Retired Navy veteran seeks solace in shelter dog

Retired Navy veteran seeks solace in shelter dog

A retired Navy veteran spent his life in the service of others, from safe-guarding our country while in the military to building homes for those in need. Sometimes, however, those who give so much of themselves need something in return: the love, companionship and understanding that only a shelter dog can provide.

History and family inspire a young man to serve

Fred grew up in Milwaukee and attended college at Marquette, where he served in the Naval Reserves Officers Training Corps (NROTC). Upon graduation in 1962 he enlisted in the Navy.

As a child and throughout adulthood Fred enjoyed reading books about history, especially those having to do with the second World War. He is the only member of his family to serve as a military officer except for an uncle who fought in WWII.

These inspirations – history and family – inspired Fred throughout his long Naval career until his retirement in 1988. 

“I consider all 26 years as time well spent,” he says.

For three of those years Fred even worked with the Army while still enlisted in the Navy as part of a joint command for special operations. 

“That was interesting experience,” he recalls. 

Fred recalls many commands from his long career, including his first when he served as Second Lieutenant aboard the USS Intrepid, which is now a permanent museum in New York City. During the course of his military enlistments he served shore duty in many quarters of the world, including the Philippines and Ethiopia.

In time Fred earned command of his own ship, a frigate, and was deployed to Japan. It was there that he met the woman who would become his second wife, a Navy nurse stationed in Japan.

Retired Navy veteran copes with love and loss

Following Fred’s retirement from the Navy his second wife passed away from a heart attack. She was only 50 years old. He ultimately remarried, but is now separated.

These days the Navy veteran calls Knoxville, Tennessee his home. His son and daughter both live nearby, offering Fred plenty of opportunities to spend time with his six grandchildren. Fred’s other passion is building homes for those in need through Habitat for Humanity, where he has been volunteering for the past 22 years. His team specifically focuses on painting the homes. 

“We build about two houses a month here!” he says with pride.

Yet despite a life filled with family and volunteerism Fred still felt a certain loneliness. In addition to his separation he had recently lost his beloved yellow Lab and was still grieving. Eventually he knew it would be important to find the kind of friendship and camaraderie that only a companion dog could provide.

“I always had a dog in life.”

It was an article about Pets for Patriots in the Knoxville media that provided the catalyst for Fred to start searching for his next canine buddy.

Fred and Baylee_720x720

The retired Navy veteran visited Young-Williams Animal Center, a Pets for Patriots shelter partner in Knoxville that offers a 10% adoption fee discount to veterans in our program. While Fred understood that his new best friend would need to meet our eligibility criteria, his only concern was finding a shorthaired dog.

Baylee was a then three year-old Beagle mix who stood out to Fred right away. Shortly after their adoption in September 2015 Fred shared his delight in finding Baylee.

“We are getting along just fine – couldn’t ask for a nicer partner,” he says, adding, “thanks to all.”

“A dog is a good companion”

For the most part Baylee’s transition from homeless to home was a smooth one, though she was having a little difficulty with housebreaking. This led Fred to believe that she had probably spent most of her life outdoors.

With time and patience, Baylee adjusted wonderfully to her new life and home. Yet like most animals – and most people – she is not entirely comfortable around everyone she meets.

“She’s not fond of other female dogs,” Fred observes, “but she’s always been good with the grandchildren and any humans.”

The pair spend a lot of time in Fred’s yard where Baylee enjoys sunbathing, howling and running after various critters that come into her view. They have become very close, sharing the same recliner and – when it’s time to go to sleep – Baylee makes herself at home in Fred’s bed.

“She and I get along real well,” Fred says. “We both understand each other.”

Fred is at ease when his volunteerism occasionally takes him away from home because he knows that Baylee is well behaved and has excellent care from the family: his daughter is Baylee’s veterinarian. Now, instead of coming home to an empty house, Fred has a loving pup eagerly awaiting his return. The retired Navy veteran is no longer alone or lonely, and believes that adopting a companion pet is a good idea for anyone in a situation similar to his own.

“Anyone who’s living alone, like I am now,” he says, “a dog is a good companion!”


  1. Miriam Keilholtz

    Thank you, Fred for your awesome service to our great country as well as volunteering with helping as Habitat for Humanity for many years! I am sure Baylee has found the best forever home with you. KUDOS!!!

  2. Christens vercellino

    Yes for the love of a shelter dog. You will not find a more loyal, loving and grateful family member.

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