Chip was a chronically homeless Pit Bull mix waiting for his hero in an upstate New York animal shelter. Luckily for this last chance pup, a Marine Corps veteran used his trademark grit and determination to give him a second chance at life.
Life has been a series of goals for Jim. He grew up in Scotia, New York, where he led an athletic childhood playing football, tennis, and wrestling.
Even as a child Jim was ambitious. He worked several small jobs as a kid, including as a paper boy. His family was big and busy, and always included dogs, cats, and rabbits, too.
Jim’s love of animals would follow him throughout his life. Many years later his own household would be home to a chronically homeless Pit Bull who came into his world when he needed him most.
One day during his senior year Jim accompanied a friend who was joining the Marine Corps delayed entry program. Enlisting in the military was not on Jim’s radar, even remotely. However, meeting the recruiters that day would turn out to be fateful.
The teen took the ASVAB – a military aptitude test – and scored quite high. It qualified Jim for some plum jobs if he were to enlist. He decided to train as an air traffic controller, a role that was in high demand at the time.
Jim grew up in a family that valued and encouraged higher education. He was the eldest of four children and his decision to join the Marines was unexpected. Still, he stuck to his conviction that this is what he wanted to do.
“I guess I always had a strong personality and once I made a decision to do something,” Jim explains. “I made the decision right there. So whether it was athletics, relationships – any aspect of life – I have a decisiveness.”
After graduating high school Jim entered the Marines. He was just 17 years old.
In August 1983 the young teen entered bootcamp, followed by air traffic control school in Millington, Tennessee. He graduated first in his class and earned a meritorious promotion. By 1989 he was a master sergeant, and would serve a total of six years active duty before separating from service.
Life in the Marines was good to Jim, and provided many lessons that would inform him throughout his life.
Two years of Jim’s enlistment were served in North Carolina at River Air Station, a helicopter and main infantry base. At 21 years of age – halfway through his tour of duty – he married his high school sweetheart, Sue.
The couple relocated to Kaneohe Bay Marine Air Station for Jim’s next duty assignment, which he describes as “a three year honeymoon.”
“I think for us, being a newly married couple, those three years in Hawaii were just spectacular. You live on base, we had military friends, we had a lot of civilian friends. My wife worked in a very nice restaurant in Honolulu,” Jim recalls. “We refer to those years often. It really was just a wonderful experience.”
Both River Air Station and Kaneohe Bay were home to mobile air traffic control squadrons. Their primary purpose was to set up air traffic control facilities in hotspots anywhere in the world – in under 48 hours.
Thankfully Jim served during peacetime. Still, he deployed for various training missions, the most significant to South Korea for joint military exercises.
The experiences and lessons Jim gained from his service in the Marines continue to inform him to this day.
“If you’re a sergeant in the Marine Corps, you’d have to do training and take younger Marines under your wing,” Jim explains. “So those formative experiences definitely applied to subsequent things.”
Busy, busy, busy
Jim ran an investment club when he was stationed in North Carolina and knew that someday it would figure into a future career.
After separating from service in 1989 Jim and his wife traveled back to New York by car, visiting family along the way. Upon their return Jim set about writing the next chapter of their lives.
For a few years the Marine Corps veteran worked for a wire house brokerage. In 1994 he started a financial planning and investment advisory firm of his own. People in his orbit were impressed by his confidence and professionalism.
“That was all military background, of having competence and presenting myself in a strong way,” Jim explains. “And being an air traffic controller, I’ve always been able to speak clearly and concisely, and with strength and conviction.”
Still, Jim recognized that his upbringing had as much to do with his comportment as his military career.
“I was brought up to speak well and communicate clearly with teachers, with my parents,” he says. “But the fact is that’s part of the Marine Corps – stepping up that backbone.”
Other people in Jim’s hometown took note of his steady hand and involvement in community service. He was encouraged to run for mayor.
The young veteran was just 29 years old. He ran – and won – on a platform of fiscal responsibility, cleaning up local parks, and revitalizing the city’s downtown.
During his four-year term Jim and his wife welcomed two children, and he was active in the YMCA. He ran for re-election and lost.
“I was very, very busy,” he says. “So it was really a blessing in disguise to lose the election. It didn’t break my heart when I lost and I was proud of what we did during that time.”
Coping with loss
The word retirement is probably not in Jim’s vocabulary.
“I really don’t see myself not working,” he confides. “I’ve enjoyed most aspects of owning a business. I’m definitely in that phase of life where I”m working ‘on my own terms,’ as my wife phrased it.”
Although Jim’s children have since grown and left the nest, it was important to him to be present in their lives when they were young. So many years ago Jim decided to run his business out of a home office.
For more than 20 years he had a financial planning and investment advisory firm. Now he runs a concrete restoration business.
Recent officemates included Millie and Hally, two dogs who tragically died within a few weeks of each other in late 2021. During that same time Jim’s mother, and a good friend and neighbor both passed away.
For perhaps the first time in his life Jim felt adrift.
“I don’t think I realized how hard it would be not having a dog in the house,” he shares.
Jim’s wife, Sue, suggested a short pause before adopting another dog. But James wanted – and needed – that companionship. In December the couple visited nearby Mohawk Hudson Humane Society.
“…up for the challenge”
The shelter offers veterans in our program 25 percent discounts on pet adoption fees and dog training, along with a free bag of pet food. It was there that Jim and Sue met a chronically homeless Pit Bull named Chip who entered the shelter in May of that year.
Truth be told, Chip was not the couple’s first choice. They had never had a male dog nor any type of bully breed. But the big dog’s personality earned him a chance.
