Molly is a sweet shelter dog who twice saved her veteran's life -- and now that veteran is standing by her as she faces her own life-threatening battle.
Centuries of Military Service
Bruce comes from a long line of military service dating from the Revolutionary War. In 1972 he started his service in the United States Air Force as a ground radar maintenance technician, after training at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi. His first assignment was to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where he served for two years.
The young veteran was subsequently assigned to Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base and U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield, both in Thailand. In 1976 he returned to the states, where he was assigned to Loring Air Force Base in Maine -- but his most vivid experiences are from his service halfway across the world.
"My time in Thailand holds the most memories for me," he says.
Bruce had been working the midnight shift during the first weekend of his arrival to the country. All lights were out at the radar shack. Everyone was relaxing until three o'clock in the morning when the door opened suddenly.
The young veteran and his men found themselves surrounded by Air Force security with their M-16s at the ready.
"It turned out that they had trapped a group of Thai Communist sappers in the drainage ditches underneath the runway. The radar unit was their target," he recounts. "Welcome to Thailand!"
Home, Bittersweet Home
Long separated from the Air Force, Bruce now works as mass spectrometer field service engineer. He enjoys the company of his grandchildren and is a proud father to two decorated military veterans.
"I have two children who are also vets," he says. "Daughter was a Navy E-6 and Bronze Star recipient from OIF [Operation Iraqi Freedom]. Son was an Army E-5, and Army Commendation Award recipient for service in Afghanistan."
Yet despite his accomplishments and those of his children, Bruce found himself sinking into depression. He chose to cope by looking beyond his own situation and saving the life of another.
"I chose to adopt a pet," the Air Force veteran explains, "because after 42 years of marriage I was going through a divorce. Alone and a bit depressed, I was tired of coming home to an empty house. I was getting into a rut."
Bruce's circumstances motivated him to seek solace by adopting a companion pet through Pets for Patriots. He found many benefits from adopting through our charity because the overall costs of pet guardianship can be challenging to manage.
"I read about Pets for Patriots on the Internet and decided to look into it. The best benefit from Pets for Patriots was the low to no adoption fees," he says, adding, "considering how some adoption agencies will charge upwards of $125, this was huge benefit for me."
What Price Love?
Bruce met and adopted his now beloved companion, Molly, through our partnership with the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society. The shelter waives adoption fees for veterans in our program who save eligible dogs and cats.
Molly was a then eight year-old Jack Russell Terrier. She was shy at first and it was evident to Bruce that she had been abused. She had alopecia on her back, a fairly common condition that leads to hair loss.
"She was hesitant to come up to me initially, but she soon got over her fear," he explains. "She was so full of life when I brought her home."
Caring for Molly gave Bruce just the outlet he needed to help overcome his depression. The Air Force veteran was focused on helping Molly heal her own wounds -- seen and unseen -- giving him a new sense of purpose.
However, walking with Molly on a leash could be challenging. While the little shelter dog enjoyed their strolls, just two weeks into their adoption Bruce took a major fall.
"During this particular walk, she started heading out into the middle of the street. Normally I would pull her back and she would continue walking in front of me. Not this time," Bruce recounts. "This time she walks behind me, wraps her leash around my legs and heads back into the street. Naturally, I went down."
The Air Force veteran fractured and dislocated his right shoulder in the fall, but Molly never left his side during his many months of recuperation. Still, this was not the last of the mishaps to happen during their walks.
"Nine months later, while we were out walking again, Molly got between me and a charging German Shepherd that had gotten away from its owner," Bruce says. "So Molly saved my life twice."
To the Rescue of the Dog Who Twice Saved Her Veteran's Life
Bruce appreciates Pets for Patriots' dual focus on saving lives of person and pet. He suggests that other veterans considering companion pet adoption do so through our program.
"Pets for Patriots is a great organization. They are here not only for us vets but for the animals also," he says. "They will constantly check with you to see how you are doing with your new best friend."
Bruce and Molly have now been together for four wonderful, joy-filled years. While the little dog has twice saved her veteran's life, sadly she now needs saving of her own.
Molly has recently been diagnosed with Cushing's Disease, which is typically caused by a pituitary-gland tumor. If that were not enough, the little dog has a large mass in her gallbladder.
"The prognosis is not promising," Bruce says, "but I will be there for her as she has always been there for me."
Bruce and Molly continue to enjoy the little things that make their lives together so special -- and so memorable.
"She'll lay on the bed with me at night and by morning she is under the covers with her head on a pillow," he shares. "When I come home from work, she is waiting at the door and jumps all over me happy to see me. As I am her. She has brought a lot of joy to my life."
The Air Force veteran is sticking by Molly's side, much as she has done for him since their adoption. He always remembers her unconditional love and companionship during his physical and emotional despairs.
"Molly saved my life, not the other way around."
Pets for Patriots gives the gifts of fidelity, joy and love to both veteran and pet through companion animal adoption. The organization helps veterans and military members adopt the most overlooked shelter pets, including adult, special needs and large breed pets, offering them a second chance at life through adoption. Pets for Patriots partners with U.S. shelter and veterinary networks, military and veteran organizations, and the public to value and honor the lives of both the most vulnerable and heroic among us. For more information, visit www.petsforpatriots.org.