Navy retiree living the life of Riley

For one Navy retiree, the expression “living the life of Riley” is life imitating art, but with a twist.

After traveling the world and then retiring from the Navy in 2010, AJ was happy to find a forever home for his family in an old farmstead in upstate New York.

“I served for 22 years; retired as a Commander. My service experiences included tours on surface warships, in staff positions in Washington D.C., and an overseas tour in Cairo, Egypt.”

That tour in Cairo proved to be AJ’s most memorable experience while serving in the Navy, as he took on the challenge of residing there with his entire family. “When we came back to the United States,” he says, “we knew that we had just lived one of the most interesting and exciting times of our lives.”

Settled into their new life in New York, AJ and his family longed for a family dog. In particular, AJ’s heart was set on a Labrador Retriever, a breed which is usually adopted quickly when surrendered or otherwise taken to a shelter.

AJ was patient.

“We watched for the right adoptee, often making trips to the local humane societies, but leaving without finding the right dog,” he recalls. Every time AJ visited a shelter after seeing a Lab listed on their website, the dog had already been adopted.

Sweet charity

It was during one of those humane society trips that AJ discovered Pets for Patriots: “We picked up a Pets for Patriots flyer and then learned more about the program online. I signed up right away.” 

That humane society was Lollypop Farm Humane Society of Greater Rochester, a Pets for Patriots’ adoption partner located in Monroe County, New York. The shelter offers member patriots a 50% adoption fee discount, in addition to other program benefits, which help the right pets find the right homes while assisting veterans with the overall costs of pet care.

During the member registration process, Pets for Patriots learned of AJ’s strong desire for a Lab and his difficulties in finding one. They reached out directly to Lollypop Farm to request that AJ be given a call when a Lab came into the shelter, but before it was posted online.

Have patience: have what you will

Benjamin Franklin once said, “He that can have patience, can have what he will.”

For AJ, his patience was rewarded with what he had wanted and waited so long to find. Thanks to Pets for Patriots’ request to Lollypop and their willingness to go the extra mile for him, AJ found his Lab in Riley, a five year-old dog found wandering the streets of Virginia and transported to New York for adoption. While AJ had joined Pets for Patriots in September 2011, Riley did not arrive into AJ’s life until March 2012.

“Riley is a heck of a guy,” AJ boasts. “He’s very loyal, and like any Lab, he loves to be close to us. He chases small critters on the farm and even goes swimming! He has a very mellow personality and keeps my wife and me company all day long as we work around the farm.”

AJ goes on to say, “With the dedicated support of Pets for Patriots and (organization founder) Beth (Zimmerman), we met the right dog and knew on sight that he was ‘the one’ for us.”

A forever home for all

Although he is trying to restrain his Lab’s desire to chase wildlife around the farm, AJ remarks, “We love Riley’s constant presence wherever and whatever we’re doing. Riley has fit right in, here in our forever home. He’s brought, and continues to bring, happiness every day. In fact, it’s hard to believe he hasn’t always been part of our family. And we’re honored to make our home his forever home.” 

As for the organization that helped bring Riley into that forever home, AJ has this advice for his fellow veterans or service members who may be considering adopting a dog or cat through Pets for Patriots: “Besides the wonderful concept? Sign up and let Pets for Patriots help you find your perfect match. Their dedication to helping both you and the pets that get rescued is remarkable – and inspiring.”

AJ’s patience was rewarded with a wonderful pet and buddy. What special qualities does your pet have that make him or her worth the wait?


  1. Mark Astudillo, MSCS (SW) ret.

    XO, so great to see you are enjoying the life you so deserve! I too, have the “zoo”- donkeys, llama, zebu, pot belly pig, pigmy goats, TN fainter goats, Pyrenees dogs. Loving life on Yankee Acres in Greenback Tn. I had the distinct pleasure of serving with you for my final duty station prior to my retirement. Wish you all the happiness and joy in your retirement! MSCS (SW) Astudillo (satan), USN Ret.

  2. Hairless Cat

    Hi P4P,

    Sounds like Riley is a great addition to a grateful family.

    A farm is a wonderful place for a dog to romp around – lots of places to play and explore.

    I’m happy for AJs family, which now includes Riley.

    =^-^= Hairless Cat Girl =^-^=

  3. Barbara

    I am so happy that you found a great dog and he will be loved by a family he never had. Thank you for your services. It’s true you wait long enough the right dog will come around.

  4. sharon


    Mt name is Sharon and I live in upstate ny too. My son is in the Army stationed in Co. Springs. He has been in 20 yrs. this month. I am so grateful for people like yourself and him and the service and dedication you give to our country.

    I am pleased that you have finally found a great companion with Riley!!! He looks like my daughters family dog. well once again ty….bless you and yoours!


    Mom of an Army solier


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