Pint sized rescue dog’s love fills Air Force veterans’ empty nest

Pint sized rescue dog's love fills Air Force veterans' empty nest

Coming home each night to an empty nest prompted a retired Air Force veteran to seek a pet companion.

On the wings of war

After more than 20 years of service Tony retired from the Air Force, where he served as a jet mechanic. This high-stress, mission critical job ensures the safety and integrity of military aircraft.

Tony has countless memorable moments arising from his long military career. But decades later one particular experience sticks in his mind.

“First night of Operation Desert Storm,” he says, referring to the official name of the Iraq War.

The multinational force, led by the United States, was the largest air campaign since WWII. Tony recounts the pivotal events of that night.

“Being awakened by our jets loaded out and taking off at midnight. Standing outside watching our jets head ‘up north,” he says. “Then hearing someone yell, ‘They’re hitting Baghdad!’”

Tony and his fellow airmen ran into a crowded TV tent to watch the unfolding news.

These days Tony is grounded back in the realities of civilian life. But he parlayed the technical skills he learned in the military into a new career.

Tony now works as an information technology professional for a Fortune 500 company.

Empty nesters

The retired empty nester lives in Florida with his wife. Until a few years ago the couple shared their home with a beloved cat.

“It was four years since our last pet crossed the rainbow bridge,” Tony shares. “We’re empty nesters, but the house still felt empty.”

So in the waning weeks of 2023 Tony looked at pets available through SPCA Tampa Bay. Since 2019 the shelter partners with us and offers our veterans $250 off adoption fees.

Dozens of dogs and cats have been saved through our partnership. Tony visited our website and liked what he saw.Pint sized rescue dog's love fills Air Force veterans' empty nest

“[I] researched Pets for Patriots and was impressed with the support tools and help available.”

Tony applied to our companion pet adoption program for military veterans. We approved his application in early December 2023.

However, it would be several more weeks til the empty nester met his match.

Pint sized pup

Tony is an equal opportunity pet adopter. He loves dogs and cats equally.

“My last pet was a cat that was always with me, at my side, on my lap even when I’m watching sports,” he shares. “I called her ‘Sports Kitty.'”

Yet this time the empty nester decided to adopt a dog.

At the time, Jaxson was a five year old, pint sized pup in the care of SPCA Tampa Bay. He is a spirited mix of Chihuahua and Jack Russell Terrier. His previous life is a mystery, like so many shelter animals.

Tony was smitten with the little dog’s impish nature. That Jaxson is a lap-sized pet was another factor in his favor. So in the middle of January 2014 Tony made it official. From that day forward the empty nester’s nest would feel empty no more.

“…the adoption process was a breeze”

The retired Air Force veteran could have adopted Jaxson without our support. But the benefits we offer made adopting through our program an easy decision.

“Working with Pets for Patriots is easy and the adoption process was a breeze. I like getting ‘touch base’ emails,” he says of our yearlong post-adoption outreach.

At first, Jaxson bonded with Tony’s wife, whom he says Jaxson considered “the alpha.” Yet it did not take long for the pint-sized pup to develop his own routines with Tony.Pint sized rescue dog's love fills Air Force veterans' empty nest

One routine brings back memories of the couple’s previous cat.

“Jaxson is a small dog who likes being on my lap when I’m watching sports,” Tony says. “So he’s now “Sports Pup” even though he’s five years old.”

Four-legged therapy

Despite his diminutive stature Jaxson considers himself the family protector. He is a tiny, yet mighty barker, which Tony appreciates since he is hearing impaired. Jaxson always lets him know when someone is at the door or passes by their windows.

The petite pup packs a lot of personality into his tiny frame.

“Jaxson is a Chihuahua-Jack Russell Terrier,” Tony explains, “who thinks he’s the same size as the German Shepherd next door.”

When he is not defending his home turf Jaxson enjoys local adventures with Tony. The pair have bonded around shared activities both in and out of their home.

“Jaxson likes being with me,” the retired veteran says. “The town of Dunedin, Florida is very dog friendly so I can take Jaxson with me into some of the shops.”

But it is perhaps the more quiet moments in what was once an empty nest that Tony appreciates most. It is there that man and dog enjoy the simplest – yet most meaningful – pleasures.

And it is there that a dog who barely tips the scales at six pounds fills Tony’s once empty nest with joy.

“Jaxson loves cuddles and being petted,” Tony shares. “And the petting can be relaxing and calming therapy for both him and me.”


  1. Robert Stallings

    I enjoy reading happy pet stories. I have a Chihuahua also and he is our joy in life. Couldn’t live without my dogs.

  2. MJ

    As a Navy vet living not far from you, I commend you for adopting Jaxson. May you have many years of joy and watching sports together!

  3. Alexandra Chappell

    I enjoyed reading about Jaxson’s adoption by Tony and his wife. He sounds like a perfect match for them! I like to read about other veterans adopting animals. Congratulations!

  4. Timothy Case

    Great 👍


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