Navy veteran eases transition to civilian life with four-legged friend

Melina and Remi

Melina is a Navy veteran struggling to adapt to civilian life. When she was gripped with depression and began to isolate herself, she knew it was time for some four-legged intervention.

Melina lives in Knoxville where she is pursuing a degree in criminology at the University of Tennessee. Her three cats, which she calls her “rambunctious felines,” keep her company while her husband is stationed in Virginia Beach.

It seems like the typical life of a military spouse, but there’s more to this story.

Upholding a family’s military tradition

“My entire family has been in the military and I wanted to follow in their footsteps,” Melina says. She joined in 2006 and served on the USS Bainbridge DDG 96 for four years as a Gas Turbine Electrician. Following a shoulder injury she was moved to the Strike Fighter Squadron VFA-106, where she worked in their tool control room. Melina and Remi

Melina was the first woman engineer to be part of the Small Caliber Action Team, or SCAT, that watched over Captain Richard Phillips during his rescue from Somali Pirates on Easter in 2009.

“I stood watch, with two other women, for over 60 hours until our ship rescued him. It was the first time I could see how my job was going to directly impact a person’s life.”

Post-Navy life not all smooth sailing

Melina admits she was very depressed after she got out of the military.

“It was hard for me to transition. I stopped hanging out with my two friends, and became very secluded.”

She was at home a lot with her beloved cats, but there was not much they could do to get her out of the house. She though a dog might be what the doctor ordered:

“A dog will meet you at the door after a long day of class and work with a smile. A dog will curl up with you on the bed and keep you warm at night, and a dog will love you even when you are having a bad day.”

Melina found out about the German Shepherd Rescue of East Tennessee and decided to volunteer for them. Amy Bryant, the director of the rescue group, set her up with some dogs to foster while she was looking for her own companion dog to rescue and call her own.

From Monroe County, with love

It was through the rescue that Melina heard about Pets For Patriots. She applied and was accepted into the program, after which she immediately started searching for her new pet friend.

It didn’t take long til Remington, or Remi, came along. Remi on the couch

Previously named Mizah, Remington is a large dog who topped the scales at 55 pounds, which meant she met Pets for Patriots’ criteria. She had been adopted and returned to the Monroe County Friends of Animals shelter – a Pets for Patriots adoption partner – where she seemed destined to find Melina.

Upon meeting Melina at the shelter, the first thing Remi did was plant a huge kiss on her face. The Navy veteran knew Remi was the one.

“She was the dog for me,” says Melina. “I like to tell people she saved my life. From that day forward we have been the best of friends. I love showing her off and take her everywhere I can. We feed off each other’s energy.”

Word has spread quickly throughout Tennessee, thanks in part to the rescue group director who gave Melinda her foster opportunities and to the Monroe County Friends of Animals (MCFA), which worked hard to publicize their partnership with Pets for Patriots.

Since MCFA joined as the charity’s first adoption partner in Tennessee,  other partners have followed suit: the Young Williams Animal Center and Loudon County Animal Shelter are new adoption partners, while Monroe County Animal Hospital,  Admiral Veterinary Hospital and Pellissippi Veterinary Hospital have joined as veterinary partners, each offering an ongoing discount to pets adopted through Pets for Patriots. Remi outdoors

Melinda is quick to share her adoption story with everyone she meets.

“I decided to adopt through Pets For Patriots to save a life and the lives of other veterans needing a pet to save. I hoped I would be able to spread the word about the program through East Tennessee, which has a high concentration of military veterans and active duty.”

Captain Remi at the helm

Remi and Melinda are very busy with agility, advance obedience and therapy dog training to prepare the rescued dog for application into the University of Tennessee H.A.B.I.T. Program, where she will hopefully train to become a therapy dog.

“I recommend adopting a shelter pet,” says Melina. “Give yourself a reason to get out of the house, and give them another chance at life. Animals love to please and they will do anything to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.”

Remi keeps Melina active, but most importantly she keeps her laughing. She does the funniest things, whether she is sleeping splayed out on the couch or romping around with the cats.

“I think she is quite the comedian! I don’t think I have ever had a bad day with her.”

How does your pet lift you up when you’re feeling down?


  1. Diane

    What a wonderful dog!!!!!!!!!! Congratulations!!!!! You did the right thing!

  2. Davy

    Great story!

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