This is a tale about how two unlikely souls came together: a cat-loving Pit Bull growing despondent in a New York shelter and an Army veteran in Delaware who just lost her own feline friendly dog.
All you need is love
Mary joined the Army right out of high school and served from 1978-1982. She worked in military intelligence where, at the time, there were promising opportunities for women.
“The rest of the jobs, other than driver or clerk, were still closed to women,” she said. “I cannot tell you how big the lump in my throat was recently when I saw two females complete Ranger school. It’s a different world now!”
The Army veteran’s most memorable experience in the service was in December of 1980. She was listening to conversations between the East Germans and the Russians.
“Suddenly the term ‘Lennon’ came up. We had protocols in place when we heard the same term, especially a foreign term,” she explains. “We were gathering information for hours and then the teletype started making noise. Poor John Lennon had been murdered in New York City. We stood silent for a brief moment – not a dry eye in the room – even the gristled old sergeants.”
Little could Mary know at the time that a song forever tied to the former Beatle – All You Need is Love – would have so much meaning in her life.
First, there was Rocky the Magnificent
Mary is now semi-retired and living in Delaware. She has always been a supporter of adopting rescued animals, mostly cats, since she was a little girl.
“I could not have companion animals of my own for the longest time because I traveled for various jobs, and relocated so much it wasn’t worth getting a house until I was finally able to settle in Delaware a few years ago,” she explains. “A lot of cats have acquired me since then, but having a dog around helps me with feeling secure, avoiding depression, and working through various PTSD issues which knock me down once in a while.”
In August of 2013, Mary adopted Rocky the Magnificent through our partnership with the Delaware Humane Association. Fortunately for her feline-filled household the big dog liked cats, or at least did not seem to mind them.
Life was good for Mary and her pack, until nearly three years later when Rocky the Magnificent succumbed to cancer despite efforts to extend his life.
Pedro, the cat-loving Pit Bull
Mary had no near-term plans to adopt another dog; she was still in mourning, trying to figure out how to replace the huge hole in her heart.
“Rocky the Magnificent gave me 1,113 perfect days before our time ended,” she says. “I was steeped in grief and reached out to Beth, who told me about a cat-loving older Pit Bull named Pedro the Goofy, who was well loved and cared for, but somewhat stuck, in a small cat shelter in New York City.”
Our director had read Pedro’s sad story online. The dog had endured years of neglect, adoption, and surrender. Due to earlier abuse he was afraid of dogs, so upon return to the rescue he lived with the cats. Surprisingly, the then middle-aged pup found the company of cats not only tolerable, but preferable to his own species.
On a whim we reached out to Mary to see if she would be interested to meet Pedro. The shelter was open to an out-of-state adoption to find him the perfect home. They believed he would do best in a quieter environment, outside the hustle and bustle of the city.
Within a matter of days, Mary, Beth and the team at Mighty Mutts met at their companion cat shelter, Ollie’s Place, in Manhattan. The rest is the stuff of fairy tales.
The Pit Bull meets the cat crew
In October 2016, Mary adopted Pedro, whom she has since renamed Gumby. She enlisted the insights of an animal communicator to better understand all she could about her newest member of the family.
“Pedro communicated to me that he wanted to leave his metrosexual New York life behind with a brand new name, and the communicator indicated something fond would be best,” she explains, “So, he is now Gumby!”
It was a perfect match for Mary and her “cat crew.”
At first, most of the cats ran for cover when Gumby showed up. Eventually they started to investigate their newest family member to see if he was friend or foe. It did not take long for them to realize that Gumby was decidedly the former. All he wanted to do is play with them, and cuddle.
When the cat-loving Pit Bull is not keeping an inventory of his collection of sticks in the backyard, he’s spending time with his feline companions.
“He loves being loved by my cats – they can groom him and knead him and he just lies there like he’s getting a fine massage,” Mary says.
Every afternoon around the same time, Gumby puts himself down for a nap in Mary’s room. Several of the cats join him.
Pure Pit Bull is pure love
The Army veteran was determined to find out everything she could about Gumby. He had a persistent skin rash due to years of prior neglect. Mary tried every special diet, medication, salve, ointment, and soothing bath she could find – all to no avail. Finally she sent for a canine DNA test. Her training in military intelligence told her that she just needed better information.
The intel paid off.
It armed Mary with precise information about Gimby’s breed, drug sensitivities, allergens and other triggers. She was ultimately able to find the right treatment for Gumby’s skin ailments, but what made Mary most proud was learning to love that her boy is a Pit Bull.
Often, potential adopters – including Mary – have misperceptions about particular breeds. And no type of dog is more misunderstood than Pit Bulls. Many shelters are now de-emphasizing breed, which is often not a reliable indicator of how an animal will behave or fit into a particular home.
“He is a Pit Bull, my first,” Mary says with pride. “I was a little concerned about his breed, but as soon as I met him, I knew he was a mush-baby.”
Gumby is a purebred American Staffordshire Terrier, three generations back. The breed is typically referred to as a Pit Bull, itself a generic term that includes several breeds of dogs.
“Everything about Pit Bulls is bad press,” Mary declares. “He [Gumby] healed my broken heart with his funny ways, and just knows when to come up and stick his muzzle in my arm pit, which never fails to make me laugh.”
Gumby gives Mary something else she missed since Rocky’s passing: a sense of security.
“I love his deep resonant bark, and that he uses it judiciously.”
A sense of belonging
Mary first discovered Pets for Patriots through our Facebook page where we share our veterans’ stories about their military service and pet adoption.
“The stories of my fellow veterans and current service members touch my heart and help me to connect to military life,” Mary says. “Of course, the animal stories are awesome, since most of the companion animals adopted are hard luck – older dogs and cats, and large dogs that are often overlooked even though they’re much easier to care for, mellow, and grateful!”
The Army veteran should know. Both dogs adopted through our program were older animals with sad histories.
“I have been blessed twice with wonderful dogs through the Pets for Patriots program,” she says, adding that she always tells other veterans considering companion pet adoption to just “DO IT!”
“The process is easy, and you become part of an extended community where you and your ‘honorably adopted’ pal are not abandoned.”
Mary echoes something we are gratified to hear from other veterans we serve: that Pets for Patriots makes them feel like family.
“For old soldiers like me, Pets for Patriots is as close to family as I can ask for,” she shares. “Adopting an animal through a shelter partner makes room for another and chips away at the never ending need, but the relationship with the shelter, by need, kind of ends there. With Pets for Patriots, the sense of community begins at the application process – Beth even took time to meet me when I drove up to meet Pedro [Gumby] for the first time.”