In 2009, James enlisted in the Army. He served as part of the 233rd Transportation Company out of Ft. Stewart, Georgia until his honorable separation in 2013.
The 233rd is one of just three heavy equipment transport companies in the Army and is responsible for the movement of heavy equipment, vehicles, shipping containers, and other materiel.
“Deployed on one tour in Iraq as an 88M bringing military equipment back to Kuwait for return to the United States,” he recalls.
An 88M, or motor transport operator, provides critical mobility for troops and supplies both on and off the battlefield.
During convoys, James was responsible for operating the Heavy Equipment Transport System, or HETS. Its principal role is transporting tanks and other large military vehicles.
The Iraq war veteran remembers his last transport journey most of all. He traversed the Khabari Crossing on the Iraq-Kuwait border for what would be the final such passage.
“My company was part of the last convoy out of Iraq into Kuwait,” he says, “as they closed the gate at K Crossing.”
Iraq war veteran is home alone
After separating from service James returned to Rochester, New York, where he works as an operations supervisor for a major furniture manufacturer.
While life in a combat zone was tough, coming home has not been easy for the Iraq war veteran.
“Right now I am going through a divorce and try to spend as much time with my four kids as possible,” he shares.
James grew increasingly lonely and isolated. He returned from work each day to an empty home and missed the joyful company of his children.
It was during this period that he started to think about adopting a dog.
“Going through a divorce is tough and I was spending a lot of time alone when I did not have my children with me,” he says. “I needed some extra companionship.”
A gem of a dog
The Iraq war veteran visited his local animal shelter, Lollypop Farm Humane Society of Greater Rochester.
Since 2011 the shelter has offered veterans in our program half-priced adoptions for program-eligible dogs and cats. The shelter staff told James about our partnership. He learned about the various benefits we offer and applied.
James wasted no time looking for his new best friend.
At the shelter he met Beluga, a then three year-old Pit Bull-type dog. Like many animals who find themselves in shelters, no one knew how she became homeless or what her life was like prior to being in Lollypop’s care.
But to James, it did not matter. He needed someone to come home to as much as she needed a home.
The Iraq war veteran adopted Beluga and soon renamed her Ruby.
“…one of the best decisions…”
It did not take long for Ruby to adjust to her new home. And with that home came four young children who come to visit with their father.
James had no way of knowing whether Ruby had grown up in a household with children or how she would react to them sharing her new home.
Introducing a pet to a home with children should always been a careful and conscious decision.
As luck would have it, Ruby shined.
“Ruby is doing fantastic,” James says. “She has taken to the kids well and has even slept in the bed with me each night.”
Growing up with companion pets is a wonderful experience for children. But dogs and cats are still animals, and children must be taught good pet etiquette.
“This was one of the best decisions I’ve made,” he says. “Since I’m currently going through a divorce and my kids are not always with me, she has been the best companion in such a short time.”
Home at last
The Army veteran’s house is more of a home now that he has an always-there friend in Ruby. At the end of each day, the rescued Pit Bull awaits her savior’s arrival.
“Every time I get home from work she’s at the window waiting,” James says, adding that Ruby enjoys going for rides in his truck as well.
Rescued pets often prove to be natural, four-legged therapists in spite of what they endured prior to their adoption. Even animals who were abused, neglected or abandoned can show a tremendous capacity to love – and be loved.
While Ruby’s story is unknown, some misfortune caused her to be homeless and in an animal shelter. Yet she has come to change James’ world.
“No matter what kind of day I’ve had or what kind of bad mood I could be in, she can change that as soon as I walk through the door each day,” he says. “Ruby is there waiting for me every time I get home. She is excited to see me. We have grown really close in a short time.”
Adopting a pet might not be the antidote for every challenge in life. But for James, adopting Ruby has diminished his loneliness and helped him grapple with the pain of divorce.
“Ruby has given me the opportunity to care for and show love during a most difficult time in my life.”