A retired sailor was looking for a four-legged friend for his family. A little Shih Tzu mix was awaiting his forever home. When the two met, there was an instant connection – and one military family became suddenly complete.
Saying ‘yes’ to service
Dwayne found himself weighing his options when he graduated high school. Unable to afford college, the New Jersey native decided to visit the local Navy recruiting station. He liked what he saw and decided to serve.
In April 1986, Dwayne enlisted in the Navy under the delayed entry program, which allows new recruits to extend their entry into boot camp for up to one year. In time he trained in the Great Lakes and was subsequently stationed in San Diego, where he worked in aviation administration. Following his training in California, Dwayne was stationed in Virginia Beach and finished out his career as command master chief (E-9).
“I had 30 years and 10 months,” Dwayne says. “I am enjoying retirement, but my wife is trying to push me out of the house already.”
During Dwayne’s enlistment, he spent time on the USS Constellation and USS Independence, both aircraft carriers. He deployed to many locations, including the Philippines, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Australia, Karachi, Diego Garcia, and Canada.
Despite all of Dwayne’s adventures in the Navy, the retired sailor’s most treasured memories were being present for the birth of each of his four children.
“I never missed a birth, so that was a great thing,” he says.
Daughters convince retired sailor to adopt
Dwayne’s daughters – ages 13, 17, 21, and 26 – were the motivating force behind the adoption of a special little rescue dog.
The Navy veteran’s wife had promised the girls a pet. Dwayne’s oldest daughter volunteered for the Virginia Beach SPCA, a Pets for Patriots shelter partner, and helped guide the family into rescuing. Upon learning about Dwayne’s military service, the shelter told the family about their partnership with us.
“Once we found out about it, it seemed like it was a great tool,” Dwayne says. “My wife loved it.”
Snoopy was a then three year-old Shih Tzu mix, with spots just like his namesake.
Dwayne’s wife and daughter called him from the shelter, saying they found the dog who would complete their family. The retired sailor was hesitant about getting a pet, however. He wanted to make sure his daughters knew that they would need to participate in caring for the newest family member.
But when Dwayne met Snoopy for the first time, any hesitation melted away.
“It was his eyes, it was how he was – he came right to us,” Dwayne recalls. “He was meant to be with us. He just drew us in. He’s part of the family now.”
From ruff life to great life
While the details of Snoopy’s background are unknown, by all accounts life was tough for the little dog.
“He had a double ear infection, fleas, [and] it seemed like his last owner didn’t take care of him,” Dwayne says. “He had some anxiety.”
With love and time Snoopy is coming around. His anxiety levels are down. He feels more at ease knowing that he is in a stable and loving home. And while he still gets anxious when the family leaves the house, he is learning that they always return.
“You can tell he went through a lot with his last owner,” Dwayne says. “It seemed like his anxiety was there, but now he is more comfortable.”
Snoopy has adjusted well to his new life. He is a big fan of belly rubs and walks. Surprisingly, he does not even mind his occasional trips to Owl Creek Veterinary Hospital. The practice has partnered with Pets for Patriots since 2012 and offers veterans in our program a 15% fee discount.
Dwayne learned about Owl Creek Veterinary Hospital through our program – as well as other benefits we offer, such as how to get discounts on pet health insurance through our partners at Petplan. Fortunately Snoopy “loves” the veterinarians at Owl Creek.
“You know when you go to the vet and the dog knows,” Dwayne says. “The vet is very accommodating.”
The family is looking forward to spending a special milestone with Snoopy: October 25 is his adoption anniversary. Festivities are already being planned.
“The girls are already talking about getting him a dog cake,” says Dwayne.
“He’s a part of us”
For someone who was hesitant about adopting a dog, Dwayne has no regrets.
“The house is bright. The kids love him,” he says. “Sometimes you sit down and you see him, and you just have a smile on your face. He just brings some warmth to you.”
The retired sailor and proud dog adopter notes that he still gets “a lot of correspondence from Pets for Patriots,” and anytime he has ever had a problem “they fixed it right away.”
While Dwayne appreciates being part of our Pets for Patriots family, what he values most are the positive changes that Snoopy has made to his own.
“He made our house more like a family,” he says. “He’s part of the family.”
Not only is Snoopy a member of the family, he may be the one that is most doted upon as well.
“My wife spoils him the most – he’s just another baby,” Dwayne says. “He’s a part of us.”