Marine veteran eases loneliness and loss with rescue dog

Marine veteran eases loneliness and loss with rescue dog
Of love and loss

Ron is a Vietnam veteran who lost his way when his beloved Weimaraner of 10 years passed away from cancer. He decided to give a rescue dog a new leash on life after enduring months of crushing loneliness. 

From 1967 to 1970, Ron served in the United States Marine Corps as a combat engineer. He was stationed at Camp Lejune in North Carolina and given schooling for demolition, as well as construction and rebuilding. He then served on the USS Monrovia off the coast of Africa prior to being deployed to Vietnam.

After his tour of duty was over, Ron decided it was time to head back home and continue with the family business.

If I had a hammer…

Ron has a long family history in carpentry and construction work. His grandfather came to the states from Italy and was a mason. Both his father and now his son have been involved in the same line of work.

After separating from service Ron returned to his native Brooklyn to pursue his career in carpentry. But after 9/11, he lost some friends in the attacks and decided to retire early – leaving city life behind.

The Marine veteran moved his family – wife, son and daughter – to start a new chapter in Pennsylvania.

After the couple’s children had grown the pair decided to start another adventure by moving to Florida. To date they have survived three hurricanes. They feel lucky for having had minimal damage and no need to evacuate. However, Ron’s wife has been encouraging a move farther south to her native Puerto Rico, where they visit her family frequently.

Search for a gray ghost
Marine veteran eases loneliness and loss with rescue dog

Ron remained terribly lonely four months after losing his senior Weimaraner to cancer. He loved the breed and was determined to find another, but was committed to his next pet being a rescue dog. 

The Weimaraner is often called a “gray ghost” due to the coloring of its sleek coat. 

Big Dog Ranch Rescue saves all types of dog breeds, both large and small. However, they tend to save a lot of Weimaraners, making them the ideal place for Ron to start his search. The Vietnam veteran believes strongly in companion pet adoption.

Since 2012, Big Dog Ranch Rescue has partnered with Pets for Patriots and offers veterans in our program a deeply discounted adoption fee of $50.

Ron took notice of Smokey on the rescue’s website. The then four year-old blue Weimaraner had been homeless for several months and was severely underweight. But something about Smokey inspired the Marine veteran to drive nearly 300 miles to meet him.

“I knew I wanted a blue, and seeing Smokey online was love at first sight,” he says.

Big Dog Ranch Rescue told Ron about their partnership with our charity. He learned about our mission to make pet guardianship more affordable for military veterans, and save the most overlooked homeless dogs and cats.

Ron applied to our program and was promptly approved. As a result, Big Dog Ranch Rescue reduced Smokey’s adoption fee by hundreds of dollars.

“His adoption fee was $450. Gratefully they reduced his adoption fee to just $50,” Ron says. “Either way I was bringing him, so money was never an issue.”

The Marine and the rescue dog

The Vietnam veteran brought Smokey home the very same day he met him. 

There were some problems at first, as is often the case with any rescue dog or cat. But Ron was determined to overcome any challenges. He made a commitment to save the big dog’s life.

Smokey was underweight and full of worms. He displayed fear aggression towards unknown dogs.

Marine veteran eases loneliness and loss with rescue dog

These behaviors may be attributed to Smokey’s life prior to rescue, about which little is known. And it can take weeks – even months – for an adopted animal to feel secure in his new surroundings. Fortunately there are basic actions any adopter can take to minimize their pet’s stress.

For nearly a year Ron worked with Smokey to overcome his fears. The dog is now a solid 80 pounds of muscle, goes for walks three to five times a day, plays with toys, and – most importantly – never leaves Ron’s side. Smokey has even discovered a love for peanut butter, as well as some fruits and vegetables.

Above all, the big rescue dog has embraced his new life with Ron – and the feeling is mutual.

“He’s just so good,” Ron says. “He just loves everyone.”


  1. Alyson

    Thank you for your service – and for rescuing Smokey!

  2. Mary Eaton

    All it takes is one hand reaching out for another…..or paw, as the case might be. Thank you for sharing and sending smiles our way.

  3. Christine E

    Weimaraners are great dogs. When I was a kid, I babysat two for an entire summer while my neighbors were traveling. They were so sweet, but a handful, especially the male! I have never forgotten them and have a resulting soft spot for the breed. I’m so glad that you found Smokey and you help each other out. Guess that’s what this program is all about.

  4. John A. Smaldone

    Great story, great dog and a great marine! Can’t get a better combination than that!

    Ron, so happy Smokey filled your void and visa, versa, he is a beautiful Weimaraner and the two of you look great together!

    God speed Bro,


  5. Sarah Williamson


  6. John Ward

    Look at the smile on Smokey’s face – and on Ron’s, too! Well done, Marine!

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