Special needs pup wins dog-shaped place in heart of retired Air Force veteran

Special needs pup wins dog-shaped place in heart of retired Air Force veteran

Kip has rarely been without a dog in his life. So perhaps it was fate when he met a special needs pup after the death of the first dog he adopted through our program.

True blue

In 1982 Kip enlisted in the Air Force as a nuclear security specialist and cross-trained into computer operations several years later. He separated from service in 1994 due to a mandatory force reduction, but Kip could did stay out of the military for long. In 2003 the Air Force veteran enlisted in the Army National Guard.

“One enlistment was enough to convince me that I’m not Army green, I’m Air Force blue,” he says, “and I transferred to the Air National Guard.”

Kip’s many stateside assignments with the Air National Guard included North Dakota, Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Alaska, Mississippi, and New York. International projects took him to Spain, Qatar, and Turkey.

In 2018 Kip retired from the military after a career that spanned 27 years and almost four decades. He and his wife Kathleen recently celebrated 20 years of marriage and call Fort Wayne, Indiana their home.

In his free time Kip enjoys historical re-enacting, and running his own hand tool woodworking and furniture repair shop.

That “dog-shaped hole” in his heart

Kip was still in service in 2011 when he became one of our program’s earliest adopters. He had the added distinction of being among the first matches made through our partners Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control.

Special needs pup wins dog-shaped place in heart of retired Air Force veteran

“My wife found Pets for Patriots 10 years ago when we decided that we had been without a dog long enough,” he recalls. “She was between jobs at that point and any help we could get with the adoption process was most welcome. We ended up adopting Céilidh and enjoyed her company for eight years. Her untimely death 18 months ago broke our hearts.”

Kip would often say that Céilidh filled a “dog-shaped hole” in his heart. In time the loss became too much to bear and the retired veteran reached out to us to adopt another four-legged soul.

“My family has always included a dog or two. Except for times when regulations forbade it, there has been a dog in my life,” he says. “It has always been a given with me that a home is incomplete without a dog.”

Special needs pup is lost then found

In early 2021 Kip and Kathleen were ready to once again adopt a companion pet. The Air Force veteran spoke to our team and was delighted to learn that all of the benefits of our program were still available to him.

“You would be hard pressed to find a more helpful and compassionate partner in your search for a companion pet,” he says.

However, finding a pet – the right pet – started to feel like a daunting process. Kip and Kathleen were nonetheless committed to adopting a dog in need.

“It took a massive amount of time searching web sites and several visits to shelters,” Kip recalls. “But we found her and she found us.”

Once again the couple visited our partners Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control.

At the time, Mildred was a four-and-a-half year-old German Shepherd who had been found as a stray. She had numerous health issues, some of which were chronic. The special needs pup was a sight for sore eyes.

Special needs pup wins dog-shaped place in heart of retired Air Force veteran

Kip learned that the shelter picked up Mildred as a stray in early January. She was in sad shape and was severely underweight.

“She also had hook worms, an ear infection, fleas, and a skin rash.”

The shelter got Mildred spayed, started her on a nutritional program to gain weight, and addressed her numerous medical issues.

But the ear infections would turn out to be a permanent affliction.

Shelter staff cautioned Kip and Kathleen that Mildred was a special needs pup who would require lifelong care.

The couple was undaunted. They vowed to adopt her, and brought her home at the end of January.

Daddy’s little girl

Since Mildred was found as a stray no one knows her previous name. So with her new life came a new moniker.

“Her name is Talitha – Tali, for short – which is Greek for ‘little girl,'” Kip explains.

When Céilidh passed away she left that dog-shaped hole in Kip’s life. And while every pet is unique, Tali has once again filled that dog-shaped place in Kip’s heart with love and devotion.

“It is said that a dog is the only example of unconditional love that you can buy,” Kip says.

Once again, Kip has a dog in his life. And now that he is retired from the military he has that much more time for his special needs pup.

“It is delightful to have a companion in my wood shop. It allows me the opportunity to take play and walk breaks,” he says, adding, “Tali is also a very good foot warmer.”


  1. Alyson A.

    Thank you for your service – Your story warms my heart. Tali is so blessed to be part of your family.

  2. Panda J.

    Thank you for your service, Kip. I know from experience how hard it is to lose your pet, and I am so happy for you and your wife that you found Tali when you all needed each other so much. God Bless you all and I pray you will have many happy years together.

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