Scott grew up in Maryland and always had a dog at home. Little could he know that a stray Pit Bull dog would wander into his world later in life when he had a family of his own.
Life on an aircraft carrier
After community college Scott started to think about a career in aviation. He set his sights on becoming a Naval aviator after a recruiter told him about the NavCad program.
The young recruit was ready to enter NavCad after completing boot camp and Naval intelligence “A” school. He soon learned that the military sends you where it needs you, not necessarily where you want to go.
Scott received orders and was assigned to the USS America battle group and the USS America aircraft carrier in Norfolk, Virginia. He deployed in support of Operation Desert Storm, and performed classified intelligence work related to the ship’s combat operations. But his dreams of being an aviator eluded him.
“During that time, I’m here waiting for orders to go to NavCad as you have to wait for slots to open,” Scott says. “I had to go do a flight physical and related tests with the flight surgeon, and get all of my paperwork ready, did everything. And then to learn the current administration cut military funding. They closed a number of military installations and a number of programs were defunded, one of which was NavCad. I thought to myself, ‘Well, there goes my aviator dream, but hey, I’m on an aircraft carrier.’”
One of Scott’s most enduring memories of his time in the military took place in the North Atlantic Ocean.
The aircraft carrier on which he was stationed was hit by a massive rogue wave.
“It hit the ship which caused the ship to list toward the starboard side,” he recalls. “The wave hit us so hard that the enormous communications and radar mast arms almost touched the water. Imagine an aircraft carrier getting knocked over on its side.”
Out to sea with dreams to fly
While life at sea was exciting, dreams die slowly; Scott still wanted to be an aviator. He considered re-enlistment and received orders to the National Security Agency in Ft. Meade, Maryland. However, two weeks prior to re-enlistment his orders were modified to another military installation.
“Come to find out Ft. Meade was placed on the base closure list and the naval intelligence detachment staff were being reassigned to other military installations,” he says. “So I decided not to re-enlist, but decided against it for many reasons, including the hardship deployments placed on my family.”
During his military service Scott deployed to many far-flung places, including Kuwait, Israel, Bosnia, France, Spain, Greece, and Italy. He crossed the equator, and participated in various operations including Operation Uphold Democracy with Joint Special Operations Command, Joint Task Force 180 off the coast of Haiti, and Operation Restore Hope off the coast of Somalia in Africa.
“I was deployed to Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf, I was deployed to Haiti, I was deployed all over the place. It was definitely interesting and never boring, but I never got that aviation career.”
In August 1995, Scott separated from the Navy with an honorable discharge. He completed his college work and earned multiple degrees. Today he works at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as technical director. He lives in the Maryland countryside with his family, which now includes a dog named Homer.
Unlike most of veterans who adopt a companion pet through Pets for Patriots, Scott did not find Homer at one of our shelter or rescue partners. He happened upon the dog at a local construction site near the family’s home.
After some investigation, Scott and his wife, Charlotte, learned that the dog was a stray. He had been scavenging at the worksite for at least three days.
“My wife was like, ‘Oh my G-d, I love this dog,’ so she gets out of the SUV and goes on over to the dog, and she’s petting the dog, and he’s a Pit Bull,” Scott recounts. “We had a Pit Bull previously for years, and it looked just like our dog Pez who died in December of 2010, right before Christmas while my wife was pregnant with our daughter.”
Scott and Charlotte drove through the neighborhood and posted the dog’s picture on the community Facebook page. When nobody claimed him, they took him home and gave the stray Pit Bull perhaps the best meal he had in a long time.
“The dog looked a little malnourished, so I went ahead and took some steaks out of the freezer and cut up some for him, along with some water,” Scott says. “Oh, he loved that.”
“We have a dog”
It was important for Scott to unravel the mystery surrounding the stray dog he welcomed into his home. The Navy veteran took him to a local animal hospital to see if he had been microchipped; he and Charlotte learned that the dog’s name was Homer. He had originally been adopted two years ago in Baltimore City, about 30 miles away.
The veterinary staff told the couple that Homer was probably abandoned, and appeared to have been infested with fleas.
“They went ahead and gave him a really good bath,” Scott says. “He actually got a little sick and was throwing up plastic food wrappers, most likely from the construction site because he was eating anything he could eat.”
In Scott’s municipality five days is the maximum amount of time that he could legally keep Homer before surrendering him to animal control. The Navy veteran and his wife decided to care for Homer until he was claimed or five days had passed – whichever came first.
As fate would have it, the couple’s six year-old daughter, Cheyenne, had been asking for a dog.
“When she came home from school that day, we picked her up and brought her home and she was all excited and happy,” Scott says. “She started playing with the dog and they clicked. Next thing I know, my wife’s sitting on the sofa and the dog’s sitting up there with her, my daughter’s playing with the dog and I’m thinking, ‘Oh Lord, here we go. We have a dog.'”
Once stray Pit Bull is almost home
The family’s journey to adopt Homer was far from over, however.
Five days came and went and no one claimed the old stray Pit Bull. He would be turned over to Anne Arundel County Animal Control, where Scott learned about Pets for Patriots. Since 2016 the shelter has waived adoption fees for program-eligible dogs and cats adopted to veterans through our partnership.
Scott applied immediately and started working with the animal control team to adopt Homer as quickly as possible.
But there was a hitch.
Pit Bull-type dogs are not allowed to be adopted through the County shelter. Many municipalities have various restrictions on so-called bully breeds. However the shelter works cooperatively with nearby SPCA of Anne Arundel County, which is permitted to adopt out dogs like Homer.
The SPCA of Anne Arundel County has partnered with us since 2016 as well. Like the County shelter, they waive adoption fees for veterans adopting through our program.
In addition, Homer had to be placed on a county stray hold for five days and undergo temperament testing before he could be considered eligible for adoption.
“It killed my daughter,” Scott says. “She cried and cried.”
Charlotte and Cheyenne made daily visits to see the gentle, sweet senior whose life was upended yet again.
“They would go up there and see Homer, and it looked like Homer was in jail,” Scott says. “My daughter was like ‘I wanna play with him,’ and they couldn’t let her play with him because he was on a five-day stray hold. So, my daughter would just sit outside the kennel area and just stick her fingers through and just play with him and talk with him. Every time when we would leave she would cry and Homer would cry and howl, and it was horrible. It was so sad.”
From heartbreak to happy ending
Fortunately Cheyenne’s anguish was short-lived, as was Homer’s. The then nine year-old dog was cleared for adoption a few days after he was transferred to the SPCA.
“That was a few days, so it wasn’t too, too bad, but if you ask my daughter it was a lifetime,” Scott says. “Let me tell you, the day that we brought him home it was like somebody coming back from deployment. Everybody was excited.”
A year later, Homer has adjusted to his new family seamlessly. He loves snuggling with his family on the sofa and makes Cheyenne’s bed his own. The two sleep together at night and are inseparable.
“There’s times when I’ll get up early in the morning and see how they’re doing,” Scott says, “and those two are almost nose to nose. He’s laying sideways and he has his two front paws up and she has her hands holding onto Homer’s paws, which is really cute.”
For Scott’s wife Charlotte, Homer helps fill a void created by the death of their previous dog, Pez.
“It was interesting, it was like Homer chose us because he looks just like Pez, but in a male version,” she says. “I feel like that happened for a reason.”
Scott does not know how the sweet, old stray Pit Bull seemingly picked them, but he knows one thing for sure.
“He was just basically looking for a good forever home, and I think he found it.”