Petite pup keeps fear and loneliness at bay for elderly Navy veteran

Petite pup keeps fear and loneliness at bay for elderly Navy veteran

Nancy is a Navy veteran coping with loneliness, unsure if she wanted to adopt a companion dog. But a pint-sized pup she met at a local shelter changed her mind and her life.

Picture perfect

From 1973 through 1978 Nancy served in the United States Navy as a photographer’s mate.

These professional shutterbugs were responsible for ceremonial, aerial, field, and reconnaissance photography, among other tasks. However, photographer’s mate is a job that no longer exists in the Navy.

In 1978 Nancy separated from service and worked as an accountant for the federal government until she retired. And until 2019 she lived by herself in Chesapeake, Virginia, a situation she remedied when she visited her local animal shelter.

“I live alone,” she says, “and wanted a dog to keep me company.”

Little did the Navy veteran know that a petite pup was about to change her world.

Choosing to adopt, not shop

Since 2012 Norfolk Animal Care and Adoption Center has offered half-priced adoptions to veterans who adopt dogs and cats through our partnership. The shelter has made possible more than 100 such lifesaving matches to date.

Nancy was unaware of our program until she visited the shelter in the fall of 2019.

Petite pup keeps fear and loneliness at bay for elderly Navy veteran

Staff at Norfolk Animal Care and Adoption Center told Nancy about the benefits of adopting through Pets for Patriots, including half-off adoption fees.

It was there that the Navy veteran met Oliver, a then two year-old Chihuahua mix who had been at the shelter since the end of August.

Keeping the blues at bay

Nancy was not entirely certain about adopting a pet, but the elderly Navy veteran knew instinctively that dogs make people happier.

It is well established that companion pets reduce stress and blood pressure, encourage regular exercise, and increase social engagement. These physical and mental impacts are particularly important for seniors because loneliness can have profound negative health effects.

A 2020 report referenced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one-third of adults over 45 are lonely. One-fourth of people 65 and older are socially isolated, meaning they have no meaningful social contacts.

Companion pets require socialization and routine, which gives their guardians a sense of purpose.

In our experience, military veterans – who are accustomed to discipline – are well-suited to the daily structure that pets require.

Petite pup to the rescue

It did not take long for Oliver – now known as Ollie – to buoy Nancy’s spirits.

“Ollie is such a joy to have around,” she shares. “I feel safer, and he gives me a reason to get more exercise.”

Petite pup keeps fear and loneliness at bay for elderly Navy veteran

The pair enjoy taking many walks each day, which is healthy for both person and pet. However, Ollie finds ways to keep Nancy engaged even when they are indoors at home.

The pint-sized pup has a favorite toy monkey and he loves playing ‘keep away’ with Nancy. He trots around with the toy in his mouth and tries to keep her from snatching it from him.

Nancy admits that she was unsure about adopting a dog, even though she had been lonely. She knew it would mean committing to that pet’s care for life.

People who are not prepared for that responsibility should not adopt, but perhaps consider fostering or volunteering instead.

But the Navy veteran made the right choice for her lifestyle and has no regrets.

“Things are great. Ollie is such a great dog,” she shares. “I hesitated about adopting a dog, but I’m so happy I did!”


  1. Alyson A.

    Thank you for your service. I’m so glad that you and Ollie found each other – you look so happy!

  2. Mary Eaton

    Pets can make such an uplifting difference in our lives, both in a single person household as well as family! Thank you Nancy for taking a chance with Ollie. It has afforded you such a pleasant experience and what a handsome fellow he is!

  3. Gary Gonzalez

    So happy for Nancy & Ollie! Infinite Love & Blessings to you both : )

  4. Leslee Nicholas

    NACCis a wonderful organization!! We are fortunate in Hampton Roads to have many outstanding animal care services! Cheers to Nancy and Ollie!!

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