It’s a hard-knock, post-Army life
Ask veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan about their greatest challenge and many will say the adjustment from battlefront to home front. One such veteran has an adopted Pit Bull to thank for helping him make the transition to his post-Army life.
Dunkin was a relatively young and fairly large Pit Bull waiting for his second chance at an Alabama shelter. In reality, Pit Bulls are not a breed unto themselves, but are comprised of a variety of dog breeds with similar physical traits. They are among the most misunderstood types of dogs and, as a result, most prone to mistreatment and abuse.
There is not much known about Dunkin’s life before he arrived at the Lee County Humane Society in Auburn, Alabama, though cruelty does not seem to have played a part in his homelessness. Despite being an intelligent and loving animal, however, Dunkin was one of countless overlooked dogs and cats that our program is dedicated to saving.
In another part of the city, Aaron had just separated from the Army with an Honorable discharge. The Afghanistan war veteran was looking for ways to adapt to civilian life, a challenge that too many veterans struggle with and feel ill-prepared to address.
Little did man or dog know that they were fated to be together, each helping the other through a mutual bond of friendship, healing and love.
Life after wartime
Aaron served in the United States Army from 2012-2015, including one year as a forward observer in Afghanistan. When asked about his most memorable experience from his time in service, he does not hesitate:
“Deployment,” he says, definitively. “Can’t explain why, I think only people who have done it will understand.”
Soon after leaving the Army the young soldier rejoined civilian life and enrolled in college. Right away, he knew that he wanted to adopt a dog.
“I wanted a companion and a running buddy,” Aaron explains, perhaps not realizing at the time that companion pet adoption would give him so much more.
A second look at a second-chance dog
As luck would have it, Aaron’s girlfriend worked at the Lee County Humane Society around the time that the Afghanistan war veteran left the Army.
The shelter partners with Pets for Patriots to help the most overlooked companion dogs and cats find loving homes with veterans. Lee County Humane Society offers our members a 10% adoption fee discount, and through Pets for Patriots veterans receive other cost-savings, including ongoing discounted pet health care from local partnering veterinarians.
The suggestion from Aaron’s girlfriend opened his eyes to animals who are overlooked by most adopters, yet who have so much love and life to give.
“I was already planning on adopting a dog,” Aaron recalls, “but when she told me about the program it made me look more at dogs who were less likely to be adopted.”
Dunkin was a 50-pound Pit Bull with a winning personality when Aaron met him at the Lee County Humane Society.
“He’s even bigger now,” the soldier marvels.
Renamed Waffles, the big dog has the temperament and activity level that complement Aaron’s need for an affable friend and adventure partner. Like most companion pets, Waffles thrives on structure and routine – both familiar staples of military life and things that veterans typically find lacking when they exit the armed forces.
Although pets are gifts in our lives, they require work and care taking. For veterans returning from deployment and trying to find their way the daily needs of a dog or cat can be therapeutic, and prevent people from dwelling on the uncertainty and anxieties of their new civilian lives.
“Waffles helps motivate me to be organized and to exercise every day,” Aaron says. “It’s also nice to have someone depending on you to take care of them, and it’s very rewarding when they let you know you are doing a good job.”
The young Pit Bull is flourishing in a loving home, free from the confines of shelter life. Aaron is introducing his new charge to all sorts of experiences, mostly outdoor adventures.
“He loves to be outside just like me,” he says, adding that swimming has not come easily to Waffles.
“He just kind of sinks right now because he is so muscular,” Aaron observes. “He has been called ‘meatball’ by several different people.”
The Afghanistan veteran particularly loves Waffles’ “goofy personality,” and how sociable the dog is with children and other dogs. It would seem that he could not have chosen a more perfect companion to help him ease the transition from battlefront to home front.
“I would definitely encourage other vets to take advantage of the program,” says Aaron. “The animal you adopt will become more than just a pet, and they can help you in so many ways you may not even realize.”