Vickie lives with a rare degenerative condition. But the Army veteran finds comfort in a pint-sized senior dog who was equally in need of love.
Small town, big dreams
Vickie grew up in a small Ohio town. Like many young people in her situation she was eager to travel and to live somewhere that offered more robust career prospects. So she enlisted in the military.
“Joining the Army allowed me to learn job skills as an administrative specialist, plus offered educational benefits,” she explains. “I was stationed in Louisiana, Alabama, and Germany. My favorite was Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. The state is beautiful.”
Administrative specialists are tasked with a wide range of responsibilities. They include the proper handling, storage, and transmission of documents, making travel and meeting arrangements, and other duties central to Army operations.
Vickie acquired many experiences over the course of her enlistment. While the majority of her time was spent stateside, she has fond memories of participating in a return of forces to Germany, or REFORGER.
These training exercises commenced in 1969 and ended in 1993.
“My most memorial experience would be being in a medic unit at Fort Polk, Louisiana and going on a reforger to Germany,” she recalls.
“We packed up everything in our unit and moved to Germany for six weeks of training. It was a once in a lifetime for me and I really enjoyed the experience.”
For the love of pets
These days Vickie and her husband, Richard, are both retirees and call Lancaster, Ohio home. Companion pets have always figured prominently in their family life. The couple’s adult daughter has an adopted Jack Russel Terrier and in her free time volunteers at a Columbus cat rescue.
“We come from a long line of animal lovers,” Vickie says.
While Vickie and Richard already had dogs in their home, the Army veteran yearned for a pet of her own. A progressive, degenerative medical condition limits the types of pets she can manage. During inclement weather she is largely homebound.
“I have a medical condition called GNE, it is a form of muscular dystrophy,” she shares. “I stay home a lot, especially during the cold and snowy months.”
GNE myopathy is a rare genetic disorder impacting the body’s skeletal muscles.
There is no cure for the progressive disease and treatment focuses on managing its symptoms and impacts.
Nonetheless, Vickie was determined to find a four-legged best friend to love.
Big things, small packages
It was summer 2021 when Vickie learned about Pets for Patriots and our companion pet adoption program for military veterans.
“I heard about the program through an email I subscribe to from VA that offers information that a lot of veterans might never know about,” she recalls. “The benefits through Pets for Patriots are outstanding.”
We offer various benefits and programs to support our philosophy of pets for life. Often it takes only modest investments to keep veterans and adopted pets together, including during times of temporary financial challenge or other personal hardship.
Vickie would visit Fairfield County Dog and Adoption Center and Shelter in her hometown of Lancaster. Since 2019 the organization offers veterans we serve fee-waived adoptions when they adopt eligible dogs.
It was at the shelter that Vickie met a pint-sized senior dog named Pumpkin.
The Dachshund mix was estimated to be about 10 years old and was in bad physical shape as a result of having lived as a stray. Pumpkin was missing hair and had skin issues, and at just 10 pounds was underweight – all likely the result of prolonged malnutrition.
However, Vickie did not see a hapless old dog. The Army veteran saw her new constant companion. She saw an innocent creature who deserved a second chance and who was deserving of her love.
Upon their adoption Vickie was eager to give her new charge a new name. Since Pumpkin was given her name at the shelter – as a stray her name was unknown – she would henceforth be known as Luna.
Ten pounds of love
The pint-sized senior dog was in dire need of physical rehabilitation. She was underweight, her skin was in poor condition, and her hair had begun to fall out.
Vickie wasted no time taking Luna to her veterinarian and starting her on a path back to good health. The Army veteran shared Luna’s progress during one of our post-adoption check ins.
“I am in love with her already! All 10 pounds of her,” she says.
“Working on getting her to put on weight; she is so skinny.”
With time, love, and some medicated skin wipes, Luna began to heal. Her transformation was not merely physical, however.
As the pint-sized senior pup began to feel better she decided it was time to rule her new family’s roost.
“She sleeps with us and is getting along with our other dogs,” Vickie says.
“She tries to be [the] alpha even though she is tiny, but the others don’t mind.”
“I needed Luna”
Vickie is delighted that she found out about our companion pet adoption program and hopes other veterans learn about it as well. Most applicants are approved within no more than two business days of applying, providing they live within our program areas and provide requested documentation.
“I would encourage any veteran to use the program,” she says. “You are rescuing an animal in need who wants a home. Fantastic program.”
These days little Luna is living large. She follows her Army veteran from room to room, never letting her out of site. And she will sit patiently on Vickie’s lap – as long as she is being pet.
“I needed Luna for my little fuzzy pal. She is my little companion who listens intently to my conversations with her and seems to understand,” she says. “I love taking care of her. She appreciates everything.”
Vickie accepts her health situation with true Army grit. No doubt there are days when she wishes that she could do more or be out of the house regardless of the weather. But rather than feeling sorry for herself she gave new life to a pint-sized senior dog in desperate need of saving.
“Luna has livened up our household,” she says, calling her “an ever present source of comfort.”