It is not often that you get to choose your own family, but that’s exactly how it happened for an Air Force veteran and a once-stray dog who are helping each other move beyond their sad pasts.
Although Daniel has many friends in Michigan, he has no family apart from the four-legged kind he has chosen to rescue over the years. Having recently suffered the death of his beloved Sheltie dog, Peanut, the Air Force veteran was ravaged with grief.
“Peanut was my perfect dance partner and the prettiest thing that I could call my own,” he says. “When she died I was wrecked.”
In 1969 Daniel enlisted in the United States Air Force and completed his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. He remembers vividly “the hot days and cold nights in January and February” before he received advanced training in radio relay equipment repair. Memorable weather followed him to his next duty station as well; Hurricane Camille made landfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast that August.
During Daniel’s military service he completed Technical Instructor School and was assigned to basic electronics instructor duty. Three years of teaching electronics in the Air Force prepared him for a higher degree in electrical engineering, and he now does contract work as an electrical engineer.
Life imitates art for a Blackmouth Cur
Daniel felt a strong emotional void after Peanut died.
The Air Force veteran started looking for a new four-legged companion at the Michigan Humane Society, where he learned about their partnership with Pets for Patriots and its mission to make companion pet adoption more affordable, and therefore more accessible, for veterans and military personnel. Daniel’s motivations to adopt another pet were compelling.
“[To] fill the emotional void after the death of my Sheltie, Peanut.”
Through the partnership, Daniel received a deeply discounted adoption fee and ongoing discounted veterinary care through the Michigan Humane Society. In addition, Pets for Patriots supplied a generous contribution towards ‘welcome home’ pet food and essentials, in addition to other benefits for saving a program-eligible pet.
Like the dog in the movie, Edison had been living as a stray.
The big dog with the rich chestnut-colored coat was heartworm-positive at the time of his adoption, likely owing to having no one to care for him and provide even the most basic veterinary care. Despite his loveless past, however, Edison is thriving.
“He has had a tough start in life as a stray and many health problems, but is so appreciative,” says Daniel, “and his health is great now.”
Consistent with his breed, Edison is a quick study.
“He does respond to training and wants to please,” the Air Force veteran beams. “It is pleasurable to watch him change.”
The savior and the saved
Life on the streets for any domesticated animal is not an easy one, and many die as a result of starvation, accidents or deliberate acts of cruelty. Edison is one of the lucky ones; he got the chance to put his hard-luck life behind him. As it happens, his adopter was able to move on as well.
“Edison and I rescued each other,” Daniel says – and not only in regards to his loneliness after losing Peanut.
“Edison is very handsome, very exuberant and willful, very affectionate,” says the Air Force veteran, adding, “and un-replaceable.”
Whereas Peanut was “the perfect dance partner,” Edison has quickly become an important source of exercise and socialization for his Air Force companion.
The two sleep together every night, and Daniel brushes or massages Edison every morning. The once-stray dog with the Hollywood name has earned an even more meaningful moniker: “constant companion.”
A promise made, a promise kept
The possibility that Edison might outlive Daniel is not lost on the Air Force veteran, though his own health has improved with the daily exercise his new charge demands.
“I would not like to leave him alone,” says Daniel. “He has had enough hardships in his short life and I’ll make sure his last hardship was indeed his last one.”
Daniel takes the responsibility of companion pet adoption seriously – and advocates for others to adopt since “the benefits for both the adopter and animal are immeasurable.”
The veteran realizes that many hard-luck dogs and cats never get the second chance at life that they deserve, and appreciates how the Michigan Humane Society cared for Edison “until we found each other.” He is equally appreciative of Pets for Patriots “for making it easier to adopt him,” and adds the encouragement to “keep up the good work.”
Most of all, Daniel has been able to honor his memories with Peanut while creating new ones with Edison, and sees the relationship as one of mutual giving.
“Choose to help an animal live a good life,” he says, “and this act returns the same gift to you.”
If you are or know a veteran who would benefit from companion pet adoption, learn more here.