Rescue dog teaches combat veteran to love and be loved

Born to ride, born to love

Charles retired from the United States Air Force in 2009 after 20 years of service, nearly half of which was spent in combat deployments. He was rescued by a homeless dog who claimed him as her own in a most unusual way, and has since taught him the true meaning of love.

After leaving the service and losing his job, Charles started his own lawn mowing business and – at the age of 46 – began using his GI Bill to go back to school.

Now living in Florida with his wife, Charles is an avid biker and member of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, men and women from all armed forces who love to ride and support their fellow veterans.

Charles, Jerri and Abby_square

“All they are, they give to you”

For the first 15 years of his military service Charles was a Security Forces Specialist, a highly trained force to protect human and other assets of the United States Air Force. He subsequently retrained for a career in Logistics Planning, and spent eight-and-a-half years deployed in combat zones. Through his two decades of service, Charles has lived all over the world: cumulatively seven years in Misawa, Japan and Moron, Spain, as well as many years in three different duty stations stateside.

Once he retired from the military and like many veterans separated from service, Charles felt a nagging void in his life; the bonds created throughout a military career are difficult to recreate in the civilian world.

It was the longing for that indelible bond that inspired the combat veteran to adopt a companion pet.

“The look in their eyes when they look at you. All they are, they give to you, unconditionally,” Charles says. “That type of devotion is hard to find outside of the military.”

After 20 years of military service and being responsible for the lives of his fellow veterans, Charles was unsure if he was ready to shoulder the responsibility for another life. But the lure of the unconditional, non-judgmental love of a companion pet was too great to resist.

On your mark…

Charles learned about Pets for Patriots and our dedication to companion pet adoption for military veterans through our partnership with Big Dog Ranch Rescue in Wellington, Florida, which encouraged him to apply to our program. As a relatively new business owner and now college student, Charles appreciated all of the benefits we offer to help make pet guardianship affordable for veterans.

“Best advice I had gotten in a long time,” he says.

It was not long until Charles met Abby – named Sila at the time – a calm and well behaved adult Lab mix. She immediately “claimed” the combat veteran as her own by urinating on his boot.

“I knew she was marking me as hers,” he says with a smile, “so all I had to do was wait for her to finish, then establish my dominance, and that was it!”

Since that auspicious beginning, Charles and Abby have been inseparable. Little is known about the rescue dog’s previous life, but since being saved she has taught her veteran valuable lessons about love – and life.

“She has made me realize that it’s okay to be responsible for another being again,” he shares, “and to allow the love to flow both ways without regrets. She has made me more aware of the needs of “something else” in my life.”

Ready to roll

The combat veteran truly believes that Abby rescued him. The dog has not left Charles’ side since they adopted one another, and he loves how much she wants to be with him where ever he goes.

“She wants to – and does – go everywhere with me,” he says. “I take her out lawn mowing. She loves riding in the truck and watching the horses go by on one of the properties.”

Charles marvels at how easy going his rescue dog can be.

“She even lets us put on her sunglasses, load her up on the motorcycle and go burn up some highway!” he exclaims.

Abby (Charles) riding bike_square

Abby is a fun, intelligent bundle of energy. She is quite the trader too.

“She will take a toy and place it next to the item that she wants, and trade for it,” Charles explains. “Funny to see her prancing through the house with a shoe, sock, roll of toilet paper or anything we have not thought to get behind a closed door.”

While other pet guardians might find the prospect of their dogs or cats “stealing” personal items problematic, Charles appreciates this as one of Abby’s many “fun” personality traits. He takes it all in stride, accepting her as she does him.


Charles and his wife Jerri have loved every minute of watching their rescue dog blossom, and became curious about her possible breed mix. The couple did some research and believe she has traits of the Nova Scotia Red Tolling Duck Retriever, known as a Red Duck Dog as well.

Whatever her constitution, adopting Abby has ben nothing short of “awesome.”

“The program that Pets for Patriots offers you is the opportunity to not only get a dog very affordably,” he says, “but also to get some awesome discounts at veterinarians and also an awesome gift card so you can ensure that you start off with your new companion on an awesome start!”

However the highest praise is rightly reserved for Abby, since the rescue dog delivers the most awesome gift: love.

“[She’s] so much fun to be with, and an absolute lover and attention hound when she needs some [love],” says Charles, adding, “this dog keeps me grounded.”


  1. chuck gravallese

    Charles, that is a great story.

    My wife and I adopted from BDRR in Wellington almost 2 yrs ago through Pets for Patriots. Best thing we ever did. I have lots of struggles, my wife will agree(LOL) but having, Chance(Border Collie Mix) close to me i get a lot of relief from my issues. I can concentrate on him and what he needs and wants to do. I know he loves me no matter if I have good days or bad days, nothing is asked in return.

  2. Mary

    Thank you for this awesome story as a start to an otherwise bleak day weather-wise. I read it to my Pets for Patriots rescue, Rocky the Magnificent. He is sleeping in this morning while I go to work but loved hearing it as well as the cuddle time that went with it. They really do give us all!

  3. Denise

    Yes Susan- I was thinking the same thing! Wonderful reflection on his experience.

  4. Susan

    Oh my what a wonderful story. I particularly love these observations by Charles: “The look in their eyes when they look at you. All they are, they give to you, unconditionally.” and “She has made me realize that it’s okay to be responsible for another being again and to allow the love to flow both ways without regrets. She has made me more aware of the needs of “something else” in my life.” This is very essence of adopting a shelter pet, don’t you think?

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