Retired Navy Yeoman finds honor in pet adoption

In 2000 and after twenty years’ service, Melinda retired from the U.S. Navy as a yeoman first class and found another calling: pet adoption.

“It was a wonderful 20 years!” Melinda exclaims, “The people, the places, the opportunities – all terrific!”

For the love of Navy…and dogs

The Navy veteran collected many fond memories during her time in the military. Among her favorites are learning to live on her own away from parents, meeting her husband, living in Australia, working at the Pentagon and establishing new friendships over the years. Especially dear to Melinda’s heart was her husband’s first Christmas gift to her in Australia, an English Cocker Spaniel named Mattie, the couple’s “little waltzing Matilda.”

L.J. and Melinda (close up)Now retired from service during which time she was a Navy Flag Writer, Melinda currently works at the Norfolk Navy Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia. Shortly after her retirement, Melinda decided with her husband to add another dog to their family and, in the process, were bitten by the rescue bug.

The couple found their first adoptee, Sylvie, at a shelter in Chesapeake, Virginia.

“My husband fell in love with this underweight Schnauzer-terrier and that was all it took,” says Melinda. “She became the love or our lives. She had many health issues which were unknown at the time of adoption, but she taught us the meaning of resilience, gratitude and true love.”

Pet adoption as a way of life

So moved by their experiences with Sylvie, Melinda and her husband have adopted seven more dogs over the last eleven years. The most recent addition to their household is L.J. (short for “Little Jake”), a two year-old Jack Russell Terrier whom they adopted from a Pets for Patriots partner shelter, Norfolk Animal Care & Adoption Center. As a Pets for Patriots member, Melinda received a 50% adoption fee discount from the shelter, discounted veterinary care through the charity’s local veterinary partners and other benefits to help make pet adoption affordable and sustainable.

Melinda learned about the nationally operating charity through the adoption center’s website. She chose to join since “it was an easy application to fill out, with an immediate response.”

Today Melinda and her husband enjoy the companionship of five dogs in their home, including recently adopted L.J.

“L.J. is an amazing and crazy Jack Russell,” says Melinda, “He has brought a new level of ‘high energy’ into our home.”

To expend some of that energy, L.J. is currently attending obedience classes with his four-legged brother, Mike, a three year-old Schnauzer.

“They compete a lot with one another,” Melinda observes, “and we are determined to make it work for everyone.”

In addition to “NASCAR racing through the house,” L.J. brings many little joys to his new pet parents: a wet little nose, socks hidden under their bed, a tennis ball in the mouth at all times  – which ends up in his food or water bowls occasionally – and kisses in their ears. Most important, L.J. adds more love to their family life.

When asked why she chooses to continue rescuing dogs, the Navy veteran is clear that the dogs aren’t the only ones who are rescued.

“We are the ones who are honored by the opportunity to have rescued not only L.J., as he was returned to [the adoption center] three times previously, but also other amazing lost or unwanted dogs,” she explains. “We are honored by them!”

Melinda urges other veterans or service members to adopt a pet through Pets for Patriots and to experience the transformative love of a rescued companion dog or cat.

“Do it!” she says. “Make a difference in a pet’s life! In turn, they’ll make a difference in yours!”

How has your adopted pet made a difference in your life?


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