Shawn is a dual Air Force and Army veteran who overcame tremendous personal odds in her life. It was perhaps not surprising when she adopted a dog named Crixus who was left to die by a heinous act of animal cruelty. This is their story.
From high school dropout to Army officer
I was a high school dropout and living on my own at the age of 15, when I was kicked out of my house by my step-father. I weathered the storm, got my GED and joined the military as soon as I could at age 18.
Thirty years have gone by and lots of life lessons, but throughout it all I’ve always had a great love for all animals and currently share my life with two rescue dogs, two rescue cats, one rescue bird and two horses. I love hiking, all things dog and horse, MMA, football, SCUBA, bicycling and motorcycling.
After my first stint with the Air Force, I got into vet school and have been a veterinarian now for 16 years.
I spent five years in the Air Force working Avionics on Cargo and Tanker aircraft from 1985-1990. I went to basic training at Lackland Air Force Base (AFB), Texas and was later stationed at McChord AFB, Washington and RAF Mildenhall, England, United Kingdom.
I had two tours in the Army from 2000-2003 and 2009-2012.
My first tour started at Ft. Sam Houston in 2000 for the Officer Basic Course and then to the Air Force Research Lab at Brooks AFB, San Antonio where I was the veterinarian in charge of the health and welfare of all lab animals-pigs, monkeys, goats, rabbits, snakes, etc. I then went to Port Hueneme, California and worked at that naval base taking care of the military working dogs and running clinics for the military members – active and retired. I left service for six years until my daughter could graduate from high school, and went back into the Army and was given an assignment in Bamberg, Germany. I was able to travel throughout Europe, doing the veterinary mission, as well as taking care of the military working dogs and running a clinic for the soldiers’ pets.
I particularly enjoyed my younger years in the Air Force where I went from being a street kid with no home to having a meal card, a permanent roof over my head and money in my pocket, but the highlight of my military service was caring for the military working dogs while in the Army. These soldier athletes are the most amazing creatures and have saved many lives, and I miss working with them terribly.
Like all military members, I miss my friends from the service and the camaraderie that you can’t seem to find anywhere else in life.
Destiny for dog left to die in Detroit street
I saw an article about Crixus (then called Forrest) in a Detroit newspaper. He was a young puppy that had been shot with a BB gun and left paralyzed in the street.
I certainly didn’t need another pet, but I believe that our animals choose us, we don’t choose them. Well, I was worried someone would adopt him and his needs would be too overwhelming for them and he’d end up tied up in a backyard somewhere. I knew I had to try and adopt him or else worry about what had become of him for the rest of my life. So I sent in an application and had faith that if it was meant to be it would. I was told over 200 applications had come in for this pup, so I waited and hoped.
Jennifer at the Michigan Humane Society in Detroit told me about Pets for Patriots on the very day I was to pick up Crixus.
Somehow it came out that I was a veteran and she gave me the number to call. I was skeptical at first because this was so “last minute” and I hated to imposition someone, but I took the chance and called. I talked with Beth Zimmerman, who is the sweetest lady, and she rushed through my application. She was thrilled that I was adopting a special needs animal and was a great help. She sent me the needed paperwork and saved me over $200 off the adoption, and also sent me gift vouchers for pet food and supplies, which were a big help. Not only that, she also organized a fund raiser to buy Crixus a cart to allow him to run around normally and build strength in his remaining rear leg.
Undeterred by disability, Crixus inspires the hero who saved him
Crixus is a ball of energy and keeps me on the move. I rush home from work every day so excited to see him and the rest of the crew. He’s filled an empty place in my heart and life that have been there since my 13-year-old German Shepherd died in 2009.
My little dog Teeny was also very sad when her big brother passed away, and now she’s acting like a puppy again with Crixus around. They love to play together and she certainly loves to have someone other than a cat and bird to boss around.
He’s the sweetest puppy I’ve ever had. He has such a determination and drive and doesn’t seem to know there’s anything wrong with him. His limited vision and mobility certainly don’t slow him down. He gives me inspiration every day and I’m so happy that I have him in my life. He loves to be held and likes to sleep with his head right on my shoulder. He’ll even wake me sometimes to put my arms around him.
Pets for Patriots is a wonderful organization with such caring people that are so willing to help others. They go the extra mile to help and they have such a love for animals and they are a great contact for veterans. I’d urge all veterans to think about adopting an older dog or cat and calling Pets for Patriots for assistance.
Learn more about how companion pets help our military veterans here.