Veteran who joined military to escape abuse bonds with neglected dog

Veteran who joined military to escape abuse bonds with neglected dog

Michael enlisted in the military to escape abuse that he suffered since childhood. In time he would find healing with a rescue dog who, like his savior, survived a cruel existence.

Leaving home

It was 1981 when Michael fled home to enlist in the Marines. He had endured years of mistreatment from those entrusted with his care, even from an early and most innocent age.

Joining the military was a lifeline.

“I went into the military due to abusive living conditions since being a foster child at six years old,” he confides.

Michael was assigned to the Marine Corps Forces Reserve 4th combat engineer battalion in Baltimore, Maryland. These professionals provide a wide range of mission-critical combat engineering support to maintain their division’s mobility and endurance.

“I was responsible for generator operations and maintenance,” he recalls, “and electrical power for combat operations.”

The Cold War

Michael continued his military career after his tour of duty with the Marines by enlisting in the Air Force. It was an opportunity to expand his engineering prowess while being part of a time in history that was as ominous as it was exhilarating.

It was the Cold War and Michael was deployed to Germany with a satellite communications and engineering unit. They were part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, a research and development arm of the Department of Defense formed in 1958 by President Eisenhower.

Among DARPA’s most transformational inventions were digital protocols that would give rise to the birth of the internet.

Michael served for more than a decade between the Marines and Air Force. But it was his deployment to Germany that he recalls most vividly.

“My most memorable moments in the military [were] being overseas and the travel throughout Europe, Germany, and meeting so many foreign people,” he shares.

The young veteran loved experiencing new cultures and languages. And he takes pride in having learned what were cutting-edge technologies of the time that led, in part, to present day initiatives like the Space Force.

Still, no matter of professional accomplishments allowed Michael to escape the memories of abuse he endured for so much of his young life.

“Nobody should be without a dog”

Michael was forced to retire due to a service connected disability, but enjoys putting his skills to work tinkering around the house. He and his wife live in Maryland where together they have two adult children and a small menagerie of companion pets.

One of the couple’s four-legged flock is a now 11 year-old Dachshund who they had since he was a puppy. Their two adult cats were adopted as well – mere kittens at the time.

While the dog was closest to Michael’s wife, one cat – Lydia – attached herself to Michael.

It has been a loving menagerie. However, Michael was longing for the emotional connection of a dog. He still bears psychological scars from the cruelty inflicted upon him even though he escaped his abusers decades ago.

“Since I have PTSD and disabilities I knew I needed a dog of my own for comfort,” he explains, “and a dog that was my own, and my best friend.”

Michael is quick to recognize that adopting a companion pet is a two-way street. While people benefit from the unconditional love of a rescued animal, so too does that animal flourish in a loving home.

“Nobody should be without a dog,” he declares, “especially veterans who understand we need love and affection, which goes both ways with a dog in your life.”

Many years ago Michael enlisted in the military to escape abuse. Now he was seeking new ways to cope with both the invisible wounds of that cruelty and the disabling injuries from his military service.

The ties that bond

Anne Arundel Animal Care and Control has partnered with us since 2016. The municipal shelter offers fee-waived adoptions to veterans in our program who rescue eligible dogs and cats. Staff told Michael about our partnership when he visited in the fall of 2022.

It was there that the elderly veteran met Ozzy. The petite terrier mix was four years old at the time and, like Michael, had already experienced the cruelty of people at a tender age.

Perhaps Ozzy sensed Michael’s long ago pain, and Michael empathized with the little dog being cast aside in his youth.

Whatever the reason, man and dog formed an instantaneous bond.

“This decision changed my life since Ozzy found me and accepted me,” Michael shares. “Ozzy came from a difficult life being neglected.”

An always there friend

Just a week after being approved into our program Michael and Ozzy were adopted. The impish little pup wasted no time rewarding his savior with affection and spirited energy.

“I have found Ozzy is so much fun, respectful, caring, and loving,” he says.

“Since adopting I take more walks, have a responsibility to Ozzy that I miss.”

Michael’s newest charge loves to play, and seems to know when his veteran needs a little pick-me-up.

The pair do everything together. They travel, eat, even sleep in the same bed.

Ozzy has taken to napping with his head on Michael’s knees or finding a cozy spot under the blankets. He enjoys watching TV with Michael and his wife, barking when a dog comes on screen.

Somewhere along the way Ozzy had learned excellent manners. He is proving to be a very considerate member of the household.

“Ozzy is so amazing and smart,” Michael shares. “He knows to clean or dry himself coming in from outside. He never begs for food. I never saw a puppy so polite and friendly, and so in tune with us and when outside the house.”

But beyond his sweet habits and antics Ozzy is Michael’s port in the storm. He is the capstone to his decades long effort to escape the abuse that has haunted him for most of his life. Now both man and dog can close that haunting chapter of their lives.

“Ozzy keeps me grounded,” he says, “and, more importantly, loved.”

“Love will always win”

Michael believes that other veterans would benefit from adopting a companion pet through our nationally operating nonprofit. He appreciates the ongoing support we provide. Our team follows up with each adopter for at least one year; many choose to stay in touch with us throughout their pets’ lives.

“Veterans, it would be in your best interest to consider adopting and going through Pets for Patriots,” he says. “You will find an extended family and support if you ever need with your pet. Your life will change [and be] filled with love, happiness, and joy knowing you found a pet who will love you unconditionally.”

While Michael cannot erase the past abuse that haunted him for so long he can rewrite his future. It includes a loving family, a small menagerie of four-legged souls, and one canine companion in particular who is transforming his outlook on life.

The elderly veteran is grateful to all those involved in making Ozzy’s adoption possible.

“I will never forget what you have brought to this home and our hearts,” he shares. “Thank you so much for so many blessings.”

Michael’s past abuse could have ruined him for life. Thankfully he had the foresight and fortitude to change his path by enlisting in the military. In doing so he not only rescued himself from a painful existence, but he was part of history-making contributions to technical advances that have transformed the world.

In the end, however, Michael knows that is one thing above all the others that truly matters, that can make a difference in one’s life in ways large and small.

“Love,” he says, “will always win.”


  1. Alyson A.

    Thank you for your service. I can tell that you are a really special person – and Ozzy definitely knows that he’s found the best human ever!

  2. Lee Griffin

    As former Army Signal Corps myself, that’s so awesome!

    We have a rat terrier mix and Ozzy is cute like our dog!

    Rise above it, indeed. Thank you for your service!

  3. Christine E

    I’m sorry you and Ozzy had rough starts in life. I’m so happy to hear you have found each other now. Ozzy is absolutely adorable! Love those whiskers. Wishing you and Ozzy many happy years together, loving and supporting each other. Thank you for your Service.

  4. Collier Mitchell

    Congratulations to you both and you’re amazing story of strength and compassion! What a beautiful bond!

Give with Confidence

candid platinum transparency 2023
candid platinum transparency 2023
candid platinum transparency 2023
candid platinum transparency 2023
Petco Foundation

Shop 1800PetMeds for all of your pet’s health needs and we’ll get 10% of your purchase!

Shop BISSELL for your home cleaning needs and they will donate 10% of your purchase to us!

Because a shelter is not a home

Long-term shelter pets available for adoption