Amanuel – or Ray as he prefers – is a retired Vietnam veteran. He has always loved dogs and has experience with all of the working-class dogs including German Shepherds, Dobermans, Rottweilers, Irish Setters, and Labradors.
During more than 20 years in the Army the former master sergeant served with the military police (MP). Over the course of his service he trained and deployed with military working dogs (MWD).
Ray retired in 1990. He settled into a new life – and a completely different breed of dog than he was used to as an MP.
In 2006, the former master sergeant got Little Ice, a Cairn Terrier/Dachshund mix. A Yorkipoo named Maxi is part of his pack as well.
“I fell in love with lapdogs once I got Ice,” says Ray. As an older veteran, he found smaller dogs easier to maintain.
Taking the man out of the Army but not the Army out of the man
It took Ray some time to adjust to life after service.
At first, the Vietnam veteran worked with troubled youth. Because he was a retired MP he was assigned the toughest kids, including some who were violent. Others were young adults who needed help showering and getting dressed.
Ray admits that it was more intense work than he was seeking in retirement.
Still, Ray eventually got the itch to get busy again. After a long military career the Vietnam veteran felt driven to work – and to do something meaningful with his time.
Eventually Ray started a new life as an entrepreneur. He now works full-time for himself, running a small security/property management business. In his spare time he likes to fly drones and remote control surface vehicles.
The missing link
In 2015, Ice died.
Ray wanted to get a companion for Maxi so she would not be lonely. He and his wife, Valentina, researched shelters and discovered the Greater Huntsville Humane Society.
The shelter offers veterans in our program 25% off adoption fees when they save program-eligible dogs and cats.
When the Vietnam veteran first saw a dog named Snookie he was instantly smitten.
The Chihuahua-Papillon mix had been surrendered by a woman who could no longer take care of her. But Snookie was nervous and high strung, especially around men. She wore a muzzle to keep her from biting the staff during veterinarian visits.
“She was a mean little thing,” Ray recalls.
But the former MP was up to the challenge. In September 2015, he and Snookie became our first adoptees through our partnership with Greater Huntsville Humane Society.
Maxi, however, did not care for the newest member of the pack. While the two little dogs did not fight, Maxi simply wanted nothing to do with Snookie.
So Ray was patient. His long Army career helped him cope with conflict – large or small. And in time harmony once again filled his household and his life.
Million dollar dog
Snookie is now over eight years old. She gained some much-needed weight. Ray calls her a “butterball” despite her being an avid bird chaser and enjoying long walks.
But best of all, Snookie and Maxi and are now inseparable.
“She’s a part of the family now,” Ray says, “and I wouldn’t take a million dollars for her.”
The family of four now enjoy many adventures together. They have been on several road trips in their RV, mostly to Florida and Myrtle Beach. And they often take weekend trips to the lake.
Ray describes Snookie as good traveler and Maxi seems to enjoy their adventures, too.
“When they see me get their harnesses and leashes out, they get all excited,” he says.
“They keep me going”
Ray is a big advocate for companion pet adoption. While he prefers dogs he believes that almost any pet can enhance a person’s life.
“Dogs keep you young,” he says, adding, “really all pets keep you young. Whether it’s a canary or an armadillo.”
Snookie and Maxi both keep Ray company when his wife is traveling. And the little Papillon keeps her veteran entertained with her endless antics.
“She likes to rake her food out of her bowl with her paws, then play hockey with it,” he shares. “I think she’s got some cat in her.”
Most of all, the Vietnam veteran appreciates how his two small dogs are finally best of friends.
“They are a joy to watch,” he says. “They keep me going.”
Paying it forward
Although he is no longer in service the Army retired veteran continues to serve.
Ray and his wife donate food to the pet pantry at the Greater Huntsville Humane Society to help pet guardians in need. And they buy toys and leashes from an on-site thrift store that raises funds for the shelter.
Just as Ray looks after people and their pets in his community, he appreciates that Pets for Patriots looks after him. He remembers how our team helped him with his application and notes how we stay in touch to see how he and Snookie are doing.
“It’s always good to talk to the Pets for Patriots representatives,” he says. “A lot of times when you buy something, or you’re involved with a product or organization, after the transaction, that’s it. No follow up, no, ‘How’s everything going?,’ no nothing. It’s good to know y’all are here for us.”
“Just do it!” he says. “You’ll never regret it.”
Certainly, Snookie has no regrets. Thanks to Ray’s love and patience she overcame her fear of men. She withstood Maxi’s initial aloofness and now the two dogs are as close as ever.
“I look at my dogs and think, ‘Y’all don’t know how blessed you are,” Ray says.
In truth, the Vietnam veteran feels blessed as well.
“Snookie is doing fantastic. She’s still enjoying life and is such a joy to us,” he says. “We’re just letting her be a dog, and she’s just enjoying the dog’s life.”