Oversized lap dog completes Army family

Oversized lap dog completes Army family

With the energy of three young children filling its halls, Mark’s household is certainly a busy one. His active family never felt complete, however, until the Army Captain and his wife made the decision to adopt an overlooked, oversized lap dog named Bells.

Military success and foster “failure”

Mark has been serving in the United States Army since 2003 and is currently an O3, or Captain. When reflecting on his many years of service in the military, he cites deployment as the most memorable experience. 

Now living in Virginia with his wife and three young children, the Army officer and his wife did not hesitate to visit their local shelter – the Virginia Beach SPCA – after realizing they wanted to add a fourth, furry member to their brood. For this family, adopting a companion pet was the only option. 

“We wanted to help the dog as much as she helps us,” Mark explains.

Their search for a canine companion eventually led them to Bells, a three-and-a-half-year-old English Setter mix who had been waiting patiently for a human to call her own. In spite of her cute smile and polite manners, however, Bells could not seem to catch a break – but that all changed the moment she met Mark.

The Army officer was instantly charmed by Bells’ sweet personality. He and his wife decided to foster her to find out if she would be a good fit for their family and lifestyle.

The overlooked, oversized lap dog to made the decision an easy one. After seeing how well Bells behaved around their children and how much joy she brought to their lives it did not take them long to figure out that Bells was there to stay.

Whistling Dixie

Since being adopted, Bells has proven to be an ideal fit for this Army family and a testament to the value of pet adoption.

“Bells is perfect,” Mark says. “We renamed her Dixie, and she is an absolutely perfect dog. She plays well with our children and obeys every command. I don’t have a single negative thing to say about her. We really lucked out with how great she is!”

While many parents opt to bring home a puppy or kitten for their kids, Mark knew that a more laid-back adult dog was the right match for his crew. At the same time he would be saving an animal who faced added challenges simply for being a large, more mature dog.

Oversized lap dog completes Army family

“We got Dixie right before my daughter turned one year old,” he recalls. “It’s been fun watching them grow together. Dixie is very good with all three of the kids and goes on daily bike rides with our family. She especially loves our nightly bike rides where she trots along next to my bike.”

Dixie’s love for her new family is endless, and she has swiftly become a loyal, devoted defender of those who saved her life.

“She is the most loving dog we have had,” Mark explains. “She is active and protective of our family.”

Although Dixie enjoys exercising with her people, she knows when it is time to rest and curl up on the couch for a cuddle. Her mellow moments have proven to be contagious; Mark and his family find themselves more relaxed in her presence.

“She definitely brings calm to our crazy household when she snuggles up on my lap each evening,” he says. “She is a 50-pound lap dog and senses emotions, and makes sure to try to brighten each person’s day.”

Helping pets and veterans

Mark first learned about Pets for Patriots and our companion pet adoption program for military veterans through the Virginia Beach SPCA. The shelter has been both an adoption and veterinary partner since 2012, helping us place more than 200 of the most overlooked, undervalued dogs and cats into loving military homes.

“The VBSPCA is a big supporter of Pets for Patriots,” Mark says. “And they alerted me to this awesome organization. I love the idea that you’re helping both pets and veterans through your organization. My favorite organization I’ve ever dealt with!” 

The Army Captain encourages veterans seeking companion animals to adopt through Pets for Patriots. Veterans are eligible to apply whether they are active duty, like Mark, reserve or separated.

“Definitely do it,” he says. “You would be crazy not to. Thanks to the program, we were able to get some extra benefits and ordered [Dixie] some great food.”

Most of all, Dixie brings a special kind of joy to this Army family. Now saved, this oversized lap dog’s sweet personality is contagious – and Mark cannot imagine not having his faithful friend by their sides.

“She always makes everyone smile, whether our family or visitors,” he says. “She goes everywhere with us. “


  1. VAe LLC

    Awesome story! Glad to hear Dixie is happy with her family!

  2. Lindsay Layendecker

    Great story!!

  3. Lois

    Perfect outcome for everyone including beautiful Dixie! IMO nothing better than children and a dog! Thanks for rescuing!

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