Kimberly knows that veterans often feel adrift following their military discharge, or when transitioning from active duty to Reserves. Her four dogs help her find renewed meaning in her life – including Lady, an old rescued hound adopted through Pets For Patriots.
In search of a port in the storm
Kimberly’s early years were filled with uncertainty. The family moved a lot and she was always seeking stability.
“I grew up kind of everywhere,” she says. “Pennsylvania, Delaware, Florida. Broken home. I grew up everywhere.”
During her first three years of high school Kimberly was in Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), which she describes as her “foundation for life.” The experience gave Kimberly the structure she sought during her turbulent youth.
However, Kimberly’s plans to enlist in the military were put on hold during her senior year in high school after she gave birth to her daughter. Her uncle was a recruiter at the time and discouraged her from enlisting.
“They’re not going to want you,” she recalls him telling her.
The young mother felt the military was no longer an option, but dreams die hard. A few years later Kimberly enrolled in nursing school and, shortly thereafter, enlisted in the Navy Reserves at age 26.
When Kimberly is activated she works as an intelligence analyst, reading and writing various counterterrorism reports.
Sunrise over Iran
Kim continues her nursing career to this day. She works as an operating room nurse in Richmond, Virginia and her home life is equally busy.
The Navy veteran has two kids, ages 20 and 18, and a 20 year-old stepchild.
“The military has been able to allow me to support them in the best way I can,” she says.
The Reservist has completed two tours of active duty, including an eight-month deployment to Iraq. It was there that Kimberly had her most memorable military experience to date.
“I actually had a really good time in Iraq. It was a really good tour. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we got rocketed, but whatever,” she says, “but that was a really great experience. I met a lot of really cool people and I got to do a lot of neat stuff.”
Kimberly remembers seeing the sunrise over Iran while flying in Iraq.
An old rescued hound named Lady
Before moving to Richmond, Kimberly was forced to re-home her Pit Bull puppy she called her “baby boy.” The dog’s absence left a large void in her family.
“I had to re-home him, and it killed me,” the Navy veteran says. “So then I started volunteering at the SPCA and I didn’t intentionally do it, but I knew I shouldn’t have, cause I knew I would’ve brought somebody home, and I found Lady.”
Since 2012, the Richmond SPCA has partnered with us to help the most overlooked animals in their care find loving homes with veterans. They offer a reduced adoption fee of just $50 and access to their full-service, low-cost veterinary clinic.
Lady had recently been transferred from another shelter in northern Virginia. She was a then six year-old dog – not yet a senior, but certainly a mature pup.
Foxhounds are common in area shelters, Kimberly observes. Some hunters “ditch them” once the dogs age out and can no longer work.
The Navy veteran was moved by Lady’s plight.
“She needed a home. She had been there for a couple months or something like that,” Kimberly says. “She was so sad looking. She needed a loving home.”
Lady had a hard time adjusting to life in the shelter, which is not uncommon for older pets. She was depressed and shy, and refused to greet visitors like some of the younger dogs.
“She was really scared,” Kimberly says. “And she’s an older girl.”
You complete me
Since her adoption in 2017, Lady has made herself at home among the rest of the family. Her new pack includes Kimberly, her husband, three children – and three other dogs, whom the Navy veteran considers to be her children as well.
“Lady just kind of completed the family,” Kimberly says of the old rescued hound.
While no one knows for sure if Lady was a hunting dog at one time, these days she’s all too content to lounge around the house. And that is okay with Kimberly.
“She’s lazy. She’s like my husband,” she laughs. “She’s a good dog. She keeps it balanced. ‘Cause I think, especially now, if I had four lunatic dogs, I’d go insane. So, at least I know she’s consistent.”
Kimberly says Lady is the family’s “chunky monkey.”
“She is fat. We try to make her lose weight but it doesn’t work. But whatever, she’s happy. She’s our old lady.”
Low maintenance lady
As the eldest pup in the pack, Lady can usually be found “creeping” on the other dogs while they play. On occasion the old rescued hound will play along, but is usually content to watch the action from the sidelines of her kennel.
Lady’s main job, according to Kimberly, is keeping the other three dogs in check.
“She loves her food and she’s a chill dog. She’ll grace us with her presence when she wants,” the Navy Reservist says. “She’s low maintenance compared to the other guys. But she’s a character.”
Adding new pups to the pack was initially a challenge for the old rescued hound. She was less than thrilled when Kimberly brought home a Great Dane puppy after returning home from her deployment to Bahrain in 2018.
“It took her a little while to actually come back out and hang out with the family and be a part of us,” she says. “She was really mad when we did that.”
Each one of the family dogs has his or her own story. The Pit Bull mix was rescued by Kimberly’s husband. Lady was adopted. Their Great Dane was brought home after Kimberly’s latest deployment and their other Pit Bull was found wandering in the woods.
Kimberly says all four dogs have their own personalities, but Lady is definitely a character. And she made her initial displeasure known when other dogs joined the family pack.
“It’s funny the personalities they have,” she says. “I’m sure she would have killed us with her looks if she could.”
Older pup with a noble purpose
Although Kimberly was already volunteering at Richmond SPCA when she found Lady, completing the adoption process through Pets For Patriots made things a lot easier, especially with a reduced adoption fee and contributions towards ‘welcome home’ food and supplies.
“My husband couldn’t argue with me,” she jokes.
For additional savings and quality pet medical care Kimberly uses another one of our program partners, the Stratford Hill Veterinary Hospital.
The practice extends a 10% discount on Lady’s care. And with four dogs in her household, every penny saved helps.
In her own quiet way, the old rescued hound has helped her family cope with the loss of other dogs in the household.
Lady filled a void after Kimberly re-homed her young Pit Bull, and navigated Kimberly’s husband through the loss of his dog while Kimberly was deployed to Bahrain.
Having four dogs helps Kimberly find a sense of purpose during periods of transition in her military career. She believes this can be especially hard for veterans, like her, who serve in the Reserves.
“And sometimes when you are discharged, or even just in the Reserves side – going from active duty to a Reservist – is trying to find your purpose all over again. And they give you that extra sense of purpose, because they rely on you.”