Music-loving pup helps Marine Corps veteran transition to civilian life

Music-loving pup helps Marine Corps veteran transition to civilian life

Originally from Chesapeake, Virginia, Robert is back home coping with the transition to civilian life after serving six years in the United States Marine Corps. Part of this new, yet familiar adventure is a four-legged, adopted buddy named Delilah.

How the Marines made the man

Robert had a quiet, small town upbringing, but got into a bit of trouble in high school. After much deliberation he decided to graduate early and join the Marines. He felt a little lost, like so many teens do as they move from adolescence into adulthood.

“I didn’t know where I was going,” he shares. “I didn’t have money for college so I went to a recruiter.”

On November 5, 2012 Robert enlisted in the Marines. Over the course of his six years in active duty service he traveled throughout the United States and was stationed in Florida, California, and now Virginia. At first he served as a digital wide band and repair technician, and currently works on computer systems.

Robert cites traveling and the opportunity to make many friends as the highlights of his military career.

Life takes an unexpected turn

Towards the end of the young Marine’s tour of duty his father fell ill. The military allowed him to transfer home and join the Marine Corps Forces Reserves so that he could be closer to his family.

While Robert has no regrets about relocating so that he could care for his father, he admits to missing many aspects of being an active duty Marine.

“I miss the guys,” he says. “The good old days are behind me, I guess.”

Navigating the transition to civilian life

Lately it seems that Robert’s life is one big change after another.

The young Marine and his fiancée, Nicole, are planning a summer wedding on the beach. They hope it will be an opportunity to reunite with family and friends who live all over the country.

“It’ll be real nice to have everybody together,” Robert says, with obvious excitement in his voice.

Robert recently purchased a house in preparation for this next chapter in his life. He spends a lot of his free time working on repairs to get the house into shape for when he and his new bride move in. Thanks to his Marine Corps training Robert has a knack for learning how to fix things. And he is enjoying his informal education in home improvement.

Still, the young veteran is coping with even more challenges as he navigates the transition to civilian life. He started to attend college, where he hopes to earn a degree in business administration and management. While Robert admits that he often feels “slammed with schoolwork,” he tries to take it all in stride.

Finding the four-legged love of his life

Robert admits that he had no intention to adopt a companion pet. One day he and Nicole decided to visit their local shelter, the Virginia Beach SPCA. He uttered the words spoken by many people who had no plans to adopt.

“We were just going to look.”

Yet when the couple saw a young Lab mix named Jasmine they fell in love. The shelter told them about Pets for Patriots and the benefits we provide to both veterans and pets in need of loving companionship.

Jasmine met our eligibility criteria because she was just over 40 pounds at the time of her adoption.

Music-loving pup helps Marine Corps veteran transition to civilian life

Since 2012, the Virginia Beach SPCA has made possible scores of adoptions through our partnership. The shelter offers veterans in our program a 25% adoption fee discount and other benefits.

While Robert appreciates all of the cost savings – including those from our partners Animal Medical Center of Chesapeake – there is something he appreciates more. He loves all the stories of other veterans who would not have been able to adopt a companion pet without our program’s support. 

Delilah adjusts from homeless to home

On the way home Robert and Nicole were thinking of different names for their new pup. The song Hey There Delilah came on the radio. The discussion was over.

From that moment forward Jasmine would be their Delilah. And she, too, has big changes in her life.

Like every rescued shelter pet, Delilah is learning how to live in a home as part of a family. All of the sights, sounds, and routines of her time in the shelter are gone. They are being replaced with new and wonderful experiences, and an abundance of love from everyone who meets her.

One member of the family is particularly smitten.

“My dad’s falling in love with her,” Robert says.

The young Marine believes that Delilah has given his father a sense of purpose during his illness. She brings him happiness by showering him with affection when he needs it most. It is as though she can sense that he needs an extra dose of four-legged love.

A man and his dog

Robert has his own special moment with Delilah that is theirs – and theirs alone.

After her spay surgery Delilah was uncomfortable and not feeling well. Robert began to sing the song to her that inspired her name, Hey There Delilah. He noticed how much it soothed and calmed her. Now, he sings it to her all the time.

“She just melts,” he says. “That’s my one moment with her. That song really made her feel comfortable.”

While Robert is touched by Delilah’s reaction to her song, he is amused by her demands for attention. When Robert tries to kiss his fiancée, Delilah jumps on him until she gets a kiss as well.

The young Marine veteran faces his transition to civilian life with mixed emotions. Fear and sadness in the wake of his father’s illness. Joy at his pending nuptials. Pride in his new home ownership and mastery of school coursework. And then, hey – there’s Delilah. 


  1. Archie Puff

    What a beautiful story. I love animals and it breaks my had to learn how so many of them undergo abuse and finally end up being euthanized. Rescue stories with happy endings fills me with so much joy!!! Good luck to Robert, Nicole & Dalilah as they moved forward as a family. God bless you guys

  2. itpro

    Thankyou for this post. Its very inspiring.

  3. Mary Eaton

    You’ve got a lot going on this new year. Remember to take a deep breath now and again. Thank you for your service and finding that you had the energy and willingness to add a new member to your growing family. Delilah maybe fills a void that you weren’t aware you had. Her happiness shines as much as yours in the pictures!

  4. Laura

    I agree! Wonderful story. I was in the military for over 27 years and right now could not function without my dogs! I was so used to having so many people around that retirement at times has been extremely lonely. They give me the sense of vision and mission. Without them I would feel empty at times. Good luck to all three of you! Your adventures in love and life awaits!

  5. Tori Mason

    Amazing story but even more of an amazing man! I love you Robert and so proud of you. Went from my annoying little brother to one of my HEROs. Give my niece-pup an extra treat for me.

  6. Alyson

    Thank you for your service – so glad that Delilah has joined your wonderful family. Love that she enjoys her song!

  7. Panda Johnson

    What a wonderful story, for all 3 of them! Congrats to Robert and Nicole on their upcoming wedding, and thanks to them for being the perfect couple to show Delilah what real love and family can be. God Bless you all, and prayers for Robert’s dad.

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