Senior dog is “light in the darkness” for Navy veteran living with depression

Senior dog is "light in the darkness" for Navy veteran living with depression

Victoria knows what it is like to be living with depression. But she found renewed hope with a pint-sized senior dog she rescued and who rescued her in turn.

Lonely and alone

Life in the military can be an isolating experience. Frequent relocations, deployments, and far away assignments often mean long separation from family and friends. And it can be challenging to start life over in a new city, state, or even country.

Victoria has traveled extensively over the course of her military service. A sense of isolation has followed her everywhere she went.

In 2012, Victoria enlisted in the Navy. She has been stationed in Japan aboard the USS George Washington and at Norfolk Naval Base with the USS Whidbey Island.

“My job is a fire controlman,” she says, “which means I work on electronics that power the radars, missile systems and gun systems on ships.”

The responsibilities of a fire controlman involve extensive technical training. It is considered a highly competitive rating with equally high standards for recruits.

Victoria is currently stationed in Maryland as a first class petty officer (E-6); she is unmarried and has no children. And although she is now stateside her favorite duty station was in Japan.

“I loved being stationed in Japan,” she recalls. “It was so beautiful and the culture is so wonderful.”

Serving – and living – with depression

Victoria returned to the United States following her overseas assignment. While she continues to serve, she does so living with depression – a circumstance that is not at all uncommon among both active and separated military personnel.

Depression is not always obvious to others.

Senior dog is "light in the darkness" for Navy veteran living with depression

Often someone who is depressed may report feeling tired or disinterested in social activities. She may be sleeping and eating more – or even less – than usual, and have difficulty focusing or remembering things.

The signs of living with depression vary from person to person, and appearances can be deceiving. Someone who looks like she has a busy, fulfilling, and satisfying life may still be experiencing symptoms of depression.

Because depression is associated with an increased risk of suicide it is critical for anyone experiencing symptoms to seek help immediately. This is equally true of veterans and civilians alike.

Luckily, Victoria recognized that she needed help. And she decided to seek four-legged therapy to help her cope.

“I had just moved to Maryland and didn’t have any friends in the area. I was so lonely all the time,” she shares. “I had been researching and planning to adopt a dog for over two years before. I believed it was time for me to have a fur friend.”

Finding Pets for Patriots

The Navy veteran found Pets for Patriots the way many other veterans do: online.

“I Googled ‘military discounts for adoptions.'”

Since 2010 we have made adopting a companion dog or cat more affordable for our military personnel. We are proud to help veterans from WWII to those currently in service, like Victoria.

The Navy veteran was approved into our program at the end of July, 2019. Just two weeks later she found her new best friend at our partners, SPCA of Anne Arundel County. The shelter has worked with us since 2016 and waives adoption fees for veterans in our program who adopt eligible dogs and cats.

Victoria found our application and adoption experience simple – and fast. She applied to us on a Friday and was approved the following Monday morning.

“I would definitely recommend Pets for Patriots,” she says. “I love the entire experience that I’ve had. It’s so great! It is so easy and they are very helpful.”

“…a light in the darkness”

Victoria wasted no time looking for her new best friend. Just two weeks later she met Dena – since renamed Deanna. The then eight year-old Jack Russell Terrier mix has proven to be a pint-sized miracle for the Navy veteran.

Senior dog is "light in the darkness" for Navy veteran living with depression

“She is so loving and sweet. She is always up for a game of fetch or tug of war,” Victoria says. “She is so wonderful with all the children in my apartment complex. She has helped me through so much these past six months.”

Veterans who are living with depression understand that it takes time to heal. And while companion pets are not a cure, they have a natural ability to help people focus on the joyful moments in life. They appeal to an innate sense of compassion that people have for innocents.

Victoria credits her pint-sized senior pup with saving her life.

“Deanna has become my rock. She is the only reason I am alive right now,” she shares. “I’ve been struggling with depression and having her with me has been so wonderful. She has been a light in the darkness.”


  1. Kathleen Scarpati

    I have been arguing with my Doctor about emotional support dogs for PTSD Veterans..all I get is they only do service dogs. I I know a lot of veterans with PTSD, who have small dogs for their emotional well-being. I don’t understand why the VA would fight us on this. it’s not like we’re faking just to get our pets on a plane. It is more like we need our emotional support dog to make it through the day. Sometimes that means we have to go out in the public, unless you have a carriage or a dog backpack you cannot take your dog in a store. it would be nice to be able to go places and not have to worry about people saying your dog can’t come in here because you don’t have any papers that state your dog is allowed to be with you at all times. 😞😵😱

  2. Panda J.

    Thank you for your service, Victoria. Deanna is a cutie, and I’m so happy that the two of you found each other. Thank you for taking a chance on Deanna…many people won’t do that with a senior dog. I can say from experience that it is a wonderful, joyful life with them. I lost mine to liver disease in October 2018 and I still miss her so much. I wish you and Deanna many, many happy years together.

    • Mary Eaton

      Hi Victoria,
      I am sometimes slow to read thru the weekly posts but want you to know so many appreciate your service so thank you! Deanna came in your life when you needed each other. I too have an older pint sized dog who just wants to sit next to me when I am in a chair or on the couch. If there is a lap blanket that is even better! It is good to have a purpose every day aside from the routine of one’s job.
      Thank you for sharing your heart felt story.

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