Submariner rescues abused Pit Bull after loss of his previous dog

Submariner rescues abused Pit Bull after loss of his previous dog

Dogs have long been a mainstay of Tony’s home life. So when the submariner bid goodbye to his senior dog, Gunner, he knew it was time to rescue another four-legged soul.

Beneath the deep blue sea

In 1982 Tony enlisted in the Navy. He served as a chef on the ballistic missile submarine USS Will Rogers SSBN 659b and the USS Flying Fish SSN 673, a Sturgeon-class attack submarine.

Tony would spend two years of shore duty at Naval base New London in Groton, Connecticut before separating from service in 1988.

One of Tony’s proudest moments was earning his dolphins insignia. This milestone signifies that a submariner has learned all aspects of a ship’s operations so that he can respond to emergency that may arise.

It typically takes at least a year to qualify for this meaningful recognition.Submariner rescues abused Pit Bull after loss of his previous dog

However, some of Tony’s most enduring military memories were made long after he separated from service.

“I had the chance to go on a tiger cruise with my son who is now a submariner,” he shares, “and made the memories of a lifetime cooking for my son’s shipmates 30 years after I got out of the Navy.”

A tiger cruise is a naval voyage that allows civilians to ride along. To this day Tony remains closely connected to the submariner community.

“I am active with Hampton Roads Submarine Veterans base of USSVI,” he says.

“I am the local chapter president of Silent Service motorcycle club Old Dominion Chapter.”

The Navy veteran enjoys the camaraderie of his fellow submariners, playing cribbage, and smoking cigars.

“I missed having a buddy”

Currently Tony works as a customer service representative for a cable company. During Covid he transitioned to work from home, where the former submariner enjoyed the constant companionship of his senior dog, Gunner. But in October 2023 the old pup passed away, leaving a huge void in Tony’s life.

“When he passed it was the first time in 20 years that there wasn’t a dog in our home,” he shares. “I totally missed the tail wagging greeting when I would come into my home. I missed having a buddy to just sit with me on deck as I smoked my cigars and relaxed.”

Like most people, Tony went online to start his search for a new four-legged friend. He learned about our companion pet adoption program for military veterans on the Norfolk SPCA website.

Since 2015, Norfolk SPCA offers veterans in our program fee-waived adoptions and 10 percent off fees at their onsite veterinary clinic. Tony believed that adopting through our partnership was a good fit for his needs.

And there was never any doubt that the submariner would adopt, rather than shop, for his next pet. Not only would he be saving an animal in need, but he would benefit from the unconditional love and companionship that pet would provide.

“All my dogs have been rescue mutts,” he says, “and when I look back on the choice to get rescues I really believe they rescue me as much as I have rescued them.”

Pity the Pittie

It was early November when Tony met Dove, a then six year-old Pit Bull mix in the care of Norfolk SPCA.

The big dog with wide set, soulful eyes had been a victim of animal cruelty in her previous home.

Tony was undeterred by Dove’s tragic past. If anything it only strengthened his resolve to give her the life she deserves.

“The shelter did let us know she was neglected and abused in her previous home, so we know how important it is to shower her with love and attention,” he says.

A few days after the submariner was approved into our program he adopted Dove. And fittingly, she got a new name to signify her new beginning: Ivy.

“a blessing to our family”

Dogs are resilient creatures, including those who were subject to abuse. They can flourish once placed with people who give them time, patience, and – above all – love. Still, their invisible wounds always remain to some degree.Submariner rescues abused Pit Bull after loss of his previous dog

Ivy has thrived since her adoption and proven to be a quick study in the various routines of home life.

“She really loves squeaky toys and is learning well how to use the dog door to freely access her fenced yard,” Tony shares.

“She is learning that she is going to be spoiled. She has already learned to slow down eating, knowing she’s got a bowl [that’s] all hers and it’s there twice a day for her.”

Among Ivy’s other favorite toys are rope pulls and those made for tough chewers. The once abused dog delights in her new abundance.

Tony observes that she’s already become a member of the family and is an absolute “sweetheart.”

“Ivy has found her home and we couldn’t be happier.”

The Navy submariner reflects on the value of adopting – versus shopping – for a pet. He believes that just as adopting has been helpful to him it would be equally so for other veterans who seek an emotionally supportive best friend.

“The opportunity to rescue a pet and get support has been, for me and I’m sure for any other vet, so beneficial,” he says. “She [Ivy] has been a blessing to our family. I am so grateful for this opportunity and support from Pets for Patriots.”



  1. MJ

    From another Navy vet, I have to say thank you for your service, Tony! And bless you for believing in adopting instead of shopping, especially with Ivy. She looks precious, and I hope you two have many years of loving companionship together.

  2. Carolyn J. Miller

    Can I just say “what a guy?!” I’m a large dog lover and have a very special place in my heart for pitties. They have been used, abused, tortured and assigned a label that never should have been allowed. Thank you for loving Ms. Ivy!

  3. Janet Ficca

    We love our baby!
    – Tony’s wife & Ivy’s “mom”

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