Terry is an Air Force veteran coping with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and a host of physical challenges. He was in need of a companion with positive energy and unconditional love to spare.
Pippy was a lonely little dog living in a shelter, yearning for a home and human of her own. When the pair finally found each other it was clear that she was meant to be his pint-sized battle buddy.
Life on the frontline of history
Terry joined the United States Air Force on May 27, 1981. After completing basic training he attended technical school for Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) and graduated on May 26, 1982. For the next 19 years Terry served his country as an EOD technician. This career that gave him the opportunity to experience life around the country and around the world.
“I have been stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, Howard Air Force Base in Panama, Bergstrom Air Force Base in Texas, Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, and again at Shaw,” Terry says. “I was one of the first five Air Force EODs stationed at Howard, so I got the experience of opening and equipping a brand new organization. While there, Operation Just Cause commenced and the removal of Noriega from power was completed.”
Operation Just Cause – the code name for the 1989 invasion of Panama – was not the only historic event that Terry was involved in during his service.
“While stationed at Bergstrom, I was one of the last EODs to leave before base closure, so I got to experience the redistribution of all EOD assets to other bases fulfilling many shortages that would affect their mission accomplishment,” Terry recalls. “Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm started and required four of the six EOD Technicians to deploy. So I was one of two that were left behind to carry out the mission at home base. Boy, was that challenging.”
Terry’s list of notable military experiences is lengthy, but two memories remain etched in his mind to this day.
“They really affected me,” he says. “The first was when I was an E-4 stationed at Ellsworth. I was chosen to go to Carswell Air Force Base to explosively dismantle three B-52 aircrafts as part of the SALT talks.”
Strategic Arms Limitations Talks – or SALT – were discussions between the United States and then Soviet Union to de-escalate ballistic missile deployments.
Another memorable moment for Terry took place while stationed at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.
“I was chosen twice to go to Vietnam as part of a team for POW/MIA recovery missions,” he says. “During these missions, my teams were able to recover enough evidence to close three cases, therefore giving closure to these fallen military members.”
On June 1, 2001 Terry retired out of Shaw Air Force Base after nearly two decades of military service.
Depression, PTSD and a faithful friend
Terry settled in Tampa after his separation from service and still lives there with his wife and stepdaughter. He has faced a series of challenges since retirement, even though his military career is long over.
“I ended up in a wheelchair for about 18 months, unable to walk without a walker – and then only a few feet at a time. So, I am unable to work,” he says. “After three back surgeries, I am able to walk short distances with the walker, but keep the chair around for any long trips. For the first eight months I basically only left my house to go to doctor appointments. I spent most of my day in my bedroom, usually only coming out to eat or use the bathroom.”
Housebound, depressed and lonely, Terry realized that the best cure for his ailments might be waiting for him at his local animal shelter. He needed a battle buddy.
Choosing adoption as the only option
Companion pet adoption seemed like a natural choice for Terry. He saw it as life affirming not only for him, but for the animal he would eventually save from an uncertain fate.
“I chose to adopt a pet because I had so much time on my hands and was basically alone much of that time. I figured by adopting I would be gaining another family member and companion during those times,” he says, adding, “It also would put an animal in a loving home instead of being in a shelter – or even worse.”
It did not take long for Terry to find his perfect companion: a pint-sized battle buddy named Pippy. The fiesta, two year-old Chihuahua and Italian Greyhound mix has an engaging personality that captured Terry’s heart. Just two days after Valentines Day Terry adopted Pippy from the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. The shelter has partnered with Pets for Patriots since 2011.
In addition to waiving adoption fees for veterans who join our companion pet adoption program, the Humane Society of Tampa Bay offers an ongoing 10 percent discount at their full-service veterinary hospital for dogs and cats adopted through our partnership.
Little dog is a big blessing
Terry and his wife were deeply in love with Puppy within mere weeks of bringing her home.
“Pippy is a welcome member to our family and everyone loves her,” Terry gushes. “She gets along with our other dog and a friend’s dog I am caring for. She eats up all the attention we give her. She is just so full of spunk. We put her out to potty, and she does her business then runs laps around our fenced-in backyard. I have never seen a dog that small that can run so fast and corner so well!”
Pippy has already helped guide Terry through some of his darkest moments. The pint-sized battle buddy gives him the love and comfort that only a companion pet can provide, including late-night hours when the rest of the family is asleep.
Once homeless, the tiny dog has proven to be a force of healing in Terry’s life. The their bond is now unbreakable.
“She has spent many hours just sitting on my lap or next to me when I would otherwise be alone and without contact with anyone,” Terry shares. “She has listened to me so many times and not once has she complained or told me to hush.”
Pint-sized PTSD battle buddy
“I have never considered suicide an option, but I can see where in the throes of depression and PTSD – along with the many other stresses in life – that someone could,” he says. “Pippy has already been a blessing for me. I spend many nights awake, unable to sleep for various reasons. Pippy does not mind at all spending hours curled up in my lap. It is just a comfort to lay my hand on her and pet her.”
While Terry does have human family living in the house as well, he does not expect them to keep him company during his sleepless nights. This is where Pippy comes in, all of her own initiative.
“Between work and school they cannot spend the night up with me, and nor would I want them to,” he explains. “It is exhausting to not be able to recharge your batteries at night. When Pippy is lying on the foot of my bed or in hers she already knows my routine, and if I get up just to make a short trip to the bathroom, she will raise her head then put it back down. But if I go anywhere else in the house she follows right behind me.”
Pippy has become both lap dog and guard dog to Terry, snuggling against the Air Force veteran one minute and protecting him the next. She is on guard for anyone other than family who gets too close to Terry, despite weighing a mere seven-and-a-half-pounds.
“She will let them know not to mess up,” Terry says. “She has just been a complete blessing. She is kind of like the brothers and sisters that I was separated from at retirement. We depend on each other to get by, and just knowing that keeps things in perspective.”
Pets for Patriots is “the only way to go”
“I didn’t really choose Pets for Patriots – it chose me,” Terry says of the program. “While alone one day spending some time on the internet I saw an ad and began to research it. Once I saw all the advantages they provided for us, I had to go adopt Pippy.”
Pets for Patriots provides a range of benefits to veterans to make pet guardianship more affordable. Once Terry brought Pippy home he received a generous contribution towards ‘welcome home’ basics and access to a variety of pet-related discounts, including savings on top-rated Petplan pet health insurance.
“It has been months,” he says, “and I still have not used all of the things that sponsors provided to the new family.”
Terry wholeheartedly recommends Pets for Patriots to other veterans considering adoption, including those who have not yet thought about the possibility of rescuing a companion animal.
“If they are thinking of adopting a pet, then Pets for Patriots is the only way to go,” he advises. “If they have not thought about it and it would help them deal with their issues – and if they would be able to care for and love a new family member – then this program is what they need to look into.”
Without Pets for Patriots Terry and Pippy may have never found each other. The impact on both of their lives is profound and enduring.
“Thank you, Pets for Patriots, for getting us together,” Terry says. “I have and will continue to let fellow veterans know how great the program is. I am spreading the word about Pets for Patriots. I am sure there are many patriots out there that could use a companion.”