Marine veteran’s tough love helps neglected dog overcome his past

David and Toby

It’s taking all the discipline and tough love of one Marine veteran to help a long-neglected dog live the life he was meant to have.

Toby is a Labrador/Pit-Bull mix who led a literally sheltered life before his adoption. Crate-bound for nearly two years, he was rescued from this inhumane existence by Paws and Prayers dog rescue in Ohio.

Little did Toby know that it would be a hardscrabble Marine Corps veteran who would help this homeless mutt learn the true meaning of love.

One of the few and the proud: a Marine to the core

Seeking a family nature didn’t provide for him, David joined the Marines as soon as the law would allow and dedicated four years in the Air Wing as a mechanic. He maintains a tie with that part of his life by serving as a member of the American Legion Honor Guard’s casket detail.

“It’s a rewarding experience, and a humbling one,” says David. “It is my great privilege serving with the Honor Guard to present the American flag to the family of the veteran. I’m proud to have that connection to the Marines and to represent them in this way.”

David credits his time in service for providing the discipline that helped him mature; it gave him an appreciation for structure as well. Those lessons came in handy when David and his wife, Nita, decided to save a homeless dog following the death of their beloved dog of twelve years.

Saving a life with lessons learned through military service

After losing their dog shortly before the holidays, David and Nita knew their empty nest was lacking. They wanted to offer a home to a dog in need of the love and companionship that they themselves enjoyed with their previous family pet. David and Toby

As luck would have it, Toby presented the perfect opportunity for the couple to save a life and bring much-needed joy back into their home. The then two year-old dog’s sweet demeanor and the opportunity to save him was all David and Nita needed to set Toby free from his previous life of confinement and neglect.

David adopted Toby through a partnership with Pets for Patriots and a local rescue, Paws and Prayers. Doing so allowed David to receive the 50% adoption fee discount and lifetime discounted care for Toby through the charity’s partnership with Buckeye Veterinary Clinic.

As an adult dog and topping 40 pounds, Toby more than qualified for Pets for Patriots’ nationwide program, which inspires the adoption of at-risk shelter animals by veterans and active-duty service members through various financial incentives to make companion pet adoption more affordable.

Toby enters basic training

Nita smiles when she thinks about Toby’s first few months in his new home.

“It’s so nice to have a dog again,” she says, but acknowledges his challenges, too.

“He’s a handful, but a good one,” she laughs. “He’s like a 300-pound gorilla when he comes running at you. He loves running really fast in the big fenced back yard and racing through the doggy door,” adding, “We’ve learned how to turn to avoid a collision.”

The freedom Toby now enjoys has paved the way for some needed training and discipline, something David understands and values from his time with the Marine Corps.

The pair have completed a round of obedience classes and look forward to more advanced work in the fall. David knows that the relationship formed through a regular routine of training will help Toby build bonds of trust. He credits his service with the Marines for instilling discipline in his life and, through it, confidence and purpose.

David believes that same focus will help Toby leave behind a life of neglect and isolation, and develop the confidence he needs to come into his own as a faithful companion.

These days, Nita would just like to see Toby and Molly, their twelve year-old cat, get along. Fortunately for Toby, his new mom is philosophical about it all.

“We’ll try to work on it,” she says, knowing that all rescued pets are works in progress.

How has your pet’s personality emerged in the months and years following adoption?


  1. Kolleen

    This is a wonderful story. We need more examples of humans being a positive roll model for all creatures! 🙂

  2. Peggy

    We have moved since we adopted our dog through, Pets for Patriots. Cinnamon has developed into a more confident dog. At first she was very skiddish and barked at every sound. Now my husband can do just about anything such as, sawing, pounding, even mow the lawn, and she won’t bark. One thing we have found out that if my husband is home and I am not, and a stranger comes to the house, Cinnamon will not bark. If I am home, even with my husband here, she will bark continuously. That makes me feel safer. My husband found it funny. In our different house, it is much bigger than the other one and Cinnamon loves to be able to run around inside and she has a much bigger yard also.

    As for her temperament, she is so loving. She will jump up on my lap and put her paws on my shoulders and lay her head next to mine. Then she will roll over like a baby so I can rub her belly. She is exactly what I have needed to help with my empty nest and since we got her we had to have our other dog put down. Her name was Brandi and she was almost 14 years old. So having Cinnamon helped through the grieving period for Brandi. She also loves the grandkids when they come over. She whines and jumps around until they come in and pet her. I love her so much!

    • Beth Zimmerman

      Peggy, thanks for sharing! We’re delighted to know that little Cinnamon has added so much joy to your life and to Christopher’s, and is even a good watch dog to boot!

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