Rescue dog brings widowed Navy veteran relief from depression

Rescue dog brings widowed Navy veteran relief from depression

Elizabeth is a Navy veteran who needed relief from depression. It would be a rescue dog in need of healing, as well, who came to her aid.

A caring heart

In 1992 Elizabeth enlisted in the Navy. The newly minted high school graduate went to basic training in Orlando, Florida before heading to San Diego for Navy corpsman “A” school.

Navy corpsmen fill a vital role in providing essential healthcare to service members and their families. These professionals provide technical assistance in surgeries, dispense vaccinations and medications, perform basic dentistry, and conduct physical exams, among other vital duties.

Corpsman may serve in military hospitals, aboard ships and aircraft, or in the field.

After completing her training Elizabeth was stationed in Bethesda, Maryland at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. At the time it was known as the National Naval Medical Center, or NNMC.

The young corpsman had the privilege of serving in one of the nation’s most renowned military hospitals.

“When I worked on the cardiac step-down unit,” she recalls, “I had the most amazing people to work with! I remember every day – or night – going into work to help care for my patients that I was assigned, being able to rely on my coworkers if I needed help.”

However, Elizabeth’s time serving at Walter Reed was memorable for more personal reasons, as well.

“While I was at NNMC, I met the man that would become my husband.”

In 1996 Elizabeth separated from service with an honorable discharge. She would then enlist in the Navy Reserves for another two years before leaving the military to start her life anew.

Of love and loss – and love again

After her final separation Elizabeth and her new husband moved to West Virginia, where he grew up. Together the couple had six children and three grandchildren. Then tragedy struck the big, beautiful family they had nurtured together.

“We were married for 27 years,” she shares. “He passed away from Covid.”

In time Elizabeth’s broken heart began to heal, bringing some relief from depression that accompanied her tragic loss. She picked up the pieces of her life and moved forward. Eventually she met another man whom she plans to marry.

The couple live in Barboursville, West Virginia, where Elizabeth is studying healthcare services management online. Being home most of the time made her realize how quiet and empty her household actually felt.

“When I made the decision to move in with my fiancé I was going to school on campus, and I thought a dog could keep Larry company while I was in class and to have a companion around the house,” she explains. “All of our kids are grown and it seemed to quiet in the house. Remember, I was used to having six kids!”

Adopt not shop

One day in early spring of 2022 Elizabeth and Larry decided to visit their local shelter. Just a few months earlier Huntington Cabell Wayne Animal Control Shelter joined our free shelter partner program in the hopes of adopting out pets to veterans in their community.

The municipal shelter offers veterans we serve a reduced adoption fee of just $50 when they rescue eligible dogs and cats.

Elizabeth is candid about how she went from window shopping to adopting.

“The shelter told us about the program when we went to ‘just look,'” she shares. “I honestly chose to adopt through the program because of the reduced adoption fee.”

Any adoption specials that shelters offer to veterans we serve are but one of a range of benefits to help make pet adoption affordable for military personnel. Our goal is to reduce the financial obstacles that often accompany welcoming a new animal home.

However, in addition to the practical benefits are more intangible ones. Elizabeth would soon learn that companion pets offer relief from depression and other emotional challenges that many veterans face.

Someone to love

It was mid January 2022 when Gustavo was found as a stray. He was made available for adoption after the stray hold expired and no one claimed him.

Nearly two months later Elizabeth visited the shelter with her fiancé. She applied online after learning about our companion pet adoption program for veterans from shelter staff.

While at the shelter, however, she saw Gustavo. The Navy veteran’s heart sank when she set her eyes upon him. There was just something so sweet and vulnerable about the big dog that awakened her caretaking nature.

Barely a week after being approved Elizabeth welcomed Gustavo home; he is now known as Goose.

“…my best friend”

Elizabeth never intended to adopt a pet that early spring day when she visited the shelter. But she now advocates for other people – veterans and civilians alike – to make the transformative commitment to adopt a best friend.

“Do it. It will change your life!” she exclaims. “Having a furry friend helps with stress and depression!”

The former corpsman is testament to how an ordinary dog or cat can provide relief from depression. Companion animals are healing by their mere presence. They live in the present and invite us to do the same, and integrate themselves easily into our daily routines.

Goose adapted quickly to his new home and new family. Wherever they go, so he goes as well.

“My fiancé and I enjoy spending time outdoors, either working around our own yard or exploring our beautiful state,” Elizabeth says. “Yes, our Goose goes with us. He loves to travel!”

Just a few months after their adoption Elizabeth decided to visit her home state of Pennsylvania.

“Naturally, Goose went with us,” she shares. “As long as his bed and blanket are in the car he’s ready to go! He’s a perfect gentleman when we go visit with other people.”

So while Elizabeth may be an accidental adopter, it is no accident that her rescue dog is proving to be an emotional salve. His mere presence is a comfort; a respite from Elizabeth’s moments of darkness.

This once unwanted rescue dog brings much needed relief from depression, all in exchange for the simplicity of a loving home.

It seems fitting that a Navy corpsman who devoted her life to caring for others finds healing at the other end of the leash.

“Goose is my best friend! I have a mild case of depression and I never realized how much help a dog can be,” she shares. “He’s always there for me and he doesn’t judge.”


  1. Mary Eaton

    Thank you for your service and time caring for others. Grateful I am that Goose found a loving home. A good traveling companion has the potential for many adventures, four legged as well as two legged. May you continue to find joy in life.

  2. Christine E

    Goose has such a sweet, vulnerable face. So cute! Yes, dogs are great for easing depression, and i ‘m glad Goose has helped you with yours. There’s nothing like their unconditional love. Wishing you many happy years together, and thank you for your Service.

  3. MJ Shute

    As another female Navy vet, I commend you for adopting, and I’m so glad to read that Goose(love the name!) has brought love and joy to your life, and has lifted you from depression.

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