Pets for Patriots® saves lives by connecting veteran and service members of the United States military with shelter pets in need of a loving home. Operating nationally, the charity is one of the only organizations in the country dedicated to both at-risk pets and military personnel, at any stage of their careers and from all armed forces. Pets for Patriots is a proud member of the Army AW2 Wounded Warrior Program national community support network, a Real Warriors Campaign national partner organization and is listed by the National Resource Directory for ill and wounded veterans. Pets for Patriots, Inc., is a registered 501(c)(3) charity; learn more online to find out how you can Be A Pet's Hero™.
They say it's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. We'd suggest it's something slightly different: it's the size of the heart in the dog. So it is with two little dogs that are bringing big changes to the lives of the veterans who gave them a second chance at life.
Vietnam veteran finally gets a 'thank you'
Bob is a Vietnam Army veteran who served during a period in our nation's history when veterans symbolized a deeply unpopular war. There were no parades, no jubilant welcomes home, no thanks for a job well done. Their return was unceremonious at best and acrimonious at worst.
Decades later, that was about to change when Bob walked into a Michigan pet store to look at the dogs available for adoption through the Michigan Humane Society (MHS). One six year-old rat terrier named Beau caught his eye, but Bob was concerned that pet ownership was beyond his means.
Fortunately an MHS adoption counselor introduced Bob to Pets for Patriots, through which MHS offers deeply discounted adoption rates and ongoing, reduced cost veterinary care for the life of any eligible adopted pet. As an adult dog, Beau fit one of the criteria for a Pets for Patriots adoption, which includes adult and special needs pets, as well as large dogs.
The rest, as they say, is history.
"He's terrific. This dog is the best dog I ever had," Bob says. "I'm happy that I have him because he brings new life to me," he says. "It's happiness. We're having a lot of fun together."
Bob is very emotional when he speaks about the little dog that brought so much joy into his life. For the first time in decades, he felt that he was appreciated for his service; someone was saying "thank you" by helping him bring a new best friend into his life.
Video courtesy of the Michigan Humane Society, all rights reserved.
A tragic year and a partly 'empty nest'
Michael is an active duty Navy Hospital Corpsman who endured a year of personal tragedies, including the deaths of his grandmother and stepfather. Divorced, he felt sad and alone during the off-weeks when he didn't have custody of his 14 year-old son; he imagined that this is what it's like to be an empty nester. Then, the idea struck:
"Maybe if I got a dog," he says.
Michael visited local pet stores that charged $1,000 or more for a "puppy mill dog," and knew on the spot that he had to adopt, not shop, for his new pet friend. Searching online, he found Mario and Kona's story about a three-tour Iraq veteran who saved - and was saved - by an injured dog and about the Pets for Patriots program that places last-chance dogs and cats.
"For someone to go out of their way to place harder-to-adopt animals, that meant something to me."
After visiting all of the MHS locations, Michael found Paco at their Detroit shelter. He was so enamored of this four year-old stray that he rushed to the shelter during his lunch hour to adopt Paco, all the time worrying that the beautiful little Pomeranian would be gone.
"Everywhere I go everyone is immediately attracted to Paco," says Michael. "I hit the shelter dog jackpot."