“I thought he had a nice disposition,” Jim shares.
Many dogs deteriorate within just a couple of weeks of shelter life. Some develop negative behaviors that discourage would-be adopters.
It is the downside of the so-called ‘no kill’ movement that has the noble goal to save animals’ lives, but too often leaves dogs and cats languishing in shelters for months – even years.
Chip was a big, strong dog who was suffering with severe kennel stress. He was taking anti-anxiety medications that are often prescribed to chronically homeless shelter animals. Jim, however, was undeterred.
“I felt like I was up for the challenge of adopting a dog like him.”
Chip was one such dog.
“I’ve always owned shelter dogs. We’ve had stray cats that we’ve adopted over the years, and it’s because I just feel that there’s too many pets out there that don’t have a home,” he explains. “And Chip, I was willing to accept a challenging dog, which is what Pets for Patriots specializes in assisting and placing the bigger dogs, older dogs, dogs that have been in a shelter for a long period of time.”
The newest granddog
It was near the holidays when Jim and Sue met the chronically homeless Pit Bull.
Jim wanted some insight into how the big dog would handle home life before he made the commitment to adopt. So the Marine Corps veteran made arrangements to foster him.
“We felt pretty comfortable in our home [that] we can keep him separated during the family events, and we were able to do that,” Jim explains. “But it was also important for us to know that he was going to be able to be with family or other dogs, with our kids.”
Perhaps it was fate that Jim fostered Chip during a particularly difficult time in his life. The loss of his mother and neighbor, and the passing of his two beloved dogs within weeks of one another.
“So when I got Chip in December, it was just for me,” he shares. “Not to get overly dramatic about it, but over the course of the winter I think had I not had Chip there with me during the day [it would have been] a significantly difficult winter.”
The end of year holidays came and went, and Chip passed with flying colors. In January 2022 he officially became the newest “granddog” in the family, and Jim’s ever present home office, adventure, and traveling companion.
All that was known about Chip prior to him entering the shelter was that he was found outside a restaurant an upstate New York restaurant with a rope trailing behind him. Jim suspects that the chronically homeless Pit Bull’s early life was spent tied up or confined to a crate.
While at the shelter Chip underwent two surgeries for a piece of string that had wrapped around his tongue and down into his colon. In addition, he was placed on anti-anxiety medication. These are commonly prescribed for long term homeless animals who suffer from ongoing confinement and other stresses of shelter life.
Once their adoption was official Jim brought Chip to our partners Glenville Veterinary Clinic, which offers 10 percent off veterinary fees to veterans’ pets in our program. Over a period of several weeks, and with the veterinarian’s approval, he weaned the chronically homeless Pit Bull off his medication.
Next came six weeks of basic manners training, followed by taking Chip to the beach where Jim likes to stand up paddle in the warmer months.
The pair started to visit the beach a few times each week to get Chip used used to the sights and sounds of that environment. He loves to romp in the sand and will go into the water to chase a ball, but is not much of a swimmer.
“He’s a great little, what I all, a surf buddy,” Jim says.
Still, Chip’s first few months were not without challenge. He had to be introduced to the family’s cats – slowly – and suffered with separation anxiety.
Jim was up to the task. He and Sue found ways to make Chip feel safe and avoid any triggers that would cause him undue stress.
Jim took a bet on Chip that has been rewarded many times over. The once chronically homeless Pit Bull is testament to how love, patience, and training can help a homeless dog overcome a tragic start to his life.
In return, Chip has been a four-legged therapist and always there companion to Jim. It is truly a case of healing at both ends of the leash.
“If I went on a job, he went with me. If I went on an estimate with a client, he went with me.”
Man and dog were at a low point in their respective lives when they met. Jim was reeling from profound losses and Chip was suffering with the stress of prolonged sheltering. Perhaps that helps explain their unusually strong bond.
“I’m one hundred percent all in emotionally with him,” Jim shares. “Part of that because of what I went through with losing the two dogs and my friend. Chip was kind of a part in dealing with that. But also it’s a middle aged guy with my kids out of the house. It’s great having Chip around.”
“…the adoption was a success”
Pets for Patriots follows up with every adopter for a minimum of one year. Jim appreciates our high-touch approach to nurture the person-pet bond.
“Just the whole package is really great,” he says. “And again, the ongoing support and checking in and seeing how things are going with the adoption. They want these matches, these adoptions to be successful for both parties, the animals as well as the veterans.”
Now several months into his adoption Chip is a constant companion to Jim. He has acclimated to the family’s cats and is overjoyed whenever anyone comes to the house.
The big dog’s excitement is contagious. He does a whole body wiggle whenever Jim comes home or when other family members visit.
“He’s a pretty happy dog and that’s something I appreciate the most,” Jim says. “To me, that means the match was a success, the adoption was a success.”
Jim is proud of how far he and Chip have come since their first fateful visit at the shelter. The ability to work from home, and take Chip along for meetings and travel, allowed Jim to devote himself to Chip’s rehabilitation. He appreciates that it is part of our mission to pair veterans with pets who may need a little extra effort.
“More difficult-to-adopt pets find a home with veterans. I think that’s great,” he says.
Both Jim and Chip were at low points in their lives when they met. The once chronically homeless dog needed the effort that Jim brought to bear. And the Marine veteran healed his broken heart by mending Chip’s spirit.
The result is an unbreakable bond, one unlike any other that Jim as experienced before.
“For me,” he shares, “I’m closer to him than I’ve ever been with any other dog that I’ve had.”