Rescue dog a ray of light for grieving Marine Corps veteran

Rescue dog a ray of light for grieving Marine Corps veteran

A Marine Corps veteran found that his military training did not prepare him for the most challenging battle of his life: losing his father to cancer. Yet it was a rescue dog in need of saving as well who proved to be the answer to his grief.

Born to serve

Since he was five years-old Jim knew that he wanted to be in the Marines. 

One day a friend’s father, who happened to be a Marine Corps recruiter, spoke at his school’s career day. In 1996 and once he was of age, Jim enlisted in the Corps in Quantico, Virginia.

Jim completed his tour of duty and received an honorable discharge. He would ultimately settle in Florida, where he currently lives and works. The veteran is part of a close-knit family that spends a lot of quality time together.

“We always have family night every Sunday night,” he says.

The ultimate battle

Few things in life prepare us for losing a beloved family member. Yet Jim was faced with the reality that his father was dying from cancer – a battle he lost in September of 2017.

“My dad died of cancer,” Jim shares, “and about a month after I saw Max on Big Dog Ranch [Rescue] website and knew he was the one.”

Spurred by grief, the Marine Corps veteran thought about adopting a companion pet and started his search online at Big Dog Ranch Rescue.

Since 2012, the rescue has partnered with us to find loving military homes for the most overlooked dogs in their care. Veterans in our program receive a steeply discounted adoption fee of $50 from the rescue, in addition to other cost-saving benefits provided by Pets for Patriots.

Rescue dog a ray of light for grieving Marine Corps veteran

The Marine Corps veteran heard about our companion pet adoption program through a friend. Jim decided to adopt through us and our partnership with Big Dog Ranch Rescue because our mission supports not just homeless pets, but veterans, too.

“Even just reducing the adoption fee helps a lot,” says Jim.

Max was a then two year-old German Shepherd/Labrador mix in need of a hero. Little could Jim know that this rescue dog would in turn become a hero to him.

For the love of a rescue dog

Like every faithful friend, the rescue dog lets Jim know that he is missed when he leaves the house. He is always ready to welcome his Marine home.

“Even if I have a bad day Max greets me at the door when I come home,” Jim says.

Perhaps what the grieving veteran values most are the moments of levity that Max brings into his world. Max’s silly antics make it impossible not to smile and revel in his well-deserved freedom.

Rescue dog a ray of light for grieving Marine Corps veteran

“He is very goofy and playful,” Jim says. “Sleeps in many weird positions, and when he sleeps on his back he snores.”

Welcoming Max into Jim’s life has done wonders for the Marine Corps veteran and his family. And all the rescue dog has to do is be himself – no special training required.

For individuals who neither need nor qualify for a service animal, a companion dog or cat can work wonders. And be no less lifesaving. 

“Max has helped a lot,” Jim says. “He has brought not only me, but my brother and mother comfort and love.”


  1. Leon Schwartz

    I lost my wife of 50 years to COPD in March of this year. Our rescued dog MILEY who is an American Lab has been with us for 11 years and was a comfort to both my wife and I. When Miley realized that Anne was not returning to our home she took it upon herself to finally become affectionate. She is by my side constantly, and although she is 12 years old she still greets me every time I return home. She also receives a doggie treat when I exit my vehicle. Enjoy your new best buddy

  2. Mary Eaton

    Love the pictures you’ve shared. Max looks to be full of fun and antics. A good tradition, the once a week family gathering. Perhaps you do as my adult children and I do, once in a while, which is have a toast to their Dad, now dead 12 years. Thank you for your service and rescuing this handsome fella.

  3. Lori

    Thanks for sharing your story Jim. We adopted our beagle from Big Dog Ranch too! He also sleeps in many weird positions that make me laugh every time. So glad you found each other.

  4. Panda J.

    Thank you for your service, Jim. My condolences on the loss of your father. The pictures of you and Max made me smile today…I lost my precious rescue dog 2 days ago, after 7 years together, and I haven’t stopped crying since then until just now. I hope that your Max brings you as much love and companionship as my Phoebe did, and that you have a long life together. RIP, Phoebe.

    • bethz

      Panda, we are so sorry for the loss of your pup. All of us here are pet parents and empathize with your grief. We hope your dog went in peace, and that when you’re ready you’ll save another four-legged soul.

  5. Lu

    Inspiring story! Dogs are truly a gift!

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