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™.
Sometimes the antidote to loneliness and isolation is as simple as shelter pet adoption. For one Navy veteran suffering from depression, a homeless dog was just what the doctor ordered.
Michael joined the Navy to get an education and to travel the world. Still on active duty, he has literally been around the world and back again, recently landing coveted orders which brought him back to his hometown in Michigan. Despite a successful naval career spanning some 18 years which included many academic and service awards and accolades - including Command Sailor of the Year in 2007 when he served at the Naval Hospital in Guam - Michael found himself mired in a depression that was deepening and difficult to shake.
"I have loved every minute of my career," says Michael. But a series of personal setbacks in 2011 left him reeling and looking for a way out of a downward spiral that started with the legal separation from his wife.
Michael had visitation rights with his young son, but the time away from him was lonely and difficult to bear. At the same time, he lost his beloved grandmother who, at the age of 96, died just weeks after his return home from Guam. Shortly following her death, Michael?s stepfather, the man who had not only raised him but also served as a mentor, was admitted to the hospital due to complications from his ongoing battle with cancer. After a three-week stay in the hospital, his stepfather succumbed to the disease, leaving Michael feeling more alone than ever before.
Familiar surroundings should have been a comfort to the preventive medical technician, but being back in the town he grew up in resurrected so many memories of happier days that it made coping difficult. It was almost too much to endure.
Michael started to think about how he could change his bleak outlook and fill the void in his life. He began scouring pet stores at the local malls looking for a dog to help occupy him in the long hours between his son's visits. After being turned off by "warranties," puppy mills, and the high prices of the puppies at local shelters, he decided to do some online research. Pets for Patriots popped up in a search for adoption services for veterans. Michael clicked on the link and immediately knew this program was exactly what he needed.
"After reading the stories posted online, I knew Pets for Patriots was for me and without further thought, I signed up," says Michael. "I was approved within 24 hours and then I started the search for my new family member."
Michael fell in love with Paco, a four year-old Pomeranian available at the Michigan Humane Society, a Pets for Patriots adoption and veterinary partner. After honorably adopting Paco, Michael found the constant companionship of his new family member to be key in alleviating his depression and feelings of loneliness.
"Paco is always happy to see me and will lay with me when I am feeling blue," says Michael. "He is a good listener and he is such a joy to be around."
Paco is never far from Michael's side, or more accurately, his lap.
"He will hop into my lap when I am busy and will push my hands away from whatever I am doing so that I can pet him," laughs Michael. "If he sees me headed for the couch, he runs over and will sit and wait until I lay down and then jumps right on top of me."
Michael feels that Pets for Patriots simplifies the adoption process for veterans.
"They team up with institutions that love animals as much as they do and these partnerships not only help you find a pet, but also help ease the cost of adding to your family. The fact that they have Patriots adopt harder-to-place animals who are older or have disabilities is wonderful since it is not just the adorable puppies that need loving homes."
Now that Michael has Paco to come home to every day, his house no longer feels empty and the unconditional love Paco offers is much-needed comfort in difficult times.
"If you are a veteran and are looking for a new family member, join Pets for Patriots," says Michael. "Maybe you can hit the shelter pet jackpot, too."