Rescue dog buoys active duty sailor during times of loss and loneliness

Rescue dog buoys active duty sailor during times of loss and loneliness

Kassandra serves in the Navy and is on the cusp of exciting changes in her life. But the active duty sailor is learning to cope with life’s more solemn experiences, as well, thanks to a loving rescue dog.

Roll tide

It would seem that the world is Kassandra’s oyster.

The Navy veteran just bought a new house with her fiancé. Together the couple are planning their wedding and anticipating the birth of their first child.

However, Kassandra’s path was not always as clear. A few years ago she decided to enlist in the military to expand her horizons and help chart a new course in her life.

“I joined the navy in 2019 to get some new experiences,” Kassandra says.

“I had already gone to university and just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. So I figured I would join the military and see where life went from there.”

In time Kassandra was on deployment and her ship pulled into Greece for a port call. It was there that the active duty sailor had her most memorable experience to date.

“My boyfriend took me too a cute little restaurant on New Years eve and he proposed to me,” she shares.

When the couple left the restaurant they were met by fireworks from a local celebration. Kassandra recalls the “really special night” and the fact that both were happy not to be spending the holiday evening on ship.

But in time life’s more sobering moments swept in like an unwelcome tide, and the active duty sailor would find comfort of the canine kind.

For the love of dogs

Dogs had always figured prominently in Kassandra’s life.

“I had grown up with dogs my entire life, but they were always family pets,” she says. “So when I moved away from home I was without a furry friend for awhile. I realized I was ready to get one again once I had my apartment settled.”

Military service can be a lonely existence.

As an active duty sailor Kassandra is obligated to go where the Navy needs her. Often this means acclimating to a community where she has neither family nor friends.

Like many veterans feeling the pangs of loneliness Kassandra visited her local animal shelter.

Since 2012 Virginia Beach SPCA offers veterans in our program 25 percent off adoption fees and access to their low-cost veterinary clinic without proof of income.

Shelter staff gave Kassandra a brochure about our program upon learning that she was an active duty sailor.

The Navy veteran decided it was a good idea to apply and gain access to the many benefits we offer to support adopting pets for life.

Three strikes – you’re in

Just a few weeks prior to Kassandra’s visit to Virginia Beach SPCA a dog named Otis entered the shelter.

Otis had numerous obstacles to his adoption.

It was spring 2021 and Otis was already four years old – more mature than the puppies and younger dogs many adopters prefer. He had heartworm disease, which would require months of treatment and limited exercise until he was healthy.

In addition, Otis is a bully breed, a type of dog that is subject to frequent negative misconceptions by would-be adopters.

However, Kassandra was not deterred or intimidated. The active duty sailor was approved into our program and the very next day brought Otis home.

And with the big mutt’s new life came a new name: Duke.

Duke to the rescue

While Kassandra could have adopted Duke without Pets for Patriots, she is glad that she chose to be part of our program. Upon adopting Duke she received a generous pet retailer gift card to ease the costs of welcoming home a new pet. It is one of our most popular benefits.

“It’s a great program!” she exclaims. “You get discounts at [veterinary] clinics, but I also received a welcome gift card that was perfect for getting Duke all the essentials we needed to make him feel at home.”

Once Duke completed his heartworm treatments he was finally free to be a full-time exercise companion to the active duty sailor and her fiancé. He loves to go on long walks and his human guardians are all too happy to oblige.

Kassandra is hard-pressed to find just one favorite thing that she loves most about her big Pit Bull mix.

Duke is equally comfortable with other dogs as he is with people, and has embraced his new life with gusto.

“Duke is so friendly! He loves making new doggie friends,” Kassandra says.

“He loves to cuddle and watch movies with us. He loves chasing after sticks and trying to bring back sticks that are way too big for him.”

But Duke is not only about fun and games.

The big dog has proven to be a healing force to Kassandra as she navigates the recent loss of her father. His mere presence helps her cope with the inevitable feelings of sadness and loneliness that are part of a loved one’s passing.

“He’s been very comforting to me this past year since I lost my dad,” she shares. “Duke is always there for cuddles when I’m feeling sad or having a hard day.”


  1. Mary Eaton

    Hi Kassandra,
    I too thank you for your service and adoption of handsome Duke. May he continue to soak up your love and attention and there be adventures ahead! He has rounded out your now family of three. A belly rub or gentle pat on the head goes a long way when it comes to our four legged furries.
    Best wishes to you and yours.

  2. Panda J.

    Thank you for your service, Kassandra. Duke is a cutie and I am so happy that you found each other at just the right time. I’m very sorry about the loss of your father. I know how hard that is, I lost my mother in Feb 2022. God Bless you and all your little family. I will pray for you to have many years together.

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