Gani wanted his very first dog for what feels like a very long time. The dog he saved would require him to bring all of his caretaking instincts to bear.
Gani serves in the Navy Reserves after having been active duty for six years. During that time the hospital corpsman had the opportunity to be stationed overseas, where he enjoyed some of the most enduring memories of his service.
“I’ve served overseas at US Naval Hospital Okinawa for my first two years after training and finished my contract here in sunny San Diego,” he says. “When I was in Okinawa I worked in the labor and delivery ward and assisted in deliveries, and eventually filled a supervisory role on the floor.”
Once in San Diego Gani was attached to a harbor and port security expeditionary command. His responsibilities involved assisting with personnel medical readiness.
But it was Gani’s service in Okinawa that had the greatest impact upon the young corpsman. It was literally life changing to help deliver babies into the world.
“Being a part of the transformative and intimate moment in a family’s life was undeniably rewarding,” he shares.
Currently the Naval Reservist attends college full time. He is studying to be a chemist and works as a medical assistant on a per diem basis.
Until recently, Gani lived by himself in San Diego. Then his very first dog came into his life.
“I felt that I needed a pet”
By all accounts Gani’s days are busy and fulfilling. Still, something was missing.
The Navy corpsman had long noticed how companion pets enhance our lives. The duty and the joy of caring for another living being was undeniable.
Gani witnessed this firsthand when he served in the labor and delivery ward while stationed overseas. Just like babies, companion pets are totally dependent upon their caregivers.
The young Navy veteran was ready for the responsibility of his very first dog.
“I’ve wanted to have a dog for a few years now and promised myself that I’d adopt as soon as I am able to,” he explains. “I felt that I needed a pet because I saw how fulfilling a person’s life became when taking care of a pet. Of course dogs are the best since they bond uniquely with us humans.”
While cats form strong ties with their people as well, their more independent nature can be mistaken for aloofness.
Pets for veterans
Gani found Pets for Patriots through an internet search, like many applicants to our program. There he learned how we serve veterans from WWII to active duty, from all armed forces, and at any career stage.
“I’m thankful that I came across such an organization,”he says. “After reading about what you guys do it was pretty easy to decide to apply.”
One of the reasons our nationally operating program is successful is because military veterans are naturally suited to pet adoption. Many feel duty bound to help those in need, and are accustomed to the structure and discipline required to care for a companion pet.
Our approach was a good fit for Gani. Not only was the Navy veteran ready for his very first dog, but he felt our program balanced the needs of both person and pet.
“I would hands down recommend Pets for Patriots,” he says. “This program makes the adoption process in favor of the veteran, which is amazing. It’s perfect for someone who wants to take care of an animal who may not have a home to go to, and I feel that most veterans are ready for what it may take!”
The corpsman and his very first dog
In July 2020 Gani was approved into our program. However, it would be another five months before he met his match.
Marty was a six year-old Basset Hound and Labrador mix in the care of our partners San Diego Humane Society. Since 2014 the shelter has waived adoption fees for veterans in our program who rescue eligible dogs and cats.
The organization’s adoption campuses in San Diego, Escondido, and Oceanside all participate in our free shelter partner program.
Adult pets, even seniors, are often a good choice for new pet guardians. Most will have already learned basic manners, are typically housebroken, and are familiar with having lived in a home.
Adopters are often surprised at the vigor of more mature pets. Marty has proven to have quite a lot of spunk for a stocky, mature pup.
“I really enjoy playing half fetch and chasing him around the yard,” Gani says. “Marty really enjoys running and feels that every walk will be a run. This is funny because he’s such a short dog I didn’t expect him to have the energy. He’s also an older dog, a whole 6 years old!”
The long and winding road
Every adoption has its challenges. Fortunately Gani has proven to be up to the task of helping his very first dog reach his potential. Together they are working on the pup’s anxiety around other people.
“Having Marty in my life is a growing and new thing for me. I’ve never had a dog growing up and didn’t really know what it takes to have a dog,” he shares. “It has been an emotional roller coaster because Marty is reactive, and at first I didn’t understand what was going on with him. Now that I’ve learned to train the big boy I feel better equipped in helping him and want to make his life easier for him.”
Reactivity – to people or other animals – is often a sign of a dog who has not been well socialized.
Positive-reinforcement training can help dogs and their guardians learn how to de-escalate situations that cause reactivity. In time, reactive dogs can be taught proper and safe ways to meet and respond to others.
Early on, Gani made a commitment to help Marty combat his anxieties.
“Marty and I, I feel, have been getting to know each other pretty well and I’m growing fond of him as days go by. He is a bit fearful of people and we’ve been working that one out,” Gani says.
“I’m grateful to have him and call him a friend, I know on this journey there’ll be a lot I learn along the way.”
Contrary to the saying, older dogs can learn new tricks. For Marty, that means understanding that the world is not such a scary place. Fortunately he has a guardian who is willing to take the time to help him overcome his fears.
For Gani, his first ever dog continues to be a truly rewarding experience. The corpsman’s nurturing nature is just what Marty needs to thrive.
“I love him to death now and didn’t know I’d have such an attachment to a dog,” he confides. “Some days are frustrating, but it’s a learning opportunity for me to gain insight about what’s going on with him and it’s been great. He’s gotten a lot better and I’m really grateful to have him!”