Unwanted dog is port in the storm for Navy veteran battling depression

Unwanted dog becomes port in the storm for Navy veteran battling depression

Rigby was adopted and then promptly returned to a Virginia animal shelter. But for one Navy veteran battling depression this once unwanted pup would be her lifeline.

Serving at sea

Jessica enlisted in the Navy directly after graduating high school. She would serve two tours of duty before being medically retired.

“I had served nine years as a hospital corpsman in the Navy,” she says.

Corpsman perform a wide range of critical healthcare roles, from administering vaccinations to participating in lifesaving surgeries. Many veterans who served as corpsman pursue civilian careers in medicine or other healing arts after they separate from service.

At the time of Jessica’s retirement she lived in Virginia. She has since moved south with her young family.

“I am medically retired out of the Navy, [and] I have three kids and a lovely wife,” she says. “We live in San Antonio, Texas.”

However, despite all of the joys in her life Jessica was battling depression. According to the Veterans Administration, depression is the most common mental health diagnosis among female veterans.

In time, an unwanted dog surrendered to a Virginia shelter would be Jessica’s canine lifeline.

When the healer needs healing

For nearly a decade the young Navy veteran devoted herself to healing others. But a service-connected incident forced Jessica to grapple with the reality that she needed help, too.

Jessica started to explore adopting a companion pet to buoy her spirits and mental state.

“I really needed a friend,” she shares. “I had an accident while on deployment. While I was recovering I was battling depression and anxiety, and pains of therapy.”

At the time, Jessica was living in Virginia and learned about Pets for Patriots through one of our local shelter partners.

Since 2011, Portsmouth Humane Society has offered veterans in our program 20 percent off adoption fees. They are among our original adoption partners in the Tidewater area and across the nation as well.

The young veteran chose to adopt through our program because of the assistance we provide before, during, and after adoption. We follow up with every adopter for a minimum of one year, and longer if the veteran wants to stay in contact.

It is our high-touch approach, cost-saving benefits, and dedication to surrender prevention that makes us unique among other, similar nonprofits.

Working with Pets for Patriots was a game changer for Jessica. We were able to provide just the right help – personal and financial – that the struggling veteran required.

“I was going through a tough time and I needed advice on getting the right dog,” she shares, “and help getting the supplies needed for him.”

A pup discovers his purpose

It was early 2020 and Rigby was like so many animals entering shelters: homeless through no fault of his own. The mixed breed dog was adopted in February that year from Portsmouth Humane Society only to be returned one month later.

Dogs who are repeatedly surrendered are often more difficult to adopt out. This may be due to a perception that there is something wrong with the animal. Other times these dogs develop behavior problems from re-sheltering that make them less appealing to would-be adopters.

However, Rigby avoided that grim fate and seems destined to have found Jessica. Little could anyone know that this pup had a purpose to help his veteran as she was battling depression and anxiety.

Rigby joined Jessica’s family just three days after being given up by his previous one.

“I have my best friend”

In the years since Rigby’s adoption the once unwanted dog has proven his mettle. He is equally a beloved member of his young family as he is a four-legged therapist to Jessica.

“It was the best thing for my family,” she says of their adoption.

“The kids and I just absolutely love him and we are so glad that we have him to play with and to spoil! He completes our family, and no matter what he is, we will love him and care for him always and forever.”

Rigby has embraced his new life with gusto. He fits well into nearly every aspect of the family’s routines and has an agreeable, easygoing personality.

“He just loves everything,” Jessica says, “being lazy, going on walks, cleaning up after dinner.”

However, Rigby’s most valuable contribution has been as a port in the storm for Jessica. While the retired Navy corpsman still finds herself battling depression at times, she does not have to look far for comfort.

“Rigby has made my life so much better,” she shares. “I have my best friend by my side and he has really helped me during my dark times.”


  1. Mary Eaton

    Thank you for your service Jessica and realizing you needed help with your depression. Four legged furries give love the same as they receive love.
    May you have many years of the pleasure of each other’s company.

  2. Jacquelyn L

    I’m so happy you all found each other! Enjoy! Live! Play! Love!

  3. Christine

    Rigby is beautiful. I’m so glad he found you and that he completes your family! Wishing you many happy years together. Thank you for your Service.

  4. Valerie

    Congrats to this beautiful family. So glad you found each other.

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