Michael is an Air Force veteran who longed for a constant companion. A senior special needs dog named Buddy turned out to be the aptly named friend he needed.
Seeing the world on the wings of the Air Force
Shortly after high school Michael enlisted in the Air Force. He spent nearly a decade in service as a munitions maintenance specialist in support of the A-10 fighter jet.
Michael served far from his Columbus, Ohio hometown. He traveled the world for assignments to Thailand, Germany, Greece, and Hawaii before separating out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.
Through a veterans transition program Michael learned valuable skills to help him re-enter the civilian workforce.
The Air Force veteran spent the remainder of his career as a carpenter and equipment operator. In time he would become a live-in caregiver to an elderly Navy veteran in Florida.
A buddy by any other name
In 2015, Michael decided he needed a constant companion. While the widower has three children and several grandchildren, he still felt lonely. He wanted a friend and family member of his very own.
The Air Force veteran decided to adopt a shelter dog and started his search with the Humane Society of Pinellas.
The shelter has been one of our longest-term adoption partners. Since 2010, Humane Society of Pinellas offers fee-waived adoptions to veterans in our program who adopt eligible dogs and cats.
Two days after being approved by Pets for Patriots Michael went to the shelter and adopted Buddy. The Welsh Corgi mix was seven years old at the time.
It was love at first sight – for veteran and pet alike – despite Buddy’s sad demeanor and that he was missing a lot of fur.
“He had a big patch of hair shaved off his back,” he recalls. “When we left the pound and he was with me and came home, he was right at home and happy.”
Like many animals adopted from shelters Buddy’s prior life was a mystery. Michael could not know that he was adopting a senior special needs dog. He was undeterred by Buddy’s appearance and is a fierce advocate for rescuing pets from shelters.
“I love dogs and I really believe in adopting them.”
The kindness of strangers
Not long after Buddy settled into his new home he started to scratch himself nonstop, to the point of creating open wounds. A trip to the veterinarian diagnosed Buddy with a chronic skin condition that required costly medication – for life.
Michael was heartbroken.
The Air Force veteran was not prepared for the financial commitment of a special needs senior dog. He could not afford Buddy’s medication on his limited income and was faced with the prospect of surrendering his beloved friend to the shelter.
At the time our hero fund for veterinary care was relatively new, but its mission has never waivered.
The fund defrays the costs of urgent, life extending, and palliative care for pets adopted through our program. It helps veterans who face serious financial hardship if they paid for care, or the possibility of giving up their beloved pets.
Much has changed since Michael and Buddy were first adopted.
An enduring friendship
The elderly veteran to whom Michael was caretaker passed away. Michael and his beloved special needs senior dog moved to Arizona. And the Air Force veteran has a new love interest as well.
“I have a new girlfriend,” he says. “Buddy has two more dog buddies now that stay with us. One of them is named Buddy, so now I have two Buddy’s, and the other one [is] named Itty Bitty.”
Even a cat has joined Michael’s newly expanded pack. Nubbins and Buddy are “really good friends” and often sleep together.
Buddy has adjusted well to his new surroundings and family. Still, he is not happy when Michael has to leave the house for his night shift job.
“He knows when I’m getting ready to go to work because he sulks,” he says. “When I get dressed he goes to the corner and lays down, and is not happy.”
Many rescue dogs experience some degree of separation anxiety. Fortunately there are ways to help reduce their stress levels when their guardians must leave home.
Senior special needs dog is a buddy in every way
While much has changed for Michael and Buddy, many things remain the same. The important things – like car rides together and the simple joy of each other’s company.
“He still loves to ride,” Michael shares. “If he sees me pick up my car keys he is dancing and jiggling and happy as hell.”
Buddy has even acquired a few new tricks. The Air Force veteran taught his senior special needs dog how to catch a treat off of his nose. Even at nearly 11 years of age Buddy is adept at catching his treats.
“[He’s] pretty quick, he likes his treats,” Micheal says, “so he doesn’t ever let them hit the floor.”
Buddy still copes with his chronic skin condition, but with proper diet, medications, and good hygiene he is managing.
“He still itches a little bit. It’s not as bad as it was, but he still scratches,” Michael explains, adding that “he loves to get brushed.”
Buddies for life
The Air Force veteran occasionally reflects on what might have been were it not for Pets for Patriots and our hero fund. Buddy would have been returned to the shelter and Michael would not have his perfect forever friend.
“I would recommend Pets for Patriots, I think they’re wonderful. They’ve been very good to me.”
Michael dreams of one day having a bigger house so that he could adopt “another dog or two.” He knows that Buddy, with his friendly attitude, would welcome newcomers with ease.
For now Michael is content with his current pack and, most of all, with his best friend Buddy. The days filled with anxiety about possibly returning him feel like a distant memory.
And while there are many things that Michael loves about Buddy, he loves one thing above all.
“I’d say it’s companionship,” he says. “You always have a friend around that will listen to you. They don’t say much, but they’ll listen.”