Senior dog and Air Force veteran saved by kindness of strangers

Senior dog and Air Force veteran saved by strangers

Michael adopted a senior dog with an unknown past and a chronic medical condition that was discovered after he brought him home. The Air Force veteran was heartbroken at the prospect of having to surrender the dog back to the shelter because he could not afford his care, but the kindness of countless strangers saved the day – and kept the pair together.

Seeing the world on the wings of the Air Force

In 1972, Michael graduated high school. Believing there was little opportunity in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, he left and enlisted in the military. He started his nearly ten years of service at Davis-Monthan AFB (Air Force Base) in Arizona.  

As a munitions maintenance specialist Michael was able to travel the world while assembling munitions for the A-10, a low-altitude fighter jet designed to deliver support in and near the battlefield. Michael’s tours of duty included assignments to Hawaii, Thailand, Germany and Greece.

“I really enjoyed the tour in Greece; it was pretty nice,” Michael recalls. “We got to travel around the country quite a bit.”

Upon separation from the Air Force, Michael was able to participate in a veterans transition program that found him training and work in the construction field. He spent the rest of his career as a carpenter and equipment operator.

The senior dog and the Air Force veteran

With his military service now decades past, Michael provides live-in care to an elderly Navy veteran who suffered a stroke. In exchange for room and board Michael does all of the shopping, cooking, laundry and other household tasks, while someone else comes several days a week to handle personal care.

The Air Force veteran and widower has three grown children and eight grandchildren, and when not performing his caretaking duties enjoys making jewelry. 

Senior dog and Air Force veteran saved by strangers

Although he stays busy, Michael felt like he was missing something. He decided it was time to find a companion – the four-legged variety – and started his initial search on the Humane Society of Pinellas website. Not only did he find the profile of the senior dog he would end up saving, but he learned about Pets for Patriots and our partnership with the shelter.

We work with hundreds of animal welfare organizations across the country to promote pet guardianship for veterans and save the most overlooked dogs and cats. Humane Society of Pinellas waives pet adoption fees for veterans who join Pets for Patriots, and several area veterinarians provide ongoing discounts to deliver quality, affordable pet care.

“I love dogs and I really believe in adopting them,” he says, adding that companion pet adoption is “the way to go.”

Michael decided to meet Buddy, the seven year-old Corgi-Basset Hound mix whose online profile so captivated him. Due to age Buddy was Pets for Patriots eligible – and the pair clicked instantly.

“We got along right from the beginning,” Michael says.

On the ride to his forever home Buddy rested his head on Michael’s lap and the two have been inseparable ever since.

Mission accomplished

The shelter knew little about Buddy’s past. Some animals arrive as strays or abandoned pets while others are surrendered by people who may provide incomplete information at best.

Michael suspects that Buddy was mistreated, however, since he flinches when things are thrown in his direction. Despite whatever may have happened in his past Buddy enjoys his new life, and loves all people and animals. He and Michael fell quickly into a comfortable routine.

“He sure had no problem becoming a member of this family,” Michael says. “He is a companion. There are people here at the house, but I live in my own little apartment. It is nice to have someone here.”

Buddy is Michael’s shadow, following him everywhere he goes and curling up by Michael’s feet at night. He is especially fond of going for car rides, which Michael treats him to every chance he gets.

“If I pick up my keys he’s dancing and prancing and ready to go.” 

The kindness of strangers

Not long after his adoption Buddy started to scratch incessantly, sometimes scratching so vigorously that he created angry, open wounds on his skin. After a visit to the veterinarian Michael learned that Buddy had canine atopic dermatitis, a chronic skin condition that requires expensive medications to treat.

The Air Force veteran lives on a fixed income and worried that he would not be able to keep Buddy, who since his adoption has lived up to his name. He shared that had he known about Buddy’s chronic medical condition he likely would not have adopted him, believing that it would be irresponsible to adopt a dog whom he was unable to afford. Yet the pair loved each other and the Air Force veteran was anguished.

Michael was unsure of where to turn.

Like many veterans, Michael was reluctant to ask for help – yet heartbroken at the prospect of returning his best friend and family member to the shelter. Luckily he reached out to us for help, we organized an online fundraiser and – with the generous support of compassionate people across the country – raised enough funds to pay for Buddy’s medication for a year. That was August, 2015.

In fact, the success of this effort to keep Michael and Buddy together was one of the inspirations behind our ongoing efforts to help fund urgent veterinary care for pets adopted through our charity.

Michael was relieved – and shocked to discover that there was more support to help keep him together with his senior dog. Senior dog and Air Force veteran saved by strangers

Around the same time a dog food company approached us to run a one-month giving campaign. DOGS for DOGS makes all-natural dog food and donates product in-kind for every purchase. The month-long effort was the most successful in their history, generating 101 bags of dog food for donation. At our request 36 bags were sent to Michael and Buddy, and the remainder – more than 900 pounds of food – were donated to the Humane Society of Pinellas. 

“The food from DOGS for DOGS has helped and [Buddy] likes it real well, which is good, as he has plenty of it now,” Michael says. “Thanks to all of you, for everything you have done.”

More important, the food is relatively allergen-free and has enhanced the medicinal benefits of Buddy’s treatment. Michael is grateful, and has been sharing the news about Pets for Patriots to anyone who will listen.  He particularly appreciates our focus on animals who are older or special needs, and large breed dogs.

“I thought, ‘wow, this is wonderful,'” he says. “They have been so nice to me. I can’t say anything but good things about them.”

Help us keep Buddy and Michael together, and support other veterans’s pets in urgent need of care by making a tax-deductible donation to our hero fund!



    I simply cannot express how much I LOVE this story….AWESOME…for both veteran and dog…

  2. Valerie Bryson

    Does anyone have any advice on how to potty train and older dog?

  3. Suzanne Sower

    Great story and example how animals help veterans and how veterans in turn help animals. Very uplifting story.

  4. Lois

    What a wonderful story! So many people coming together for the love of a dog and a veteran. In spite of the news there is still so much good in this world. I hope buddy and Michael get to enjoy many wonderful years together.

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