For one disabled Army veteran, a companion pet was all the inspiration he needed to make changes that would ultimately save his life.
During the winter of his senior year in high school and with failing grades, Greg knew he wasn’t going to graduate. Driven by the desire to do something different than his seven siblings, he dropped out of school and joined the Army.
“It was the one thing I did all on my own,” Greg says.
Unlike high school, Greg sailed through basic training with flying colors. As promised to his mother, Greg earned his GED once he arrived at his first duty station.
“It made my mom really happy and proud of me,” he says.
Throughout his enlistment Greg served as a Calvary Scout, guarding convoys and doing patrols at nuclear missile bases while stationed in Germany, and then later as a Supply Sergeant. After more than a decade of service Greg left the Army.
“It just wasn’t fun anymore,” he laments. “It started feeling too much like a regular job.”
While in the Army, Greg was diagnosed with Reiter syndrome, also known as reactive arthritis, which predominantly affects men. It is Greg’s belief that because of this condition he later developed kidney and heart problems.
Two open heart surgeries and two kidney transplants later, Greg realized he needed something or someone to help motivate him to stay healthy. He was lonely and wanted a companion.
“I didn’t need another girlfriend or another wife,” he says. “I’ve already had a couple of those.”
During a visit to his local Petco, which housed a permanent, in-store Michigan Humane Society adoption center, a staff member told Greg about a black lab-German Shepherd mix who had just become available. The chemistry did not take at first, but after seeing the dog and taking her for a walk, Greg decided to adopt the 40-pound, eight-month-old pooch he calls Bebe. Luckily she qualified under Pets for Patriots’ pet adoption criteria.
Because of Greg’s kidney issues he is on dialysis three days a week, which is time consuming and draining. Knowing Bebe is waiting for him at home gives him something to look forward to after each four-hour session.
“She’s always there to greet me,” he beams, “and always happy to see me.”
Greg loves that when he returns home after the dialysis treatment, exhausted, Bebe will lie with him. In the morning she wakes him up with kisses.
“I don’t even need an alarm clock anymore,” he jokes.
Although Greg grew up in a large family, they never had a dog – so Bebe is a whole new experience. She loves to wrestle, and always wants her veteran’s undivided attention. As an added bonus, she enjoys playing with other dogs.
“She’s smaller than the big boy dogs in the neighborhood,” he observes, “but she can handle them.”
Before Bebe came along Greg had no motivation to walk, which he needs to do for his heart condition. Bringing Bebe into Greg’s life not only provides him with unconditional love and companionship, but she is also helping him improve his health.
“She is a great dog,” he says, “and gives me something to look forward to every day.”
As for Pets for Patriots, Greg believes the benefits offered through the charity and its partners make companion pet adoption for veterans more affordable – not a hardship for those who are on disability or a fixed income. One thing is clear to Greg: Bebe is not a burden, but a blessing.
How does your pet motivate you every day?