Rescue dog gives Navy widower a reason to embrace life again

Rescue dog gives Navy widower a reason to embrace life again

A widower who found himself lonely and alone is now inspired to embrace each day thanks to a cuddlesome rescue dog.

All aboard

John reflects on the long arc of his life as a now elderly man with many stories to share. In 1965 he was attending university when he decided that college did not suit him. His decision turned out to be prescient because his draft notice soon followed.

“I withdrew, and received my draft notice a week later telling me to report for my Army physical at Fort Holabird,” he recalls. “I contacted the Navy recruiter and signed up and went to Great Lakes for boot camp.”

Following John’s initial training he was assigned to the USS San Pablo, home ported in Philadelphia. During his tour of duty, the San Pablo was commissioned as a hydrographic survey ship. These vessels are responsible for undersea mapping and data collection for mineral extraction or underwater construction projects.

John served two years aboard the San Pablo, during which time he made second class petty officer. He forged and fabricted a wide range of structural elements aboard ship as a naval shipfitter.

That sinking feeling

John has vivid memories of his naval service despite having served decades ago. He recalls a daring rescue that forever changed his fellow sailors’ views of those who served in another seafaring branch of the armed forces.

“My shipmates always referred to anyone in the Coast Guard as ‘shallow water sailors.’ After an incident in the North Atlantic that reference abruptly stopped. One of my shipmates contacted appendicitis and we were off the coast of Newfoundland in very rough seas. A Coast Guard cutter showed up, lowered a motor whale boat with three men overboard which headed toward the San Pablo and managed to get the patient lowered over the side in a stretcher while the waves were slamming them up against us – and were successful in getting him transferred to the cutter,” he shares.

“Never called them shallow water sailors again.”Rescue dog gives Navy widower a reason to embrace life again

During his tour John married his childhood sweetheart. Following their nuptials the Navy veteran was transferred to the USS Cadmus, a repair ship based out of Newport, Rhode Island.

However, tragedy soon followed in his wake.

“My wife was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, was pregnant, and I received a hardship discharge in 1969,” he shares.

“She passed away in 1970 when my son was one year old. It was a rough time, but I have many great memories of my time in the Navy.”


In time the widower remarried. But in 2022 an all too familiar grief consumed him.

“My second wife just passed away from breast cancer last year,” John shares, “and I was having a little difficulty dealing with this big empty house so I went looking for a canine companion.”

Finding a dog or cat who needs a home is easy. Millions enter shelters around the country each year. The population of those who do not make it out alive would fill all Major League Baseball stadiums combined.

However, finding the right pet can be a more challenging task. This is especially so as people age and are less able to manage large, young, or particularly energetic animals. It is critical to adopt a companion pet that aligns with one’s own physical abilities and stamina.

John confides that he was among those who struggled to find the right dog.

“Had a hard time finding one at first – almost gave up,” the widower says, “then along came Charlotte. I think I hit the jackpot!”

No longer alone

It was late September 2023 and Charlotte was an adult Spaniel in the care of SPCA of Anne Arundel County. Since 2016 the shelter has made more than 80 adoptions through our partnership and waives adoption fees for veterans we serve.

Shelter staff told the elderly widower about our companion pet adoption program for military veterans. We offer many benefits to make adopting pets for life more affordable.Rescue dog gives Navy widower a reason to embrace life again

“The people at SPCA of Anne Arundel introduced me to Pets for Patriots and I am so glad they did,” John recalls.

“What a great program it is!”

Upon his approval into our program the widower adopted Charlotte. The Navy veteran finds it hard to overstate the impact that the rescue dog has already had on his life. She is proving to be the antidote to the profound loneliness that John had been coping with since his wife’s passing.

“I am a 77 year-old man, retired, twice widowed, who was living alone in a four bedroom house until recently when I was lucky enough to find a five year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Charlotte, who has done wonders for the ’empty house syndrome’ that I was struggling with until she showed up,” he shares.

“The assistance that Pets for Patriots has provided in the adoption process has been icing on the cake.”


Upon her adoption Charlotte wasted no time investigating her new home, which she explored with abandon.

“Charlotte has thoroughly inspected the house from top to bottom and seems to approve,” John says. “She follows me everywhere! I may have a potential problem with separation anxiety [and] will try to educate myself about that condition.”

Separation anxiety is common among rescue dogs, many of whom have been in multiple homes or abandoned outright. Fortunately, it can be managed with a touch of discipline and tough love, especially when exiting one’s home and leaving the dog alone.

Still, the widower does not regret his decision to adopt the spirited Spaniel. She brings just the right amount of spunk into his home.

“This sweet little dog has immediately injected some joy back into this big empty house.”

“…a reason to get up in the morning”

John is so delighted with his adoption experience that he recommends other veterans apply to our program when they are ready to find a new pet friend.Rescue dog gives Navy widower a reason to embrace life again

“I am happy to say that everything about this adoption has turned out even better than I could have imagined,” he says.

“Charlotte and I have really bonded. We are mutual best friends!”

The elderly widower now has new daily routines. These include daily walks to various local parks, which is excellent exercise for both John and Charlotte, and a cuddlesome friend who enjoys nestling with him on the sofa.

While the little dog is friendly to people she and John meet on their adventures, at home Charlotte is something of a couch potato. And that is just fine with John.

“I signed her up for DogTV,” he shares, “and got a security camera for when I have to leave her home for a while. She curls up right inside the front door and doesn’t move til I get home.”

Most of all, John has a renewed sense of purpose with which to greet each day. While nothing can replace the widower’s wife, it feels good to need someone – and be needed – once again.

“Lost my wife last year and it’s been a little lonely around here,” he confides. “This sweet little pooch has given me a reason to get up in the morning.”

1 Comment

  1. MJ

    Your story with Charlotte touched me immensely. That she has been able to bring sunshine back into your lonely life made me smile, and I hope you have many more years together! And from another Navy vet, thank you so much for your service!

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