Veteran military dog handler comes to the rescue of pint-sized hurricane refugee

Veteran military dog handler comes to the rescue of pint-sized hurricane refugee

Michael’s love of dogs sprang from his most memorable time in the service, as a dog trainer and handler in the United States Air Force. So it was a bit surprising when many years later he would adopt a pint-sized hurricane refugee in desperate need of a home.

For the love of Military Working Dogs

From 1973 to 1975, Michael trained military patrol dogs. He admits that he chose this duty because other available opportunities did not interest him.

“I didn’t have experience in dog training,” he says, “but the [other] openings were mostly boring.” 

Michael spent five months in dog training school at Grissom Air Reserve Base in Indiana. The training consisted of three different disciplines.

In patrol, dogs are trained to chase and hold suspects, much like police K-9s. Sentry dogs learn how to attack. And Explosives Ordinance Detection dogs are trained to sniff out bombs or, in some cases, interdict drugs. 

Michael then was sent to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, now known as Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. It is the heart of the Military Working Dog (MWD) program, and where he did both patrol dog handling and dog training.

The Air Force veteran’s next stop was Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, Colorado. He served eight years in the Colorado Air Guard, where he completed his active duty service as a staff sergeant.

Michael then served another three years in the Air National Guard.

After separating from service Michael moved to Jacksonville, Florida. He lived there for 30 years with his wife, Andrea, before the couple moved to West Palm Beach. Michael currently works as a software engineer.

Dogs become a way of life

While in Jacksonville Michael had as many as seven dogs at one time. But he now lives in a retirement community where only two dogs per household are allowed.

“I have always had a thing for dogs, and I will always have a dog in my life unless I can no longer take care of them as I age,” he shares.

Most of the couple’s dogs came from rescue situations. Sandy is no exception.

Sandy is a Black Mouth Cur, a herding breed developed in the American South. She was adopted before Michael discovered Pets for Patriots and decided to add a second dog to his pack.

When adoption is the only adoption

In September, 2018, Michael and Andrea visited Big Dog Ranch Rescue to find a playmate for Sandy.

Veteran military dog handler comes to the rescue of pint-sized hurricane refugee

Since 2012, the rescue has offered veterans in our program a deeply discounted adoption fee of just $50. Dogs of all sizes are waiting to be adopted at Big Dog Ranch Rescue’s 33-acre, cage-free campus.

The Air Force veteran believes in adopting pets, not buying them at pet stores or through breeders.

“There are so many dogs that need homes,” Michael laments. “The benefits we received are awesome. It’s a beautiful facility, and it’s only about half full.”

Long gone are the days when Michael could populate his home with several dogs. He and his wife would have to find just the right one.

Daisy finds a home – and gets a sister, too

It did not take long for the couple to fall in love with a bright-eyed little Jack Russell Terrier mix. Named Vicky at the time, she survived the ravages of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. She was among countless dogs saved and subsequently housed in a large facility on the island. 

Many shelters in the United States mainland took in four-legged hurricane refugees who were not otherwise reunited with their guardians.

When Big Dog Ranch Rescue acquired Vicky she was pregnant. They found homes for all of her puppies and now it was her turn.

Michael adopted Vicky – since renamed Daisy – the very same day he was approved into Pets for Patriots. Now his pint-sized hurricane refugee would be eligible for all of the benefits we offer.

Daisy was certainly a lucky pup. Not only was the then two year-old dog getting two doting pet parents, but she was getting a big dog sister as well.

Pint-sized hurricane refugee rules the roost

Michael laughs recalling how Sandy welcomed Daisy home.

Veteran military dog handler comes to the rescue of pint-sized hurricane refugee

“Sandy is thrilled we brought Daisy home as they are perfect playmates, even though Daisy weighs about half the weight,” he says. “Tug-of-war is hilarious as Sandy drags Daisy around until she gets tired, and Daisy ends up with the rope.”

The veteran dog handler has three simple words for other veterans who are considering adopting a dog or cat through Pets for Patriots.

“Just do it!!!”

As so often happens in these loving pairings, people who adopt companion pets are rewarded many times over by their new charges. Michael’s pint-sized hurricane refugee was no exception.

“Their uncompromising love is unbelievable,” Michael says. “When I am down they always brighten my day.”

1 Comment

  1. Mary Eaton

    Thank you for your service Michael. Thank you Big Dog Rescue to taking in these four legged survivors from the trauma they were enduring so far away and making such a generous adjustment to your adoption fee for our servicemen and women. I enjoyed this story and learning of Michael’s experiences in the military. A little compassion can go a long way. Thanks for sharing.

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