Thelma lives an admittedly quiet life, so it was a surprise when she chose a spirited rescue dog to be her companion and best friend.
In 1970 Thelma was a San Diego teenager when she decided to enlist in the Air Force. Like many young recruits, she yearned to experience the ways and places other people lived.
“I was bored with where my life was going after graduating from high school in San Diego,” she confides. “I thought the military would open some doors to other ways of life. It did.”
Thelma’s first duty station was in Maine, where she trained as a disbursement accountant.
These professionals are responsible for managing military pay and travel, among other vital financial tasks. This military occupational speciality, or MOS, would soon take Thelma to a place she never imagined.
Seeing the world on the wings of the Air Force
The young recruit concedes that Maine is “as far from San Diego as you can possibly get.” However, Thelma was about to go even farther when she received her first overseas assignment to Turkey.
“Somewhere I had not even thought of,” she said. “From there I was able to visit lots of countries in Europe. France, Germany, Italy, and Belgium.”
Thelma’s dreams of experiencing new and different ways of life were coming to fruition. She could not have imagined that her enlistment would take her to Europe, and all that it had to offer a teen eager to see the world.
Thelma’s most vivid memory from her time in service was a music festival in a small German town called Heubach.
“We danced and drank wine all afternoon,” she recalls. “I met my first German boy with gray eyes by the name of Hio, ‘like Ohio, but not,’ he said. We kept in touch until he got married.”
Eventually Thelma returned stateside for her final duty assignment.
“I was later stationed at the Air Force finance center in Denver, where I left the service after four years.”
“A quiet life”
Several years ago Thelma retired from the civilian workforce and now calls Atlanta, Georgia home.
“I live a quiet life,” she says.
Yet, a spirited rescue dog was about to pierce the calm of this Air Force veteran’s peaceful existence.
However, Thelma yearned for the heart-warming company of a pet again. The Air Force veteran who enjoyed the quiet life had too much quiet in her life.
“I missed going for walks and the companionship that we once had,” she shares. “While looking online at Fulton County Shelter I found the program.”
Lifeline at Fulton County Animal Services is one of three Atlanta-area Lifeline Animal Project shelters that have worked with Pets for Patriots since 2015 to place dogs and cats with military veterans.
All three Lifeline shelters waive adoption fees for veterans in our program. The Air Force veteran appreciates that adopting a pet through our partnership with Lifeline would be free.
“Always good when you are on a fixed income,” she notes.
Sugar and spice
Thelma was approved into our program at the end of February 2022. It would be nearly a month until she found her match: a spirited rescue dog named Luxio.
In early March Luxio had been picked up by animal control officers as a stray. No one called to claim him and after a waiting period he was made available for adoption through Lifeline at DeKalb County Animal Services.
Thelma visited the shelter for a ‘meet and greet‘ to see how she felt about the big, mixed-breed dog. Luxio was very sweet, relatively young, and energetic.
The Air Force veteran decided that the feisty shelter dog was just what she needed to spice up her life.
At the end of March Thelma returned to the shelter to sign Luxio’s adoption contract and take him home. She brought a personalized collar with the name ‘Bruno,’ having already decided to change his name.
It took Bruno a moment to recognize Thelma from their first meeting, but it was clear that he did when he greeted her generously with kisses.
“I feel better about my life”
Thelma appreciates the many cost-saving benefits we provide to veterans who adopt dogs and cats through our program. She is additionally grateful that all Lifeline Animal Project shelters waive adoption fees for our veterans, which allows her to repurpose those funds towards Bruno’s care.
For his part, Bruno is settling in nicely to Thelma’s relaxed lifestyle. The spirited rescue dog is proving to be a quick study when it comes to learning basic manners.
“He loves to go for walks,” she says. “He likes playing in the backyard, but has yet to understand how fetch works. He has learned to shake and lie down on cue. He already knew how to sit.”
Still, sometimes Bruno can be a bit much.
Beyond the essentials of food, shelter, and medical care, dogs and cats need exercise, socialization, and play. They demand our time and attention. And while they need one thing above all – love – they give it back to their human guardians many times over.
Thelma discovered that Bruno’s needs force her to be more active, to have a purpose each day, and to embrace her own life anew.
“Bruno is a handful, but that is a good thing. He gives me a reason to get up and get going. He gives me something to do besides just watching TV,” she says. “I feel better about my life because I have given him a home and he is keeping me young.”