David realized that his adopted senior dog did not enter his life by mere chance. She was sent to fill his home and heart after both were left empty by the loss of another beloved pup.
Navy veteran with a heart for homeless animals
After being injured on base and medically discharged from the Navy, David settled in Greenacres, Florida. He has lived there since 2004, the same year he met his wife Valerie when they both worked for the same company. Although David was born in New Jersey, he has lived in Puerto Rico, San Diego, and Las Vegas before “putting down roots” in South Florida.
Despite moving many times during the course of his military and civilian lives one thing about David has never changed: his passion for homeless animals.
“I love animals,” he says, “and so many dogs need good homes. Especially the older dogs. They are so great to have, they are funny and loving.”
The chicken-loving Chihuahua
In 2012 David and Valerie fostered Jazzy, an eight year-old hurricane refugee who had been diagnosed with cancer. An employee at the animal welfare organization told the Navy veteran about their partnership with Pets for Patriots and our mission to help military veterans adopt the most overlooked homeless pets.
“Despite Jazzy having cancer we decided to adopt her,” says David, who describes the Chihuahua mix as “a fighter.”
“She lived four years despite cancer, heart disease and lymphoma,” he shares. “She brought me so much happiness with her sweet personality and fighting spirit, and she’d harass us every weekend to take her out to eat chicken. She lived for it and we did too.”
During the last two years of her battle Jazzy was a recipient of our hero fund for veterinary care. It helps dogs and cats adopted through our program receive life-extending medical care when they have extraordinary needs. Throughout her illness, Jazzy enjoyed visiting a local restaurant with David and Valerie, where she dined on her favorite meal: chicken.
Jazzy lost her fight in October, 2016. During the four years since her adoption she showed David the value of saving a senior pet. Little did the Navy veteran know that he would be doing it all over again.
Along came Abby
David and Valerie felt lonely and lost following Jazzy’s passing. Their little adopted senior dog had brought so much joy into their lives. Their other rescue dogs seemed sad as well without their littlest charge ruling the roost.
A few months passed. David and Valerie continued their volunteerism at Big Dog Ranch Rescue. This is the same rescue where the couple had originally met, fostered, and ultimately adopted Jazzy. In 2012, the same year they adopted Jazzy, they met Abby – one of Jazzy’s kennel mates.
Abby was subsequently adopted by a 91 year-old woman around the same time that David and Valerie adopted Jazzy.
Now four year later, the elderly woman could no longer care for Abby. She surrendered her to another one of our partners – Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League – and let them know that Abby was originally adopted through the Big Dog Ranch Rescue. The rescue arranged to reclaim Abby.
The Navy veteran recognized the little, older dog. In fact, in many ways she looked a lot like his beloved Jazzy. The couple decided to foster Abby in late January; by mid-February David and Valerie adopted her.
“She is so bubbly and loves to go for walks. She loves to give kisses,” he says. “She makes us laugh and smile all the time.”
Valerie believes that it was something of a small miracle that Abby was available for adoption. She credits Jazzy and another departed dog, Star, with bringing the little dog into their lives.
“She has really raised our spirits. We know Jazzy and Star sent her.”
Adopted senior dog follows in Jazzy’s pawprints
Abby is a little spitfire, much like Jazzy before her. She was already a senior by the time she joined David and Valerie, but Abby does not let age slow her down.
“She is goofy, and very active for a seven year-old Chihuahua mix,” David says. “She dances whenever there is food and is always super excited to get fed.”
While Abby is not picky about food – she loves whatever she is fed – she is particular about her toys. The Navy veteran shares that his adopted senior dog will only play with her Lamb Chop toy.
Once again, David’s home has a spirited, senior dog calling the shots. Taz and Emma, the couple’s other rescue dogs, were quick to accept their newest dog sister. Perhaps Abby reminded them of Jazzy, too.
For the love of rescue dogs
It has been an honor to have David in our companion pet adoption program for military veterans. In so many ways, he represents the true spirit of our mission and work. He is dedicated to adopting pets, not buying them. He is drawn to the more overlooked animals – in his case, senior dogs. And David and Valerie know that when they adopt a pet, it is forever. Even through the trials of canine cancer.
It seems that the feelings are mutual.
“This is an amazing program. First they help to match homeless pets with a veteran who sometimes doesn’t even realize they need a pet,” David says. “Pets for Patriots stays in touch to see how you and your pet are doing.”
The Navy veteran recounts how our donors came to the rescue when Jazzy’s health was ailing.
“They will try to provide financial help if your pet gets ill, this is done by donations from their supporters. They helped us with Jazzy’s heart condition and lymphoma bills, and the support and prayers from the supporters on Facebook made such a difference.”
David knows the joys of not just one adopted senior pet – but two. Both Jazzy and Abby followed a similar path in their hardscrabble lives. Both ended up at the same rescue, sharing the same kennel, and eventually the same special people.
In the end, the Navy veteran believes that he gained immeasurably from pet adoption.
“Pets bring you so much joy and they get you out of bed and out of the house, they give you unconditional love and constant companionship,” David says. “They’re so good at knowing when we need a extra lick or nose nudge to say, ‘hey I’m here, you are not alone.'”