Thom knows a few things about hardship. So it is unsurprising that he has devoted much of his life to giving abused dogs the lives that they deserve.
A lifesaving passion
Thom served in the Air Force during the war in Vietnam. Like many veterans of that era he does not talk much about his service, other than sharing how he misses the camaraderie he experienced.
In time Thom settled down in Michigan to build his post-military life. It is during this time that the now elderly veteran discovered a passion for saving abused dogs.
“Previously I was involved in dog rescue for over 20 years,” he shares, “where my main focus was abused dogs and the turn-around required so they could live normally.”
It is a tragic commentary that so many animals continue to be victims of animal cruelty. Shelters around the country are filled with dogs, cats, and other animals who have suffered abuse, neglect, and abandonment.
Many prospective adopters shy away from these animals. They are hesitant about long-term impacts of prior mistreatment on the animals’ behavior or are unprepared for the special care that most need to adapt to normal lives.
However, Thom is not one to shrink from a challenge. A painful loss would inspire him to continue his lifesaving legacy.
New life for an abused dog
Thom and his wife have long enjoyed the company of big dogs. Very big dogs. The passing of one particular pet prompted Thom to rekindle his compassion for abused dogs and to search for another one to save.
“I had lost a very dear St. Bernard which lost all muscle functions,” he shares, “and needed a replacement for the loss.”
In 2017 the Vietnam era veteran learned about Pets for Patriots and our companion pet adoption program for military veterans. He was told about our program by a local rescue that had been in our shelter network at the time.
Crystal was a then three year-old, 70-pound Great Pyrenees mix.
Although Great Pyrenees are known for being fiercely protective of their people and property, Crystal was terrified of everything and nearly everyone.
Crystal studiously avoided Thom upon their first meeting. But the man with a heart of gold for abused dogs was undeterred.
“I patiently sat on the ground for about an hour, not paying any attention to her, and she eventually – and slowly – came up to me and started sniffing me,” he recalls. “After about 10 minutes of her coming up to me and going away, she finally sat next to me and a bond was made. She let me hug her and the rest was history!”
Crystal would get a new name in celebration of her new life: Eva.
“…couldn’t have asked for more”
It can take months – sometimes years – for abused dogs to rehabilitate. Thom was up for the challenge.
“She was an abused rescue who was afraid of her own shadow,” he says of Eva. “She didn’t like men and the rescue feared that she might not take to me.”
However, with time, love, and patience, Eva came to accept Thom and his wife Clare as her family. She has grown into her role as protector of her homestead, a trait for which her breed is legendary.
“Eva is essentially a large lap dog and a watch dog. She barks at any noise or movements she can see outside,” Thom says. “She is always on high alert.”
The Air Force veteran appreciates the ways we help veterans adopt and provide lifetime care for unwanted dogs and cats. Thom knows that despite having adopted years ago, he is always part of our pack and help is only an email or phone call away.
“Pets for Patriots is a beneficial program for all veterans who want to bring more happiness into their families,” he says. “They are there to help make the adoption process more affordable for vets. I, myself, couldn’t have asked for more.”
Battling – and beating – cancer
In the years since adopting Eva, Thom would learn that he had cancer. He met his diagnosis with a trademark wit that has served him well.
Upon entering the hospital for treatment the Vietnam era veteran joked that he did so to give his wife a much-needed break.
In a remarkable coincidence Thom was not the only member of his household to battle cancer.
“Eva is my support as I am her support,” he shares. “Both Eva and I are recent cancer survivors, and we were there for each other when the other went through the healing process.”
Battling cancer did not diminish Thom’s passion for saving abused dogs. Long after he and Clare rescued Eva they adopted Jeb. The Old English Bulldog had been abused by his previous family; his home had been a drug den.
The pair of once mistreated dogs now rule the roost. Thom is simply grateful to be part of their pack.
“Eva and Jeb are like brother and sister. They play together, and both well-guard their home,” he says. “My wife and I live in a dog house, and Eva and Jeb are kind of nice enough to let us stay here.”
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