Every life we touch through our work is a blessing. In the span of less than one week, two veterans adopted two dogs through two different shelter partners in two separate states. Yet all involved – pet and person – needed the same thing: unconditional love. In the end, we had two miracle companion pet adoptions.
Stray, abused dog lifts an Army veteran out of depression
Michael is medically retired from the Army and now lives in Alabama. Like many veterans, he spent about one year after his discharge “not knowing what to do, not feeling comfortable.” Admittedly he has a lot on his shoulders, coping with fibromyalgia, recurring stress fractures and depression.
Two years ago the Army veteran adopted a cat who is positive for feline leukemia (FeLV), and the pair bonded well.
Eventually Michael decided to adopt a companion for her and thought that a low-key dog who “didn’t want to jump around and chase her a lot” would be a better option than exposing another cat to FeLV. A local shelter told him about their new partnership with Pets for Patriots, and how we reduce the lifetime costs associated with companion pet adoption for United States military veterans.
Little did the staff suspect that Allegra, their longest term and somewhat ornery resident, would be “the one.”
Stray and pregnant when she was found, the now nearly four year-old Australian Kelpie mix had been at the Lee County Humane Society for more than six months. No one knows for how long she lived on her own, absent the protection and care of a loving family. And perhaps in part as a result of her experiences, Allegra was at best aloof and at times hostile to those around her. Many potential adopters overlooked her altogether.
“Everything I heard from people who’ve gone to visit her before is she was abused by a guy, and doesn’t warm up to guys or new people at all,” Michael says.
Yet something changed when the Army veteran arrived at the shelter, just one day after being approved by Pets for Patriots. Allegra, now renamed Kara, was completely at ease in his company.
“I saw how she was when she was comfortable,” he says, adding that since adopting her, “She doesn’t leave my side at all.”
Michael and Kara are the first honorable adoption through our partnership with Lee County Humane Society, which extends a 10% adoption fee discount to members of our program.
In just a little over a week, Kara’s adoption is already having a big – and positive – impact on Michael’s life.
“We go walking two to three times every day,” he says, “whereas normally I wouldn’t even want to go outside unless I had to go to work or do chores.”
Others have noticed the near immediate changes in the Army veteran.
“People have said that I’ve been more rounded out,” he says, “so I figure that’s a good thing.”
“The $150 gift card will go a long way and I am very appreciative of it,” Michael says. “I’m very glad that we have a veterinarian here that is affiliated with Pets for Patriots. She had to have a rabies vaccine and deworming medication on her first visit, and the discount really helped. Thank you again for accepting us into the program and for all that you do!”
Army soldier and three-strike shelter dog become instant family
More than 800 miles to the south and west, another miracle was in the making.
Chris is an active duty Army soldier serving out of Fort Hood, Texas. For years he had been plagued with anxiety.
“I’ve always been close to dogs and had never really had a constant in my life,” says Chris, alluding to his parents’ divorce and other family issues. “Especially in the military we don’t have a lot of constants – always moving, always switching around.”
Long prior to joining the military Chris’ sole comfort was his companion dog, whom he raised with the help of his grandparents. Sadly, at one point Chris was forced to move into his father’s house and had to find a new home for his beloved pet of 10 years. He was crestfallen at first, but is comforted to know that the dog is with a friend’s son who recently lost his father.
“He helped me for 10 years with my problems and now he can help someone else.”
Although currently serving in the Army, the anxiety that haunted Chris for so many years did not abate. If anything, it was getting worse. Now finally in in a home of his own, Chris decided it was time once again to get a dog.
“I felt I needed a constant,” he says, “and I decided to go adopt.”
Like many would-be pet adopters, Chris started his search online. He discovered Pets for Patriots and, coincidentally, was approved on the very same day as Michael. He wasted little time looking for his new battle buddy.
The Army soldier spent a lot of time at Texas Humane Heroes at Killeen, a Pets for Patriots shelter partner since 2013 that waives pet adoption fees for Pets for Patriots members. He asked the shelter manager about the personalities of many of the dogs there, and visited every kennel to size up each dog for himself.
After Chris met Modie, however, the search was over. She was a three-strike dog who – like the Army soldier – lacked a sense of familial security in her life.
Modie was originally adopted from Texas Humane Heroes in August 2013, brought back one month later and adopted right away. Due to her owner’s ill health, she was surrendered back to the shelter in December 2014, but adopted quickly by January 2015. Just one month later, the nearly three year-old dog was surrendered again because her new family did not have time to work with her.
“We pulled her out so that they could meet each other and it was love at first sight. She did not want to leave Chris’ side,” says Jenna Gunshinan, the adoption center manager at Killeen. “They played together for a really long time before he had to go.”
The dog who no one seemed to want appeared to know who she wanted.
“Modie has spent the last few weeks waiting for Chris to come back for her,” Jenna continues, “when he showed up in front of her, she jumped right into his arms. She knew that he was the one.”
In the interim, Chris kept in touch with the shelter through their Facebook page, letting them know that he would be coming in to adopt Modie. During that same time he applied to Pets for Patriots and – once approved – went to the shelter for Modie.
The pair are already family.
“She’s always around, she follows me like a shadow, she’s always wanting to be near me,” he says, adding, “It’s nice to have that companionship around.”
Are you or do you know a veteran who would benefit from companion pet adoption? Learn more here.