You could say the Army is in Andrew’s DNA. The third generation soldier is a career National Guardsman, and recently became a first time pet adopter to a senior dog who needed a hero.
Born to serve
Andrew joined the Army National Guard during high school and completed basic training shortly after graduation. In 2012 he was deployed to Afghanistan and, since his return home in 2013, has been serving as an operations planner for the recruiting section.
“Twelve years now I’ve been Guard,” he explains. “I am third generation Army, so growing up a lot of the good things my grandfather and father experienced were because of the opportunities provided [by the Army].”
A mix of family history and a deep sense of patriotism spurred Andrew to enlist.
“I am proud of my country,” he says with steely determination, “and want to be a benefit to it.”
With twelve years of service under his belt and many more to come Andrew is not short on memories, but none are as unique or meaningful as being a member of the Honor Guard. He has been part of this storied detail for more than 500 funerals for veterans of all generations. Each service holds personal meeting for the career soldier.
“To be able to offer respect,” he says, “and assist the families at that time.”
New wife, new life, old dog
Andrew and his wife Erin always knew they wanted to have children and pets together, so the decision to adopt a dog during their first year of marriage seemed like a perfect idea. The couple both felt it was important to adopt a homeless pet from a shelter or rescue, and not acquire a dog from a breeder or pet retailer.
“There are great animals without homes,” Andrew says. “There were a lot of animals with a series of bad luck. We were able to provide a good home for an animal that needed a good home, versus one that would be there for the financial benefit of whoever was selling it.”
Equally important, Andrew and Erin knew the qualities they wanted in a dog to best fit with their active lifestyle. Sadly, many people fail to do even the most basic research before adopting a pet or consider how a dog or cat will figure into their lives, adding to the problem of relinquishment, animal homelessness and – for millions each year – death.
German Shorthaired Pointers are known for being energetic and affectionate dogs, and excellent family pets.
“My wife had a great experience with her dog,” says Andrew, describing Erin’s childhood pet.
The Army soldier learned about Pets for Patriots from a posting on a veterans’ service board, and met someone who had a great experience adopting a pet through our charity as well.
“I really enjoyed interacting with the folks,” he shares. “I would say the organization is a great veteran-centered organization.”
The pair turned to Texas GSP Rescue, an organization that fosters and adopts German Shorthaired Pointers exclusively. The rescue partners with Pets for Patriots to help veterans like Andrew adopt the most vulnerable dogs in its care, including those who are older or have special needs.
In view of the couple’s interest in an energetic dog, it is unlikely their first instincts would have been to adopt a senior pet – yet that is exactly what happened.
“My wife and I set up a few appointments. Nikita was the second dog we met through the program,” Andrew shares. “She was the best behaved, and she fit in with my wife’s and my personalities best. We enjoyed visiting her, and we decided to adopt her.”
At the time of her adoption – just before Christmas – Nikita was nine years old.
Senior dog proves age is just a number
Since her adoption Nikita has made the newlywed’s house a real home. Andrew is typically the first person home in the evenings and having a dog to greet him makes him smile. And despite her years, the senior dog has kept Andrew and his wife active.
“It’s great to have dog excited to see you,” he says, adding, “I enjoy going to run a whole lot more. She drags me around the track.”
“Nikita will come in and lap water out of her bowl for five minutes straight,” he says, splashing everywhere and making them laugh.
Now acclimated to her new family and new life, Nikita feels confident expressing herself. And she has proven to be a very vocal dog with what Andrew describes as a “moaning, pitiful sound” that he has dubbed her “talking voice.”
“[It is] a combination of a yawn and a complaining voice,” he says.
Life changing for person and pet
Between marriage and companion pet adoption, much has changed in Andrew’s life in the past year – for the better. In addition to coming home to his new bride, he looks forward to giving Nikita treats and generally making sure that “she is enjoying life.”
Adopting a senior dog has been a transformative experience for the National Guardsman.
“One of the best things about starting a new life. Just having her improved our lives,” he says.
While Andrew might not see himself as a hero, to one nine year-old dog he is all that and more. Adopted at an age when companion pets are typically overlooked, facing grim and uncertain futures, this senior dog found someone who believed her life was worth saving. And she is not the only one to benefit from the adoption.
“Having a pet in your life drastically changes your life,” says Andrew. “You gain a best friend through the experience.”