When Demica adopted a shelter dog the Army veteran was unsure if the pint-sized pup would give her the emotional support she needed. Soon she learned why her “little terror child” – named Charles Manson at the shelter – was a dog no one else wanted.
But since the initial turbulence of their adoption, the two have learned to lean on one another during some important life changes.
“I can do this”
Recently Demica took a leap of faith. She quit her job and became an entrepreneur.
“My happiness is more than anything. Coming home from work – and you’re at work more hours than you are at home sometimes. And being miserable for that many hours is just not worth it,” she shares. “I feel like we’re killing ourselves and in the same breath, you know, you’re stressed, your anxiety’s high, you become depressed. So it’s like, that wears and tears on your own mental state, so I finally was just like, ‘I can do this.'”
The Army veteran’s former colleagues and clients kept in touch. Demica continued to help them and it inspired her to start her own business as a virtual assistant.
“I basically work with real estate agents and I provide assistance with the contracts, with different documents they’re needing done throughout their real estate careers,” Demica explains. “I have three real estate agents that I have as clients now and I basically do the administrative work.”
The adjustment to life as an entrepreneur was a hard at first. Now Demica is happy and has found her niche – something she struggled with after separating from the military.
Pint-sized pup with a big heart
Thankfully Mannie has stayed by his veteran’s side through it all. Since his adoption in 2017 he has made big strides in his new home.
Still, Demica admits that Mannie can be a “little terror child.” But she is grateful for his support and is proud of the progress in his behavior.
When Mannie was first adopted his veterinarian suspected he had once been abused. He was afraid of peoples’ feet, and did like men or groups of people.
And while Demica adopted Mannie to help her transition to civilian life she worked just as hard on her little dog’s big challenges. Mannie has given her the emotional support she needs through all the changes in her life, much to the Army veteran’s surprise.
“I think it’s a process and once you give it the time and go through the process, you’ll find that if that pet is for you, you’ll find a lot of support and ways that that pet can actually help you overcome whatever it is you’re trying to overcome.”
From foe to friend
Mannie’s reputation from his days at Lifeline at Fulton County Animal Services was well-earned. The staff even gave Demica and the pint-sized pup a round of applause as they left the shelter. Since 2015, it is one of three Atlanta-area Lifeline shelters that offer fee-waived adoptions to veterans through our program.
However, the little dog has since shed his bad-boy image – for the most part.
“His behavior has gotten a lot better. Mannie is more acceptable of people now,” Demica says. “At one point he was just a wild child. But I think he was just trying to figure out, ‘are these people here to hurt me?’ I kinda had to learn that aspect of it.”
The Army veteran’s hard work paid off. Now she can pet Mannie with her feet. She takes him on trips to the pet store to help him learn how to be less stressed around other people.
But most of all, Demica’s little charge just wants to be near her.
“Mannie wants to be under you 24/7. Although he’s feisty and mean, he’s still loving in the same sentence,” she says. “He’s a big, little soft, little something. Because he just loves to love on you. People will come over and he’ll bark at them at the door, and as soon as they sit down he jumps on the couch and he’s snuggling.”
But to know Demica is to know that she and Mannie have many of the same personality traits.
“Most people that know me and have had a chance to meet Mannie, they’re like, ‘You and Mannie are just alike,’” she laughs.
Mannie has even managed to win over an unlikely friend: Demica’s father. He did not care for dogs, but now will visit and take him for walks.
Four-legged emotional support system
Demica was skeptical when a friend suggested that a companion dog could give her emotional support as she transitioned from service to civilian life.
Now that Demica and Mannie have bonded, the Army veteran realizes how experiencing pet companionship is so important to military veterans.
“I can see it now and I had a girlfriend that used to always say that her dog was her, basically her best friend. And when things were not going well she could always count on Dash, and I was like, ‘Oh my G-d, a dog? Really? You cannot be that serious,'” she recalls. “But I honestly can say that I can see that now. It’s almost like an emotional support system. He’s not trained to be an emotional support dog, but I feel like that’s what they eventually become.”
Sometimes it is just Mannie’s antics that brighten Demica’s day.
The little dog has his own version of playing fetch. Demica throws him a ball, but rather than returning it to her he hides it under a table. And they do it all over again.
“…my little shining light”
The Army veteran credits the structure of our program to helping her work through Mannie’s challenging adoption. Our guidance gave her the confidence she needed to teach Mannie how to trust people again.
“They were so helpful,” she says. “During the time when I first got Mannie I actually called them and was like, ‘I don’t think I can do this.'”
Not only could Demica do it – she did. In return Mannie has been an unexpected support system for his veteran.
“Emotionally, he has made things better. Learning to care for someone, or something, all over again,” Demica explains. “I basically felt like I have another child. So, he’s changed me with having patience, because at one point it was like my patience had went out the door, so I think I became more patient. And learning to actually care and have some kind of, something to look forward to, so to speak.”
Not every pet adoption goes smoothly at first – or ever. Some dogs and cats enter shelters having endured a lifetime of abuse, neglect and cruelty. Others never experienced a loving home or received training on how to be a well-mannered member of their family.
Still, animals like Mannie are homeless through no faults of their own. Just like people they are imperfect and deserve a second chance at life. Demica is grateful that she did not give up on her tiny charge.
“I guess Mannie is my little shining light,” she shares. “Because when things seemed to not be going as well as I would think they should be going, it’s like Mannie knows. And I’m not in a good mood and here he comes, sitting by my side, although he’s a little terror child, [when] times when I need him, he’s there.”