Pit bull heals Army veteran’s broken heart

Dale and Maximus

The much-maligned pit bull is pure myth for one veteran whose broken heart was made whole after the death of his beloved pet dog.

Dale is a Vietnam veteran who enlisted in the US Army and served as a combat engineer in Germany from 1969 to 1972. Other than the time he spent in the Army, Dale had never lived without the faithful companionship of a dog. In June 2012, he and his wife, Sue, had to put to sleep their beloved 13 year-old Doberman, Destiny, who had succumbed to old age.

Dale was  devastated by this loss.

A house without a dog is not a home

After Destiny passed away, Dale’s wife “insisted on being free from the responsibility of pet ownership for a few years, so that we could do a little traveling and not be tied down,” recalls Dale. Shortly after losing Destiny, he and Sue enjoyed a trip to the Black Hills in South Dakota. When they returned, however, Dale’s home felt sadly empty to him.

“I found myself always expecting to be greeted by a dog whenever I entered my house, only to remember each time that we no longer had any dogs.”

For two months, the Army veteran felt melancholy living in a dog-less home.

“I found myself to be very dog lonely,” describes Dale.

Fortunately, Dale’s wife noticed his sadness and “evidently took pity on me,” he says.

During an internet search, Sue discovered the Huron Valley Humane Society (HVHS), a nearby Pets for Patriots adoption and veterinary partner. Listed on HVHS’ website was a then six year-old pit bull named Maximus; his prior family surrendered him because they had fallen on hard times and could not afford medical treatment for his dermatitis. Dale and Maximus

A man and his dog

Sue thought Maximus might make a good companion for her husband and suggested they visit the dog at the shelter. When the Vietnam veteran arrived, he found that Maximus “indeed was a terrific dog that had been well treated” by his prior owners. Dale honorably adopted Maximus and took him home the same day.

Since his adoption, “Maximus has brought me more joy than I can express,” says Dale. At first, Maximus suffered from separation anxiety whenever he was left alone, “but he soon realized that he had a permanent home and is quite happy.”

Even though Maximus is now seven years old, the veteran describes him as “still playful like a puppy. He has the run of the house and is very affectionate.”

Dale believes his life has been enriched by the companionship of this dog who needed Dale as much as the Vietnam veteran needed him.

“I’m lucky to have gotten him. I was pretty despondent over the loss of our last dog until he came along and filled the void.”

Having learned about Pets for Patriots from a volunteer at HVHS, Dale is grateful for the discounted adoption and veterinary services fees and ongoing support it offers. The shelter extends a generous 50% adoption fee discount to any Pets for Patriots member, like Dale, who adopts a program eligible pet, as well as an ongoing 10% discount at its veterinary clinicDale and Maximus Christmas

“After I have been out of the Army for 40 years, it has suddenly become popular to thank veterans for their service and give discounts at movie theaters, restaurants, and so on. I get a good feeling from this turn of events,” remarks Dale.

To other veterans or service members considering adopting a pet through Pets for Patriots, Dale advises, “If you are able to commit to giving a pet a home for the rest of its life, by all means, do so!!”

Has there ever been a time when you’ve felt pet-lonely?


  1. Patricia Bacon

    I have had dogs in my life since I was a small child. I had a few years without a dog because my Husband did not want another dog. 2 years ago I adopted 2 dogs from Montreal who were to be euthanized and then took home an old dog whose owner had died and he was also to be euthanized because he was “old”. All 3 are the loves of my life and the husband has gotten used to it.


    I understand pet loneliness all too well. Twenty-seven months ago I received an invitation to come to Taiwan as an English language teacher. As a retiree with no family or real purpose in my home in New York City, I considered this invitation seriously. Except, I had 3 dogs at the time. So I accepted the invitation on the condition that I could bring my dogs with me. I was advised by a Taiwan airline that transporting my dogs would be no problem, but they neglected to tell me that they would have to ride in a cargo hold for 20 hours. After obtaining my visa and divesting myself of my possessions in NYC and relinquishing my apartment, I also discovered that upon arrival in Taiwan my 3 dogs would be subjected to 3 weeks in quarantine. It was then I realized that my 3 small dogs could never sustain the trip. Given the commitment I’d made to teach in Taiwan, I appealed to a rescue group for help and it found my 3 dogs wonderful homes, for which I’m completely grateful. But leaving them put a pall on my stay in Taiwan because I’ve missed them terribly. When I arrived here, I also discovered that few landlords are willing to permit pets, so this too would have created a problem had I decided to bring my dogs with me. With the risks to their lives so high and misinformation and some poor planning, I’ve now been living without a dog for 27 months and I find that after 45 years of living with them, I feel like half a person. I remember these words of the animal activist and conservationist, Kiki Gallman, who said “A place cannot be called home unless you share it with a dog.” She was all too right, for I found that out the hard way.

  3. Dana

    I love to hear/read these kind of stories. Back in Nov. 2012 I got a call from my vets office and what they told me(again)is just so incomprehensible to me. They had an owner of a beautiful,young healthy pit come in with her and said to euthanize her as they were moving and didn’t want to take with them. Well,long story short, Gypsy was not PTS but I assumed responsibility of her and into boarding she went. I then met a young man who had just gotten out of the army and was having a hard time adjusting and was diagnosed with PTSD. I introduced him to Gypsy and it was love at first site. He and Gypsy are inseperable and even though she has never had any true training to be a service/theray dog she took to it as if she had graduated top of her class. She sleeps with him and wakes him up when he starts trembling or is having a bad dream and he is doing much better now with Gypsy. I am so proud of both of them and thankful for that day I saved Gypsy because now she has “pawed” it forward.

  4. Renee Dunaway

    This story brought a happy tear to my eye. How precious that they found each other… Dale and Sue were able to see past Maximus’s age and initial separation anxiety, and welcome him into their home and hearts. Thrilled for all of you!

  5. Deb Kern

    We are so happy for Dale and Maximus. I remember the day Dale meet Maximus at the Humane Society of Huron Valley. Maximus might have been even happier then Dale that day. Thank you, Dale, for giving a homeless dog care and a loving home.

  6. Allen Pearson

    When I lost my previous dog, Mozart, I wasn’t going to adopt another dog because of the work involved. However, my wife and a friend noticed a difference in me. They decided I “WAS” getting another dog. We did and it was the best decision. I was dog-lonely. Noah has made a huge difference in our family and I don’t know what I would have done without him. It’s amazing what the companionship of a dog will do!!

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