Shelter dog is just right for Air Force veteran and his young family

Shelter dog is just right for Air Force veteran and his young family

Zana was looking for a home and Blake was searching for a companion dog who would be just right for his growing family.

Small town start

Blake was born and raised in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, about 25 miles south of Boston. He enjoyed a rural life there, one that included animals – a lot of them.

“I wouldn’t call myself an animal person, but I love dogs,” Blake says. “We had all kinds of things growing up.” 

Blake recounts the presence of one family dog in particular:  a mutt named Bingo, who lived to be 20 years old. 

Growing up, Blake had no shortage of companionships. Aside from the animals in his childhood, he shared the house with six siblings. Blake was born fifth in a progression of seven children.

All four of Blake’s older siblings enlisted in the military. When he was of age he joined as well, soon followed by his younger sibling. They were scattered across the Army, Air Force, and Marines. 

The military provided opportunities that Blake’s family was otherwise unable to afford. Enlisting was just the right thing to do.

“We were seven kids and my parents said, ‘we don’t have enough money to send you all to college.'”

From cold to colder

In 2000 Blake joined the family tradition of military service. He enlisted in the Air Force and was assigned a military occupational specialty that he did not know at the time was even a career.

Shelter dog is just right for Air Force veteran and his young family

“I was a meteorologist,” he says. “I never had any aspirations to do that – I didn’t even know it was a job.”

As an Air Force meteorologist Blake was tasked with various responsibilities. But the most mission critical is forecasting the weather to help ensure safe, successful military operations. It was essential to get the weather just right.

Blake was was stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska. It was in there that he cultured a love for mountain biking and rock climbing.

“The winters were long and dark and harsh,” he reminisces, “but beautiful.”

While the Alaskan winters became a treasured sight, Blake’s time in the Air Force soon ended. After four years it was time to move on to a new chapter in life: college. 

Finding love in the Big Apple

Blake moved to New York City to pursue his bachelor’s degree in studio art, where he focused on painting and sculpture. The transition from military to civilian life was a welcome one, especially after experiencing four years of harsh Alaska winters.

“Well, I started school full time for my bachelor’s degree and it was pretty luxurious,” he says.

It was there in New York that Blake met his wife, Amber. At the time she was an event marketer.

Naturally, event marketing and artistry had a lot of overlapping connections. Amber was a friend of a friend when they first met, and the chemistry was just right. The pair has been together ever since.

Welcome home

Blake and Amber married and moved to a rural Massachusetts community. The return to his roots was comforting for Blake, and together the couple has three children between the ages of two and six.

Shelter dog is just right for Air Force veteran and his young family

The Air Force veteran describes their household as “busy, messy, crazy fun.” But it was time to introduce another dynamic – a dog.

“We both always wanted to get a dog, but it was always the wrong time,” Blake shares. “We realized it was never going to be the right time.”

While the couple knew that no time would feel perfect, they could at least try to find a pet who was just right for their household. Blake was not shy in giving credit to Amber for taking the reins on their dog search project – and admits to dragging his feet.

“I was begrudgingly taking baby steps.”

Amber scoured the internet for a dog who would fit their criteria. One of the foremost concerns was that the new addition to the family be good with small children

However, the pair had different preferences when it came to a dog’s size. Blake wanted a medium sized dog and Amber favored a large one. So the couple settled on what Blake calls a “medium big dog.”

Meeting Zana

During Amber’s search she found Animal Rescue Rhode Island. It was late 2020 when they joined our free shelter partner program and Blake’s would ultimately be our first adoption through this partnership.

Shelter dog is just right for Air Force veteran and his young family

Animal Rescue Rhode Island offers veterans in our program a 50 percent adoption fee discount, ‘going home’ goodies, leash and collar, and up to six training sessions as needed. Veterans must first be approved by Pets for Patriots and adopt a program-eligible dog or cat.

Zana seemed to fit the bill. At the time she was a three year-old Husky mix. Although she was a young adult and not much is known about her prior home, it appears that she did not have an easy life.

“She was over-bred,” Blake observes. “Whoever had her was just breeding her constantly.”

As a result Zana has misshaped nipples, but is otherwise a seemingly healthy dog. In addition to being good with children she was neither too big nor too small. Zana was just right.

Zana finds her way

It is said that there is a ‘3-3-3 rule’ – or the Rule of Threes – when bringing home a rescue dog. This is a guide to the behaviors of a shelter dog in the first three days, three weeks, and three months of coming home. It is intended to help set reasonable expectations for a dog’s new guardians and establish normal adjustment behaviors.

At first, Zana seemed to not understand that she was in her forever home. This is perfectly normal behavior.

“For the first few weeks, she never barked,” Blake recalls.

However, soon thereafter Zana found her voice. And she has adapted to the rhythms of her new household, which means at times she is “very chill” and at others she is a bit maniacal. Then there is the snoring.

“She is a super loud snorer,” Blake observes. “She’s by far the loudest snorer in the house.”

Still, the Air Force veteran finds his newest family member a joy to have around. In size, temperament, and personality she was just the right fit.

The just right dog

As it turns out, Zana has mischievous side. Shortly after she arrived she “tasted some of the ducks.” And on her morning strolls around the family’s rural property she found opportunities to “harass the neighbor’s chickens.”

Shelter dog is just right for Air Force veteran and his young family

Closer to home, however, Zana has become a four-legged vacuum who quickly cleans the childrens’ messes. Blake suspects this was the real motivation to adopt a companion pet.

“I think that’s the main reason my wife wanted a dog,” he jokes.

Zana is happy in her new home and the family is grateful for her place in their lives. Blake has told his other veteran siblings about Pets for Patriots and how he found his not too big, not too small dog through our program.

The Air Force veteran admits that once he met Zana the match seemed destined, but the benefits we offer made it all the sweeter.

“We were gonna get her anyways,” he says, “and Pets for Patriots [was] a bonus.”


  1. Mary Eaton

    Thank you for your service and sharing your story. Also, it does not go unnoticed that you make mention of Pets for Patriots and their good work. Also in spreading the word with others in the circle of your “service siblings”. Zana has found her perfect fit in your well rounded family and each of you, including Zana, will benefit from the experience of adding her to your brood.
    I wish you well.

  2. Alyson A.

    Thank you for your service. What a beautiful family – and Zana is the perfect addition! God bless you all.

  3. Panda J.

    Thank you for your service, Blake. Zana is a very lucky girl to have such a loving family. Here’s wishing you and your family many, many happy years with Zana. God Bless all of you.

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