Ship comes in for three-strikes dog when Navy veteran adopts her

Ship comes in for three-strikes dog when Navy veteran adopts her

As a large, black Pit Bull Stella is what you might call a three-strikes dog. Her size, fur color, and breed mix all decreased her adoption prospects. But as luck would have it her ship came in when a Navy veteran saw her potential and adopted her.

Call to duty

In May 2009 Ethan enlisted in the United States Navy, compelled by a “strong call to serve” his country. During his now eight-year career he has served in Hawaii, Bahrain, and San Diego.

“I have been forward deployed in the Middle East and western Pacific,” he says, and after being stationed in San Diego for two years is preparing to transfer to Hawaii with his wife and Stella.

For Ethan, the Navy is more than a career. It is a transformative experience that has made him a better man.

“The Navy has always challenged me to better myself personally and professionally,” he shares, “but has also required a lot of time and sacrifice.”

Like many veterans it is the camaraderie that Ethan values most about his military service. Those bonds help him endure the challenges that come with a grueling work schedule and months spent far from home.

“My most memorable time in my career was the year I spent forward deployed in Bahrain on a Coastal Patrol Craft with a crew of 30 shipmates,” Ethan says. “The work was never ending, but the brotherhood built at that command changed my life.”

Perfect pup is a three-strikes dog

Ethan knows that deployments exact a toll on his wife. She is often lonely, and has the added worry when her husband is deployed to dangerous quarters of the world.

“My wife and I thought about adopting a dog for a few months before we started looking for the perfect dog at the local shelters. We felt adding a dog to our home would make it less lonely if one of us were away,” Ethan says, “especially for my wife, because I
had to travel a lot for work.”

Ship comes in for three-strikes dog when Navy veteran adopts her

Millions of dogs and cats enter animal shelters each year. Many do not make it out alive simply due to lack of anyone to adopt them. Still, it was important to the couple to have chemistry with their family member and not adopt impulsively.

“Once we started looking, it still took us a while to finally make the decision,” Ethan says. “[We] wanted to feel a special connection with our future companion.”

The couple found what they were looking for through County of San Diego Department of Animal Services. Since 2011, the organization has placed scores of their most overlooked, undervalued dogs and cats into loving military homes through our partnership. Their three shelters offer deeply discounted adoption fees to veterans in our program.

Stella was one such hard-luck pet. Although she was still growing, the nearly year-old dog was already well over 40 pounds. Her ebony fur discouraged many adopters who are leery of dark-furred pets, and her breed mix was possibly her greatest challenge. In fact, many shelters around the country are focusing less on a dog’s breed and highlighting a particular animal’s temperament and personality instead.

Despite Stella being a three-strikes dog, Ethan and his wife were smitten.

“Stella was the one for us!”

“One of the greatest decisions I have ever made”

The young Pit Bull may have been a three-strikes dog, but her ship definitely came in when she met Ethan and his wife. Stella has blossomed in the year since her adoption, and routinely expresses her joy at being part of this young Navy family.

“I love how every morning Stella is always eager to jump in bed with us and shower us with kisses,” Ethan says. “Also she wags her tail a million miles an hour every time she sees us after a long absence.”

Ethan had many choices for pet adoption, but chose to adopt through our program because of our dual focus on the well-being of both person and pet.

Ship comes in for three-strikes dog when Navy veteran adopts her

“Pets for Patriots organization stood out as a great effort to help veterans get a great pet companion while helping pets get adopted and out of the shelters,” he says. “Pets for Patriots helped us save Stella.”

And the Navy veteran is quick to add that he believes other military veterans should explore our program, too.

“I would tell them that Pets for Patriots is the only organization to use if you are a veteran trying to rescue an animal.”

For his part, Ethan knows that he made the right choice in saving Stella. And Stella seems to know that she made the right choice as well.

“Stella has added so much life to our family, and her energetic and lively attitude is contagious,” Ethan explains. “She is the sweetest dog I have ever had and she always brightens my day with her enthusiasm. Adopting her was one of the greatest decisions I have ever made.”


  1. BAM BAM

    Such a Happy Tail (Tale) ~ Thanks for sharing! Paw Power!

  2. Alyson

    Thank you for your service – and for giving Stella a loving home.

  3. Cheryl

    Thank you for your service and adopting a deserving dog – Stella. Both of your lives were changed forever.

  4. Christine

    Yes thanks for your service and for giving this magnificent dog a loving home. When they are treated with respect, love and taken care of there is no better dog. We all deserve to be treated lovingly.

  5. Audrey A Jones Gallipeau

    You are both wonderful people for adopting this pup. Just look at that face! It is clear to see how happy she is. Now you have does two terrific services. Serving your country and adopting. I for one can’t thank you enough. I wish you and your family a long and happy life together, and again, Thank You for serving!!! You will forever be in my heart for the good deeds you do.

  6. Christine E

    What a beautiful dog! Love black pit mixes. I can see the joy and kindness in her eyes. Thank you for your service and for saving this wonderful dog! So glad you all are happy together.

  7. MsPhillyG

    As a Navy Veteran myself I applaud you both. Please find out if this beautiful beautiful amazing dog is able to move with you. There are soo many military bases that out law these misunderstood brred on military base housings. I would hate for Stella to be seperared from her loving new family for any length of time.

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