.
“When I’m feeling down, I’m just an animal lover, especially dogs,” he says. “She helps me get through some things sometimes.”
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