It was difficult for Stasha to adjust to life after military service. Thanks to a cuddle-loving Pit Bull in a Virginia shelter the Navy veteran was able to reclaim her life.
From small town to world traveler
Stasha grew up in Roswell, New Mexico, best known as the site of an alleged UFO crash in 1947. She enlisted in the Navy in 2009 to see more of what the world had to offer.
During the course of Stasha’s tours of duty she served aboard the the USS Essex, a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship. One assignment took her to Sasebo, Japan, far from her roots in Roswell.
From 2012 until her separation in 2017 Stasha served with the HM-14 Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron in Norfolk, Virginia.
But it was the last six months of her tour in which Stasha had her most memorable military experience. She was able to serve in the honor guard, known as the ceremonial guard as well.
“While I was at honor guard, one of my favorite BM2s (Boatswain’s Mate 2nd class) lost his fight with diabetes,” she shares. “I was honored to be able to perform my duties at honor guard and be the petty officer in charge of his funeral. It was a powerful and humbling moment in my career.”
“…the best decision I’ve ever made”
The transition from service to civilian life was rough for Stasha, as it is for many veterans. For eight years all she knew was the rigor, discipline, and camaraderie of military life.
In an instant, all of that was gone.
Companion pets can help, but some veterans do not always consider how a four-legged friend might improve their lives. That was the case with Stasha.
“I realized I was letting myself get too lax with life. I wasn’t always taking care of myself, some days I didn’t want to get out of bed,” she confides. “My boyfriend suggested getting a dog for my mental and physical health. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Getting by with a little help from friends
Stasha started her search at the Virginia Beach SPCA, which has partnered with Pets for Patriots since 2012. The shelter offers our veterans discounted adoption fees and access to their low-cost veterinary clinic without proof of income eligibility.
It was a search that did not last long. Within days of being approved into our program the Navy veteran was smitten by a cuddle-loving Pit Bull named Max.
Although Max was just a year old at the time, he weighed over 40 pounds and met our adoption criteria. The big Pit Bull had been homeless for about a month and has captivating eyes – one blue, the other brown.
Sadly, Pit Bulls suffer from an unjust reputation as vicious dogs. There is not even a single breed known as a Pit Bull. In reality, bully breeds are sweet, loyal family pets.
Due to misperceptions about these types of dogs more shelters are banning breed labeling altogether.
Staff at the shelter told Stasha about Pets for Patriots and all of the benefits available to her if she adopted a pet through our partnership. The Navy veteran was sold.
“I hadn’t even heard of the program until I was told about it at the SPCA,” she says. “I went online to qualify and was so happy I did. I was able to get Max within a few days!”
Cuddle-loving Pit Bull to the max
Dogs and cats who endured homelessness seem to be uniquely grateful for a home. And their gratitude and abiding love can change a person’s life. The big rescue pup did just that for Stasha.
“Max has made my life so much more fulfilled. He is a loving pet, just a cuddle bug!”
Max eased Stasha’s transition back to civilian life as well. He comforts her when she is sad or frightened and keeps her active, physically and emotionally.
Like many companion pets who bond with their guardians, Max is sensitive to Stasha’s every mood.
“He sleeps with me and when I wake up from a nightmare,” she explains, “he licks my face and snuggles me.”
In fact, studies have shown that dogs are highly attuned to their guardians’ emotions. Their desire to please often translates into finding ways to help if their person seems to be in pain.
Stasha’s cuddle-loving Pit Bull is no exception. Max often finds ways to keep her busy so that she does not dwell on her troubles.
“He loves to go for road trips and enjoys walks and runs,” she shares. “He helps me stay active, even on my worst days.”
The best of times, the worst of times
Max helped Stasha get her life back on track. The Navy veteran just graduated from college, earning an associates degree in human services. Recently she moved to Maryland with Stasha’s new boyfriend, who is equally smitten with the big, snuggly Pit Bull. The pair “play together all the time.”
But it is Stasha to whom Max means the most. He came into her life when she needed to bridge the military and civilian worlds. The big rescue dog grounds her and lets her know that everything will be alright.
“He always knows when I’m not feeling good and cuddles me extra,” she says. “That, and his eyes. He has so much expression when he looks at you.”
By all measures Stasha leads a purposeful life. She gave eight years of selfless service to her country. Her new college degree will increase her employment potential. And the Navy veteran has a new love in her life who cherishes her cuddle-loving Pit Bull as much as she does.
“It’s the best decision I’ve made ever,” she says defiantly. “I couldn’t be happier with my buddy, who helps me make it through the worst times.”