Mathew was in his final tour of duty when he started his search for a new best friend. That search ended with a rescued Pit Bull, one of many twists and turns in this young veteran’s life.
“They were all your brothers”
Mathew was raised in Durango, Colorado. He comes from a large family that believes in serving their country and has a grandfather who fought in Pearl Harbor. He worked in a variety of professions before enlisting in the military, including sales, as a mechanic, and even a chef.
The young man’s adaptability would serve him well throughout his Marine Corps career and post-military life.
It was 1991 when Mathew was inspired to join the Marines after seeing the movie Heartbreak Ridge. He held the belief of fighting the fight today so that his family would not have to do so later.
In 2004, Mathew enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and held a number of different specialties over the course of his military career. He served as an infantry unit leader, combat instructor, recruiter, and uniformed victim advocate, among others. His favorite specialty was infantry unit leader. It gave him the ability to observe positive changes and developments in the lives of other Marines.
Mathew was deployed several times during his service, including to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as to the Republic of Georgia. He was always on the front lines during these deployments and referred to them as “very maturing events” in his life.
The majority of the Marine veteran’s tours of duty was spent in combat. Mathew relates to these times as among the most fulfilling of his military career because the camaraderie he experienced was amazing.
“There was no black, white, no yellow, there was just green,” he says. “They were all your brothers.”
Mathew served for 13 years and separated in 2017 with an Honorable discharge.
Paddy the rescued Pit Bull
Since Mathew transitioned from the military he has been managing property in the Rocky Mountains. He does construction and project management; to say he enjoys it is an understatement.
“I wake up every morning and I’m able to look at the continental divide.”
Enhancing Mathew’s lifestyle in the Rocky Mountains is Paddy. He is an 84-pound rescued Pit Bull whom Mathew adopted through our partnership with the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services – San Diego while he was still stationed on the West coast.
At the time of his adoption Paddy was three years old.
Since 2011, all three County of San Diego animal shelters have partnered with us to help the most adoption-challenged dogs and cats in their care find loving homes with veterans in their community.
Paddy was a hard-to-adopt dog in many ways.
Although the rescued Pit Bull needed to meet only one of our criteria to qualify for our program, he met three. He was over two years of age, more than 40 pounds at the time of his adoption, and has a chronic skin allergy that requires medication and special food. But in addition he faced another difficulty: breed discrimination.
Sadly, many would-be adopters automatically reject terrier-mix dogs because of misperceptions about their behavior and temperament.
The various breeds that comprise dogs collectively known as Pit Bulls are smart, loyal and loving animals. And the public’s perception of these animals is changing, albeit slowly. It will take more people like Mathew welcoming Pit Bulls like Paddy into their families to help save these wonderful dogs.
A new best friend
Mathew was inspired to adopt a pet versus buying one because there are so many good animals in shelters who do not have homes.
The Marine veteran’s search took him and his wife to no less than five animal shelters across San Diego county. It was at our partner, County of San Diego Department of Animal Services, where the couple met Paddy. It is where they learned about our companion pet adoption program for military veterans as well.
Since adopting, Mathew has referred several of their military friends.
Mathew’s wife had Pit Bulls before whereas he had Labrador Retrievers throughout his life. But Mathew’s trademark adaptability came into play when he decided that Paddy was the right dog for him. He recalls what sealed the deal.
“Just his demeanor and energy.”
Both veteran and pet found their best friend that fateful day. After Mathew completed the adoption paperwork the couple took their oversized rescued Pit Bull home. Mathew is thrilled that he gave Paddy a chance.
“[Paddy] is one of the best dogs I’ve ever had. He’s a lot like me, he even has a sense of humor,” Mathew says. “He likes to give hugs, but he will only hug you if you look like you can support his weight.”
Although Mathew knows little about Paddy’s life prior to his adoption it is clear that the big dog had some training.
“If you hold up five fingers, he will bark five times.”
Paddy quickly became a cherished family member and has his own wardrobe, complete with bowties and an American flag bandana. His relationship with Mathew even goes so far that they occasionally dress alike.
“My wife got him a Carhartt vest that matches my Carhartt jacket.”
A friend when you need one
Yet Paddy’s most important skill is not that he can count or give great hugs. The rescued Pit Bull is the consummate friend to his veteran and is there when he needs him the most.
“He just calms me down,” Mathew shares. “He will listen to me for as long as I talk.”
As it happens, Paddy may have soon his own four-legged friend.
Mathew has had such a positive experience that he is considering adopting another dog through our program. He appreciates how we make pet guardianship more affordable for military personnel because we recognize that companion pets are life-saving for both person and pet.
“A lot of service members don’t get a pet because of money,” he says. “This program provides an outlet for them.”
The Marine Corps veteran observes that many veterans get cast aside in society. Through Pets for Patriots, veterans adopt dogs and cats who were stray, abused, abandoned, or otherwise unwanted. When two souls who were marginalized find one another – one human, one animal – it can be very powerful.
“It’s not just a dog, in my mind, it’s a friend,” says Mathew. “Someone you can rely on 24/7 that gives you an outlet and can be there for you.”