Mark Twain once said that it is not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. A three-legged dog proves this every day to the combat veteran who gave him a second chance.
Born to serve
Rob has dedicated his life to improving the lives of others. He has served in three of the United States armed forces – first with the Army, Marine Corps, and now as a Navy chaplain.
The career veteran’s love of country is indisputable.
“First I was a soldier, 87-90. Then I was a Marine, 90-98. And now I am a sailor, commissioned in ’06 and planning to keep going until I’m too old to serve,” he says. “I love what I do, and who I serve with – America’s best and brightest!”
Recently Rob was transferred to Rhode Island, where he serves at the Navy Leadership and Ethics Center headquarters in Newport. The organization schools more than 400 prospective commanding officers in ethical leadership.
While the career veteran is a military careerist, he is equally devoted to his family life.
“My wife Crystal and I just celebrated our 28th anniversary,” he says.
The couple have two grown, married children, as well as two young grandsons. Life is good for this combat veteran, but he had a nagging sense that it was incomplete.
From South Carolina, with love
Shortly after his transfer to Newport, Rob sensed that something was lacking in his life. That something was a four-legged companion. So the career veteran and his wife visited Potter League for Animals in nearby Middletown.
The shelter offers veterans in our program a 25 percent discount on adoption fees and half-priced dog training classes.
The staff at Potter League for Animals told Rob about Pets for Patriots once they learned that he was a military veteran. He applied to our program in late summer, but did not finalize his application until several months later when he met a dog who stole his heart.
Wolfie was a one year-old, mixed-breed tripawd dog when he met Rob and his wife in the waning days of December.
Earlier in the month Wolfie had been transferred from a shelter in South Carolina after his rear hind leg was amputated. Little is known about why the young dog needed to have his leg removed.
But the three-legged pup was put on the long road trip in the hopes of a better life.
It is common for companion animals to be transported from shelters in one part of the country to others where they are more likely to be adopted.
The chaplain and the three-legged dog
Rob was smitten instantly with Wolfie. After letting his Pets for Patriots application go dormant for a few months, he provided his documentation to us and was approved.
The three-legged dog was all the inspiration he needed.
So just days before the New Year, Rob and Wolfie – renamed Gus – were adopted. And while the combat veteran was looking for a four-legged friend, the three-legged one he chose brings him no less joy.
“Gus has no idea he only has three legs”
The mixed breed pup has a zest for life that is contagious. Rob and Crystal are overwhelmed with the positive transformation made possible by this once unwanted dog.
“Gus has brought fresh energy, unconditional love, and an indomitable happiness,” Rob says. “It’s as if losing his leg has freed up his tail to be even more enthusiastic!”
But do not tell Gus that he is a three-legged dog – or that being a tripawd will limit him in any way. In fact, most animals who endure amputations adapt very well, even those who are older than Gus.
“Gus has no idea he only has three legs, seriously,” Rob shares. “He sometimes slips, or tips over, but he recovers and carries on with his tail wagging!”
Helping people, helping pets
Rob has been a giver all of his life.
Since 1987 the combat has sacrificed much in defense of our nation. Now in the twilight of a long military career he is helping to cultivate the next generation of leaders.
Like many veterans in our program who give so much of themselves, Rob appreciates having someone help him. His experience with Pets for Patriots has been a rewarding one, both before and since his adoption.
“The support to the process is tremendous, which makes what could be a difficult and expensive adoption very simple,” he says. “Plus there is a good feeling in adopting a pet that other folks might not appreciate.”
Of course, the process is just a means to an end. The real magic is uniting veterans who need a new pet friend with a dog or cat in search of a loving home. All of the benefits of our program are designed to foster that bond – and make companion pet adoption more affordable, too.
“I didn’t see a three-legged dog. I saw a fighter…”
So a man who has served in the Army, Marines, and the Navy, and who counsels future military leaders, is himself uplifted by his three-legged dog.
“We absolutely love Gus,” he shares. “He has definitely been good for our morale!”
All of Gus’ fur has grown back from where it was shaved for his amputation surgery. And Rob says that his spirited pup knows no boundaries or limitations – almost.
“Although he does tend to wipe out from time to time,” he jokes. “That missing leg was actually useful for some things!”
But beyond Gus’ joyful spirit and entertaining antics lies more profound lessons, in love and life. Both Rob and Gus have endured much in their respective lives. Each has battle scars they will carry forever, but neither lets those wounds define him.
In some ways Rob sees in his adopted amputee a reflection of himself. Someone who accepts life as it is, not what it might have been. A soul who embraces the many gifts bestowed upon him – like a loving home and family.
“As a combat wounded veteran, I didn’t see a three-legged dog. I saw a fighter, a pup who’s attitude isn’t shaped by what he’s not, but enjoying who he is,” Rob shares. “I was happy to give this little veteran of difficult circumstances a home, but even more happy that he included me in his circle of trust.”