Rescue dog brings valuable life lessons to young military family

Rescue dog brings valuable life lessons to young military family

An Army veteran and his young military family learn about life and love when they adopt a shelter dog who needed a home.

A proud family tradition

John is a third generation veteran. He enlisted in the Army in 1994 and trained at Fort Benning in Georgia, which is now called Fort Moore. His military occupational specialty, or MOS, was 11M: mechanized infantry specialists.

In 2001 the Army brought various infantry MOS under a more general MOS of 11B infantryman. The goal was a more flexible infantry whose soldiers could fill almost any combat role.

The decision to combine infantry MOS was one that remains controversial.

John was stationed in Schweinfurt, Germany following his basic and advanced individual training. During the course of his tour he was attached to the Army 3rd Infantry Division (ID) and the 1st ID as well. Rescue dog brings valuable life lessons to young military family

The 3rd ID has a storied history. It was the only Army division in WWII to fight the Axis across all European fronts. And it holds the most Medal of Honor recipients of any Army ID.

John is proud of his service and military heritage – rightly so.

“I am a third generation veteran!” he exclaims.

Two years into his tour of duty John experienced a bittersweet deployment. His unit was dispatched to Bosnia and stationed as security at the Zetra Olympic Hall.

“It was the home of the 1984 winter Olympics,” he shares. “It was a very neat experience, but sad to see what happened to it with the bombing and shelling from the war.”

The fixer

John completed his tour of duty and received an honorable discharge. For the past 23 years he has called New Port Richey, Florida home, where he lives with his wife and three boys.

The Army veteran works in a security capacity at Tampa International Airport. When not working he enjoys more leisurely pursuits. And he has earned a reputation as a fixer of sorts among his boys’ friends.

“Hanging out at the pool, reading,” he says, “and always seem to be fixing my sons’ or the neighborhood kids’ bikes.”

The 23 percent

In 2019 John made what would be a life-changing decision for his young military family.Rescue dog brings valuable life lessons to young military family

“I decided that my family – more specifically my kids – needed something to help teach them responsibility,” he shares.

“And I needed something to help me stay calm through some difficult times in my marriage.”

The Army veteran chose to adopt a companion dog.

Unfortunately only 23 percent of people who have dogs acquired them by adoption. Far more – 34 percent – get them from breeders.

John started where most would-be adopters begin their adoption journeys: online. He still remembers how he discovered Pets for Patriots.

“I searched for a program for vets adoption on shelter pets,” he says.

The Army veteran thought our logo was “catchy.” He appreciates that we offer access to affordable veterinary care. And veterinary support services, too.

We approved John’s application in late November, but it would be more than a month later that he met his match.

History a mystery

Pasco County Animal Services is a municipal facility in Land O’ Lakes, Florida. It offers half-priced adoptions to our veterans when they adopt eligible dogs or cats.Rescue dog brings valuable life lessons to young military family

In 2019 Marley was a then four year-old mixed breed dog in the shelter’s care. Her history is a mystery, much like most homeless animals.

For his part, John was patient with his search.

The former soldier wanted to make sure he found the right dog for his young military family.

It was the waning days of 2019 when John met Marley at Pasco County Animal Services. As an adult dog she was well beyond puppyhood, but had plenty of love and vigor to share.

For these reasons, as well as her sweet, loving personality, Marley’s days as a homeless dog were about to be over.

So two days before the clock struck 2020 Marley became part of John’s young military family.

“…has no hatred”

John could have adopted a pet without Pets for Patriots. But he values our commitment to make adopting a pet for life more affordable.

“I would definitely use this program. It saves you money in multiple ways,” he says. “It helps save animals lives, and it’s a great way for veterans to adopt a pet.”

The Army veteran soon discovered that Marley is a mid-sized dog with a big heart. There is not a mean bone in her body. She is an equal-opportunity friend.

“Marley has no hatred, she loves on everyone that comes to the house,” John says. “Especially the other neighborhood kids.”Rescue dog brings valuable life lessons to young military family

But it is more than Marley’s sweet demeanor that endears her to this young military family. She has taught everyone in the household important life lessons as well.

“Marley has helped my kids learn to take care of something other than themselves,” John says.

And it is not only the children who benefit.

“She has given me something to keep my mind on,” John says, “be it giving her constant love and pets, or just sitting and talking with her.”


  1. MJ

    I totally agree with Jean from 4/30/24. Dogs are so much more intuitive than we give them credit for, and feed off our emotions and tone of voice. I have a Jack Russell/Yorkie mix who I’ve developed a deep bond with, even though I’ve had her just over a year. But she seems to understand what I need.

    Marley sounds like she came into your life just when you and your kids needed her. It’s great that she’s teaching them a sense of responsibility now, something that will carry over into adulthood.

    You’ve been blessed with the love of a precious pup!

  2. Jean m. Ulmer

    04-30-24: Hi. The ability for Dogs to enrich Our life’s lessons is necessary and uncanny. Let our life’s setbacks never take front stage too: Hey! Our dogs sometimes at First meeting, understand what we need. I encourage talking to our dogs, somehow they understand and often want to Help, but in exchange for so very little I Return.


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