Purple Heart veteran uplifted by “goofy” rescue dog

Kato belly rub

A Purple Heart veteran who served two tours in Iraq has a renewed spirit thanks to a “goofy” rescue dog named Kato.

Losing a limb, but not losing heart

John joined the Army in 2004 and served in Alaska with the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) and 1/25 SBCT as a forward observer. Twice deployed to Iraq, John broke all the bones below both of his knees and lost his left leg in 2009 when the vehicle he was riding in struck an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). Life would never be the same, and he was medically retired from the Army in 2011.

The Nashville, Tennessee native received a Purple Heart and moved to Virginia, where he set up home with his girlfriend and their six year-old yellow lab, Lady. Although permanently disabled, John is a young veteran with a full life before him. These days he’s learning the art of taxidermy, as well as taking other military members and veterans on local trips to hunt and fish.

Choosing the adoption option

Lady and John have been together since the days when he was stationed in Alaska. The Army veteran sensed she needed a friend, the four-legged variety, and John longed for another canine companion as well.

“We chose to adopt a pet because it just makes sense,” he says. “There are so many pets in need of a home who make just as good, if not better companions.”

Pet adoption with benefits

John and his girlfriend started a search for their new pet friend. Kato

They visited the Norfolk Animal Care and Adoption Center and fell in love with a black and white Pit Bull named Kato. Learning that John was a veteran, the shelter staff told him about their partnership with Pets for Patriots, through which John could receive various benefits to make Kato’s adoption more affordable: a reduced adoption fee of $50, ongoing discounted veterinary care and direct contributions from the charity’s Veterans’ Pet Food Bank Program to ease the cost of buying pet food and other essentials.

After researching Pets for Patriots, John was sold.

“We realized that Pets for Patriots is a truly amazing organization dedicated to finding great homes for shelter animals. Beth Zimmerman, the executive director, was so helpful and willing to work with us!”

John explains how adopting through the charity brought benefits that were more than just financial.

“By going through Pets for Patriots,” he says, “the adoption process was smoother and much more affordable. I also appreciate the fact that they follow up with their pets to see how all is going!”

A “goofy” dog brings joy, laughter and even hugs

Since adopting Kato, whose name means “all knowing,” the rescue dog’s true personality has emerged. John describes him as “goofy,” adding, “He reminds me of Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh.” John and Kato

The rescue dog’s “goof ball” antics have uplifted this Purple Heart veteran and brought a newfound joy to his home.

“Kato has brought such an incredible amount of laughter and smiles to our house,” says John. “You can’t help but start every day with a smile on your face.”

John isn’t the only one to benefit from having the feisty Pit Bull around the house. Since joining the family Kato and Lady “have become the very best of friends.”

Like John, Kato is making progress overcoming his past, which remains somewhat of a mystery.

“While he is still a little wary of strangers,” notes John, “his confidence level has really increased. He is so full of affection and always demanding to give and to receive it.”

In fact, John describes his dog in almost human terms.

“Most times he is like another little person running around. He even knows how to give hugs.”

He’s got personality

It was Kato’s relentless spirit that attracted John to him in the first place.

“Kato’s personality struck me from the very first time we saw him,” he recalls. “When we took him out in the yard to visit with him at the shelter, he would toss the ball, jump around and play fetch all by himself.”

The rescue dog’s antics and zest for life were exactly the right prescription for this combat-injured veteran. Kato belly rub

“I love the fact that he is goofy and all the time ready to show you his love.”

Pet adoption with purpose

John encourages other veterans to consider pet adoption and, if there is a program near them, to adopt through Pets for Patriots.

“Pets for Patriots makes it easy and affordable to bring a new pet home!” John exclaims. His enthusiasm, however, goes beyond the dollars and cents. The Purple Heart veteran realizes that adopting an at-risk shelter pet is truly life saving, for person and pet.

“It is a win-win situation for everyone,” he says. “You get your best friend and they get a second chance.”

What does your pet do to put a smile on your face?


  1. Dorothy Pickrell

    I just love happy endings! Sniff, Sniff. 🙂

  2. Sarah

    My boy Oscar is a boxer and is the love of my life. Every day he makes me smile just by looking at him 🙂 If I’m not up early enough for him, he comes to check on me, tail wagging and snorting into my face to greet me – unconditional love always starts the day off right 🙂

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