Love and comfort often come from unexpected places. One Navy veteran learned this firsthand when he adopted an abused Pit Bull who would become the stabilizing force for him and his young family.
The challenges of military life
The lives of military families have a rhythm all their own, and are distinctly different from what civilians experience. Our patriots endure many hardships, between training, deployments, separation from loved ones, and frequent relocations. It can be challenging to feel rooted, to feel a sense of belonging.
While constant and often unexpected changes are a staple of military life, finding stability is a rare gem. For Joshua, a Navy Chief Petty Officer, his port in the storm was a big, six-month-old shelter dog named Diesel who was searching for a more a more stable life of his own.
For the love of country
Joshua joined the Navy in 2005, inspired to give back to his country. Over the course of his ongoing military career he has been stationed all across the world. He has served alongside all of the branches of the United states military as well as with foreign military counterparts.
Prior to returning to the states, the Navy veteran spent four years in a forward deployed operational setting.
“I am still active and will be making many more memories,” he says, “but two of my favorite memories are when I was getting pinned as a Chief Petty Officer, my daughter ran up an hugged me and told me she was proud to be my daughter. The second is getting commissioned as an officer.”
For the love of family
In 2011 and upon returning home from one of his deployments, Joshua and his wife decided to start a family.
Nearly two years later and with a six month-old daughter, the couple wanted to grow their pack again. This time, however, they wanted to adopt a dog.
Pets for Patriots played a big role in making the life-changing moment possible.
“It’s a great program and is very helpful,” Joshua says, “and it’s there to help both the service members and the animals. If you have the option, you should do it.”
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, many from abuse and neglect. Such was the case for Diesel, a then six-month-old abused Pit Bull mix.
When Joshua and his family met Diesel at the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services in San Diego the dog had experienced a version of war himself.
In his six short months Diesel – named Romeo at the time – had faced starvation and abuse. Although he was 43 pounds at the time, making him eligible for our program, he was well below a healthy weight.
“When we first picked him up, he was recovering from being abused and starved,” Joshua recalls, “so we had to feed him slowly and carefully because he was already underweight.”
Other signs of Diesel’s battle-torn life emerged. Invisible wounds revealed themselves as the once abused Pit Bull adjusted to what may have been his first real home.
“The first time he walked around our house, he went to the stairs and went up one step and curled up into a ball and slept on the step,” says Joshua. “When we showed him his bed he got so excited he peed, it was the funniest thing.”
Love – and an abused Pit Bull – to the rescue
Active duty military and their families are constantly faced with uncertainty. Changes in duty station, new and unfamiliar cities, long separations.
Joshua and his family discovered that adopting a companion dog brought a certain comfort and stability to their lives. It helped soften Joshua as well, something he – like many veterans – sometimes struggle to do.
“Diesel has helped me maintain my civil side that is often times hidden below a hardened military way of life,” Joshua shares. “He is my comfort zone and is great with my girls. He is their mobile jungle gym, and always tells us if they are getting into trouble.”
The Navy veteran saved Diesel from his life of neglect, but the once abused Pit Bull in turn became the fuel for Joshua’s heart. Diesel never was “just” a dog; he immediately became family. He became Joshua’s daughters’ best friend and the Navy veteran’s “comfort zone.”
“There is nothing as comforting as always being welcomed by a wagging tail and an excited animal who is always happy to see you,” he says. “Having a dog opens up a part of one’s heart that often times closes up as a result of military service.”