Resilience bonds Navy veteran and critically ill rescue dog

Resilience bonds Navy veteran and critically ill rescue dog

Ralph’s Navy career is notable for the grit and determination forged during his service in two wars. A dog he rescued – who almost died days after adoption – survived thanks to his own brand of resilience.

At sea, at war

A deep patriotism inspired Ralph to enlist in the Navy.

“[I’m an] OEF, OIF veteran,” he says. “Entered [the] military to fight for our country and see the world.”

And so he did.

During his tour of duty Ralph would deploy in support of not one, but two Middle East wars. In the aftermath of 9/11 he served in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). He then served in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

These were historic, stressful, and dangerous assignments. Ralph was part of a team responsible to launch aircraft from flight decks on naval carriers at sea.

The Navy veteran’s military responsibilities were as exhilarating as they were terrifying.

“Launching aircraft off a flight deck was one of the most hardest and exciting times of my life,” he says.

Resilience meets resilience

These days the Navy veteran’s life is much less stressful.Resilience bonds Navy veteran and critically ill rescue dog

Ralph lives in Maryland with his wife Jessi, two children, a dog named Ripley, and a flock of chickens. In time they all decided that Ripley needed a canine friend.

So the family visited Prince George’s County Animal Services Division.

Since 2013 the shelter offers our veterans fee-waived adoptions to rescue eligible pets.

Almost 200 such matches have been made through our partnership to date.

“The animal shelter was having to euthanize half of the incoming dogs,” Ralph recalls. “They contracted a respiratory virus that was taking them out faster than the euthanization process.”

Damu was one such at-risk dog; the big Labrador-Cane Corso mix entered the shelter as a stray. Ralph and his family decided to meet him and were struck when the happy, playful puppy tried to follow them out of the visiting area.

“We knew he was perfect for our family,” Ralph’s wife Jessi says, “and we put in an application to adopt him that day.”

The Navy veteran adopted Damu and the family renamed him Rex, which means king.

But all would not be well for this new family. It turned out that Rex needed them as much as they needed him. But over the following weeks the dog showed a trademark resilience that helped save his life.

The difference a day makes

Once home, Rex was a much different pup than the one the family met at the shelter. He was extremely lethargic and weak, and refused to eat. Ralph had to carry him up the stairs after taking him outside.

Short walks exhausted the young pup. Rex would lie in the doorway instead of exploring his new home.

Even the family’s resident dog Ripley sensed something was amiss.

“I think he knew he was very sick,” Ralph recalls. “Rip slept next to him all the first night, which helped calm and comfort Rex.”

“…a miracle”

Time was not a friend to Rex; he got much worse overnight. His eyes and nose showed signs of sickness, his back arched in pain, and he was unable to stand on his own.

After five days of taking medication for kennel cough Rex was not getting better – he was getting worse.Resilience bonds Navy veteran and critically ill rescue dog

Ralph took Rex to their veterinarian, hoping for answers. Calvert Animal Hospital took x-rays of Rex’s lungs to reveal an unsettling truth.

The young dog had a rare case of pneumonia in both lungs. They advised Ralph to rush him to an emergency veterinary clinic in Annapolis.

Upon arrival clinic staff placed Rex in an oxygen tent.

Although the resilient dog became more alert he was still in critical condition.

“His lungs were full of fluid,” Ralph says. “They said it was a miracle he is still breathing.”

The young dog needed medical treatment that required an overnight stay. And there was no guarantee that he would make it.

Ralph stayed in touch with our team throughout the entire ordeal. The Navy veteran’s spirits were buoyed when told that Rex’s blood work looked good.

“Currently he is fighting for his life in the oxygen tank,” Ralph shares. “I think he’s going to pull through.”

Ralph saw in Rex something he embodies himself: resilience.

The family took the hopeful news as a sign that Rex was a fighter who wanted to live. So they gave him that fighting chance – and told the emergency team to proceed with treatment.

A future worth the fight

Rex came out of the hospital with a renewed spirit. But the emergency staff emphasized that he needed to stay calm to ensure his lungs would heal.Resilience bonds Navy veteran and critically ill rescue dog

Rex would be okay, and quickly found his place as one of the family.

Once home the fun-loving pup that the family met at the shelter had returned. He found his place chewing on bones and learning new commands like ‘sit.’ The big, goofy dog would follow his people from room to room. And as he started gaining weight his coat started to shine once again.

Ralph and his family are thrilled that their resilient dog pulled through. But the treatment was expensive – and Rex still needed to get neutered and vaccinated.

Be a pet’s hero

At our suggestion Ralph applied to our hero program for veterinary care. It is funded by donors inspired to help veterans with costly pet medical bills.

On average it costs just under $500 to support a hero program request.

The hero program, however, is not for emergency medical needs. But it does consider requests for essential, lifesaving, and palliative care.

In Rex’s case, donors paid for his follow up x-rays, neuter surgery, and booster vaccinations.Resilience bonds Navy veteran and critically ill rescue dog

Our hardship program gave Rex extra support to reduce the family’s financial burden.

As an added bonus, Ralph’s regular veterinarian joined our free veterinarian partner program.

Calvert Animal Hospital offers our veterans’ pets 15 percent off veterinary care.

“…the best boy”

There was a reason Rex followed his new family out of the visitation room at the shelter.

Maybe the ever-resilient dog knew that they would give him the chance he needed. The chance to fight for his future – and to love and be loved by the people who saved him.

And there is no doubt that the big, goofy dog is adored. Jessi shares the family’s unanimous assessment of their newest member.

“Rex is the best boy.”

1 Comment

  1. Teresa Haidarian

    Who names a dog Damu? I hope not the shelter! Glad you are calling him Rex. He looks like the perfect dog too. I bet he’s a good boy on top of his stunning looks.


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