For the love of country
Dean joined the Army after graduating school in 1985. He thought it would give him a great start in life after growing up in Arizona and Washington. In 1991 he separated from service after serving six years in the military, which included two tours in Iraq.
“It offered more structure,” he says, “and I enjoyed the teamwork and camaraderie.”
Dean transitioned back to civilian life and, in 2001, met Lisa – the woman who would become his wife. Then tragedy struck on September 11, 2001.
So as it turns out, the Iraq war veteran was not finished with his military career after all.
“[My] younger brother inspired me to go in for the second time,” he shares.
Dean reflected upon his gratitude for being an American and what his time in the military meant to him. He decided to re-enlist in 2003 as an act of patriotism. Little did he know that his second enlistment would be more than twice as long as the first.
The Army veteran returned from his first tours of duty with a renewed sense of appreciation for America; he saw what life was like in other parts of the world. And while Dean credits his brother his decision to re-enlist he considers his fellow soldiers to be family.
“They’re all my brothers and fantastic individuals,” he says.
The Iraq war veteran was enlightened by interactions with local people whom he met during deployments. He came to have even more profound gratitude and appreciation for life in America, and for his wife as well.
“She took care of everything,” he says. “She allowed me to do what I needed to do without being home.”
In 2017 Dean retired from the Army after serving our country for more than 20 years.
The long road home for Iraq war veteran and a Pit Bull named Honey
Now that Dean transitioned back to civilian life for the last time, he and Lisa felt it was time to extend their family. The couple decided to adopt a companion pet.
The Army veteran already has a 12 year-old Boxer, Tad, who came along for a meet and greet with a Pit Bull named Honey.
It was important for Tad to be compatible and comfortable with any dog Dean added to their pack.
From Texas, with love
As it turns out, Honey had quite the journey to Washington state. She was originally found by Rebecca, a school teacher in Houston, Texas who took care of her and gave her a fresh pink collar.
Rebecca was prepared to foster Honey until the dog was adopted. She was concerned about the high kill rate in some Houston shelters, particularly for bully breed dogs like Honey.
But Rebecca has a friend who works with a local Pit Bull rescue. Their organization partners with shelters in the Pacific Northwest where there is a lower volume of pets looking for homes. This meant better prospects for Honey to be adopted.
It is through this rescue relationship that Honey made her way to Blue Mountain Humane Society. So Rebecca wrote a letter to Honey’s future family in the hopes that they would understand the life she had led.
“There are a lot of dogs that come onto our campus, but I couldn’t stand to send her back into the neighborhood,” Rebecca says in her letter. “She had clearly never been kept inside, had open wounds on her ears and scabs all over her body.”
Dean and Lisa decided to do a three-day trial run with Honey at their home in Washington; she never went back to the shelter again. The Iraq war veteran says he knew that Honey was “the one” when he first saw her.
“I don’t think life was easy on her,” he recalls, adding that she was “emaciated, and her fur and skin were all bitten up.”
So couple decided that Honey’s new life deserved a new name: Tess.
An Army veteran’s “little Pittie pig”
Dean marvels at Tess’ change of fortune from a Houston street dog to a beloved member of his pack.
“How this dog made it from Houston to our home in Washington state is nothing short of a miracle,” he says. “Tess is adjusting very well to her new home and is now part of our family.”
Tess has proven to be a loving companion who spends her days running after gophers on the family’s large property. She is a big baby who loves everyone, and gets along with both children and adults.
The once stray Pit Bull is very independent – perhaps a result of her time living on the streets. She has since put on some much-needed weight, earning an affectionate nickname from Dean as his “little Pittie pig.”
“…the joy of having a dog”
Dean had initially heard about Pets for Patriots through Blue Mountain Humane Society. He appreciates our ongoing follow up, which we do for every adoption for a minimum of one year.
“I would just like to say thank you,” he says to us. “You all have made our home happier with the new addition of Tess, our little ball of fire that we have adopted. My wife and I are very grateful for Pets for Patriots and we will be making a donation so that others can experience the joy of having a dog.”
The Iraq war veteran believes that companion pet adoption is mutually therapeutic for person and pet. The loving bond created with an adopted dog or cat can help veterans who are lonely, or who feel disconnected upon re-entering civilian life.
“They need a pet that they can take care of and it’s a mutual thing,” he says. “Some people wander around lost when they come back.”
Dean appreciates the ease of the application and adoption processes, and all the benefits provided to him. He believes that Pets for Patriots is a “tremendous organization,” one that has “helped a lot of people, and animals that need to be adopted.”
And then there were three
While Tess adds tremendous joy to Dean and Lisa, it soon became clear that their senior dog Tad was not able to keep pace with his younger canine sibling. So in May 2019 the couple returned to Blue Mountain Humane Society to adopt another dog.
Like Tess, Rosie is a large, adult Pit Bull and is a wonderful addition to the family.
But it is their long-distance dog, Tess, whose spirited independence and loving demeanor has smitten her new parents.
Despite having spent time on the Houston streets where many dogs do not survive, the she has adjusted to home life well – and rather quickly.
“Tess is settling right in and is now a family member. She has over an acre of fenced yard to run and play,” he says. “Tess has her own bed in our bedroom and a heated dog house while we are at work during the day.”
While any dog would welcome the trappings of Tess’ new life – property to roam, a comfortable bed, other dog siblings – she found the one thing that makes life magical for person and pet.
“We love her.”