Repeatedly surrendered dog helps retired veteran battle loneliness

Repeatedly surrendered dog helps retired veteran battle loneliness

A retired Air Force veteran found comfort in a repeatedly surrendered dog she rescued following the loss of her three senior pups. Bernie’s journey is intertwined with love and loss, and reflects the strong bond between veterans and their animal companions.

The spirit of service

Bernie joined the Air Force after completing her bachelor’s degree in fine art and in pursuit of becoming a photographer. However, there were few artistic opportunities in her small town. So after teaching art classes at a local nursing home for a year she decided it was time to enlist in the Air Force.

Bernie’s father had served in the Navy and many of his siblings were veterans. It was an easy choice to take the opportunity to serve her country while working in her chosen field.

In technical school Bernie refined her skills in portraiture, public affairs, and investigative photography. She was excited to have access to the best cameras of the time and learn about color processing.

The young recruit was first assigned to the 1367th Audio Visual Squadron and stationed at the United States Air Forces in Europe base in Ramstein, Germany.

“It was a scary and exciting journey out of the country for the first time,” she recalls.

Throughout her career Bernie took on difficult assignments, like working as an investigative photographer for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and photographing the aftermath of aircraft accidents. These scenes were emotionally and physically challenging, some requiring several weeks of field work.

Bernie is especially proud of the work her team did at the 1367th. She formed tight bonds with others.

“Serving overseas was an amazing experience,” she shares. “I met friends for life who had our back no matter what.”

Eventually Bernie secured a special duty assignment at the White House Communications Agency and served as a part of the White House Communications staff during the Reagan administration.

A heart for adoption

Bernie’s canine pack began with Gigi, a Yorkie mix she brought home from a farm in 2002. Another dog would soon follow. She felt it was time to give Gigi a canine companion and a loving refuge to a dog in need.

So Bernie visited SPCA of Anne Arundel County, where she adopted Rosie and began volunteering there shortly thereafter. While volunteering she met Charlie, a surrendered dog who had been separated from his canine brother.

Bernie saw how sad Charlie looked and decided he needed some friends to help him get over his loss.Repeatedly surrendered dog helps retired veteran battle loneliness

“Charlie fit right in,” she says.

“He was my companion for eight amazing years.”

For nearly 20 years Bernie’s pack thrived. It gave her a trio to care for and a profound sense of purpose. However Bernie felt lost when her three companions passed away within the span of just a few years.

“The house was too quiet and I had no one to take care of,” she shares.

At first the Air Force veteran was apprehensive about adopting again; perhaps it was “too soon.” But by mid-2023 the lure of a dog’s love was too strong to resist.

Bernie began combing local shelters for a new canine companion. It was not long til she received a call from SPCA of Anne Arundel County about a surrendered dog who needed a temporary respite from the shelter.

Since 2016 the shelter offers veterans in our program fee-waived adoptions when they rescue eligible dogs and cats. To date we have made more than 100 adoptions through our partnership.

At the time Prince was a two year-old Yorkie who had multiple failed adoptions.

Bernie offered to foster the repeatedly surrendered dog. She would soon become what is known as a foster failure, and officially adopted Prince four months after the passing of her last dog companion.

New beginnings

Prince brought new energy to Bernie’s life following the loss of Gigi, Rosie, and Charlie. Although Bernie had grown accustomed to caring for senior dogs, the relatively energetic young Yorkie quickly became her perfect companion.Repeatedly surrendered dog helps retired veteran battle loneliness

“It was very quiet here without a pet. I live alone and have had pets for a long time,” Bernie shares. “After losing my pet Charlie, I was so sad and missed him terribly. Prince helped me recover, gave me another life to focus on, and gave me joy. He keeps me on my toes!”

Prince did have some behavioral issues at first. So Bernie accessed resources on Pets for Patriots’ website, researched dog training options, and took a socialization class with Prince.

The young adult dog learned quickly and has already knows some basic commands.

Life fit for a prince

Living with Prince has brought Bernie new life, filling her days with amusement and occasional mischief. The repeatedly surrendered dog has found his forever home and gives his savior a respite from loneliness.

Prince is especially fond of following Bernie around the house and sitting on her lap when she watches TV. And he has mastered at least one part of the game of fetch.

“He likes to play with his toys and play fetch,” she says, “but doesn’t always bring the toy back.”

True to his breed, Prince is very smart and even a little sassy. He likes to wake up Bernie up in the morning by walking on her while she is in bed. The petite pup likes to share things that are not meant to be shared with him, as well.

“I have to be careful about leaving things out,” Bernie says. “He’s a silly guy and will drink from my cup if I leave it on the end table.”

Prince’s loving and playful nature are reminders of the unconditional love pets provide, especially to veterans in search of companionship.

From the heart

Bernie’s journey with Prince is a testament to the power of resilience and renewal that people and pets are able to provide one another.Repeatedly surrendered dog helps retired veteran battle loneliness

Since adopting Prince through our nationwide program Bernie has recommended Pets for Patriots to her veteran friends. She emphasizes the ease of the adoption process, the support she receives, and the immeasurable joy of having a companion pet.

“The application process was so easy and I got a response quicker than I expected,” she says.

“Everyone was so helpful, and they offered me tips throughout the adoption process. After I adopted Prince they wanted to know how things were going and even asked me for pictures!”

Our program helps veterans like Bernie find not just pets, but family members who bring renewed meaning to their lives. The mere act of caring for a helpless dog or cat is fulfilling. It is a reminder that we all need others – and need to be needed, too.

However, Bernie sums it up best when reflecting on the value of adopting shelter animals.

“Life is better with a loving companion!”


  1. laura

    Friends! Can you please tell me if it is possible to publish a guest pos

  2. Les LF

    Kudos Bernie . Prince has found his Princess 😎

  3. MJ

    Bernie is the cutest pup! And yes, I can see that “sassy” spark in his eyes, even when he’s lying down looking innocently up at the camera. I’m so sorry for the loss of your other 3 furbabies, and maybe one day, you’ll get Bernie a brother or sister. Regardless, this little guy looks like he will give you unlimited love and companionship.

  4. Joe Lazaravich

    Beautiful ! Another success story for Pets For Patriots. Prince is a handsome Yorkie who it seems is bringing lots and lots of smiles and laughter to Bernie. She hit the nail on the head with her statement that ” Life is better with a loving companion. “

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