Just one day after being approved by Pets for Patriots, Mark fell in love with a special needs senior dog with a crooked “million dollar smile.”
Life in the military often means life on the move. Mark was stationed out of Norfolk before receiving permanent change of station (PCS) orders to San Diego, California.
Prior to Norfolk was yet another duty station.
“I was stationed at Fort Belvoir before moving to Norfolk and joining Fleet Surgical Team 8,” he says, “where we deployed with the USS Iwo Jima.”
The Navy trains and deploys numerous medical professionals to safeguard the physical and mental health of service members. They serve wherever Naval personnel are stationed or deployed.
Mark works as a behavioral health technician, formerly known as “psych techs.” They support the mental well-being of service members on ships and forward operating bases around the world. Mark enlisted in the military to expand his horizons.
“I joined the military to see the world and possibly broaden my skills and go to school, and fulfill my goals to have a career I enjoy and love to do. Being in the medical field and specializing in psychiatry I have been exposed to a lot of situations and stories from my peers and patients.”
Mark remains on active duty and plans to stay in his career field. He enjoys the camaraderie and working with other, like-minded service members.
“It is truly a joy and honor to serve beside the strong men and women I call brothers and sisters,” he shares.
A lifelong dream comes true
Mark dreamed of having a dog since he was a boy.
“I’ve always wanted a dog growing up,” he says. “I had an iguana when I was younger and loved it so much.”
But Mark’s father was allergic and the family’s budget did not have room for a pet. Lifetime costs of pet care are one of the top reasons people do not adopt and one of the main reasons animals are surrendered.
Now grown and in the Navy, Mark decided to adopt a companion pet. A pending deployment lent a certain degree of urgency to find a furry friend.
“I figure I’m going on a deployment and my wife would need company,” he explains. “And she had dogs growing up, so it was an easy decision.”
Mark did not envision saving a special needs senior dog, no less one who had just a few random teeth and a tongue that always slips out of his mouth.
Special needs senior dog with the ‘million dollar smile’
It was 2017 and Tux was a then six year-old dog who had been at the Virginia Beach SPCA for two months.
In addition to missing many of his teeth, the special needs senior dog has discoid lupus erythematosus. It is a treatable autoimmune disease that causes the skin to crust and scab.
The Virginia Beach SPCA offers veterans in our program 25 percent off adoptions and access to their full-service, low-cost veterinary clinic. It was shelter staff who told the Navy veteran about our partnership and encouraged him to apply.
The benefits we offer were just one part of Mark’s decision to adopt through our program. He was more inspired to be a savior to an overlooked pet. The Navy veteran wanted “to also give a dog who needed a home a chance at love again.”
Mark visited the Virginia Beach SPCA one day after being approved into our program; he fell in love with Tux instantly. The Jack Russell-Chihuahua mix has an unusual, but endearing look.
“Although he is missing a few teeth,” Mark observes, “he still has a million dollar smile!”
And so it was that Mark and Tux set sail for home. Tux has settled into his new life well. He enjoys lounging with Mark and his wife, and watching movies by the fireplace.
‘…melts my heart every time’
Older dogs and cats are among the most overlooked at shelters. Some people are leery of falling in love with a pet who might have only a few years to live. Others are worried about an animal’s unknown past.
Yet in reality mature pets have many advantages over their younger peers. Most are trained in basic manners, even if they need refreshing. And the satisfaction of giving a pet who may be in his twilight years the loving home he deserves is immeasurable.
“Most days because of his age he lays around and naps,” Mark says, “but when we mention ‘outside’ or he hears his leash and harness, he perks up, and starts zooming all over and wagging his tail. These little interactions with him and his loving stare melts my heart every time.”
For unknown reasons – perhaps prior neglect – the little special needs senior dog had lost most of his upper teeth, causing his tongue to hang out. Yet Mark was never deterred by Tux’s unusual appearance.
“He looks so goofy and innocent,” the Navy veteran says. “It’s 110% adorable.”
Love saves lives
Mark has no regrets adopting a special needs senior dog. And the Navy veteran is glad that he chose to adopt through Pets for Patriots.
“I definitely want to recommend this program for veterans because like all veterans grizzled and salty alike, pets need love too, and why not share your home with one,” he says. “They may change your life like Tux has changed mine.”
Companion pets are naturally therapeutic by their mere presence in our lives. And once adopted, it is exciting to see their personalities emerge over time as they adjust to their newfound lives.
Tux has a way of being “rambunctious” one minute and subdued the next. The little dog’s antics are a delightful antidote to the sometimes sobering work that Mark performs every day.
“He is a joy to be around, whether it’s his quirky face or energetic yelps for attention, he’s full of joy and surprises,” Mark says. “I love the way he gives us all of his love 24/7/365.”
Tux is proof that older pets often have tremendous vitality and are worthy of adoption. Many senior animals are rejuvenated once they are given love and patience, and know that they are safe.
For his part, it is all smooth sailing for Tux.
“Here we are!” Mark exclaims at their one-year adoption anniversary in 2018. “Still snaggly toothed and enjoying life!”