Pint-sized pup takes the helm for Navy veteran who endured homelessness and heartache

Pint-sized pup takes the helm for Navy veteran who endured homelessness and heartache

Shannon has endured a lot of turbulence in her life, but a pint-sized pup helped steer her towards calmer seas.

Military memories

Shannon served in the Navy and separated in 1993. By the time she was discharged her first daughter was over one year old.

“I was gonna go to college,” she recalls. “I went in and was trying to be a journalist.”

The young veteran served as a yeoman in the Navy. Her administrative responsibilities included organizing paperwork and ensuring that the right people received the right information.

While it was not demanding physically, Shannon admits that dealing with different personalities had its own challenges. She credits her time in the military as shaping her life for the better.

“It was a crazy time because a year after I went into the military to the day, March the ninth, is when I found out my mom was sick. I think had I stayed at home, my life would have went down a different path. My grandmother died months before and I had been raised by my grandparents, so I was basically an orphan. I struggled for a long time,” she recalls.

Shannon was stationed in the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Virginia where she met her now ex-husband, who was in the military as well. Her elder daughter was born in the hospital at Portsmouth and the difficulties of raising a baby in a dual-military marriage prompted her separation from service.

“By the time I got out she was over a year old. I would have gone to sea duty, my now ex-husband was in the military, too,” she says. “With a baby that was a little over a year old it was hard with us both in the military. I did that for a long time. It was the hardest job. My ex-husband was gone a lot.”

Lean on me

The Navy veteran does not talk much about the circumstances that led her to be in a transitional home for female veterans. But what matters most is that Shannon sought help for issues that were interfering with her living her best life.

“I had come out of a transient house for women veterans. I got my first apartment and obviously there was fourteen people so you can’t have an animal,” she explains. “When I got my apartment maybe six months later, I needed something to keep me company because my daughter was with her father.”

Doctor orders four-legged therapy

Shannon’s doctor prescribed an emotional support animal (ESA).

Pint-sized pup takes the helm for Navy veteran who endured homelessness and heartache

An ESA is a companion pet whose mere presence is assistive to someone with an emotional disability. They are not service animals, nor are they legally permitted to be where pets are not normally allowed.

However, ESAs are given limited rights of access in no-pet housing and on commercial aircraft.

Shannon started her search on the Humane Society of Tampa Bay website. Since 2011, the shelter waives adoption fees for veterans in our program who adopt program-eligible pets. Their full-service veterinary hospital provides an ongoing 10% discount for care as well.

“I was looking and looking and looking for companionship. Keeping an eye on the website so I didn’t have to drive in every time,” Shannon remembers. “It was a Thursday night and I happened to look at 7:30 at night. I’m looking and up pops this face. There were like five other Chihuahuas up there. I saw that face and I fell in love. I said, ‘This is my dog.'”

At the time, Lance was a three year-old Chihuahua. The pint-sized pup had been found as a stray several days earlier.

The very next day Shannon showed up to the shelter two hours before they opened. She was determined to adopt Lance, who has since been renamed Kol.

It’s a pint-sized pup kind of life

Shannon grew up in Louisiana, and has the accent to prove it. She laughs as she talks about her now six year-old Chihuahua. She admits that he is in charge despite his tiny stature.

“Kol is a baby,” the Navy veteran says. “He runs the show. He’s the master of the house and he knows it.”

Shannon’s case worker told her that she herself was “owned” by a Chihuahua. The Navy veteran now understands what she meant and would not have it any other way.

As it happens the pint-sized pup has big responsibilities.

Pint-sized pup takes the helm for Navy veteran who endured homelessness and heartache

Shannon has spinal problems and lives with her autistic daughter. Kol makes sure to give both of them a lot of emotional support.

“He makes sure that we’re both okay. He’ll come and he’ll push on you. I’ll be laying down and he’ll lay on my back. He knows. It’s so crazy,” she marvels. “And he’s so little. He’s like eight pounds so he can’t do much. It’s the fact that he’s there. You get on the bed with him and he’ll end up shoving you off the bed. He’ll go on there and go spread eagle.”

Finding each other

While Kol helps Shannon and her daughter, he benefits as well.

Kol was timid when Shannon first brought him home and thunderstorms are still frightening to him. Shannon suspects he was mistreated in his previous life based upon how he behaves around certain people.

“I think he was abused,” she says. “He was very skittish around men. If there’s a loud noise he freaks out and we have to kind of comfort him.”

Still, the pint-sized pup faces his fears with the spirit of a bigger dog.

“The maintenance man comes and he’s like, ‘I don’t like you.’ He thinks he’s like a Rottweiler,” she says.

Yet despite being a mere eight pounds, Kol loves to eat. Thankfully he enjoys healthy fare. The Navy veteran swears that Kol can actually hear when she peels a banana.

“He likes vegetables. He’ll eat carrots, broccoli. He eats bananas,” Shannon says. “I can go in the kitchen and open a banana real quiet. He could be in a dead sleep and two seconds later he’ll be in there, looking. He hears the banana being peeled.”

“You gotta do this”

Shannon found Pets for Patriots online and now acts as a self-proclaimed advertisement for our companion pet adoption program.

“I was just looking online and it [Pets for Patriots] just popped up. It’s so funny because I told my caseworker about it and she tells her other vets about it. I’m like an advertiser for it,” she says. “There’s a couple who has adopted because of it. I’m a walking billboard.”

Shannon appreciates that she was able to adopt a pet in need who at the same time gives her much-needed emotional comfort. The benefits of our program are particularly helpful for veterans with limited disposable income.

Our mission is to make companion pet adoption more affordable for military veterans while saving our nation’s most vulnerable dogs and cats.

“As a whole it’s just perfect,” Shannon says. “It’s so funny because I’ll tell people ‘You gotta do this.'”

Shannon has endured many challenges throughout her life. The passing of her mother and grandparents, who raised her. Divorce from the father of her children. Supporting a daughter with autism through her life challenges.

But in the end, it was a pint-sized pup who helped right her ship – and Shannon is grateful for him.

“He’s perfect.”


  1. Mary Eaton

    Thank you for sharing your story and bringing this little guy home to take under your wings. Thanks also to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay for making it possible. Small gestures can go a long way and not soon forgotten.

  2. John A. Smaldone

    Great story,

    I pray that Shannon, her daughter and new member of the family, “Kol”, will be able to over come all the obsticals they have faced and still have ahead of them in life!

    John A. Smaldone
    US Air Force Veteran

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