Sometimes all a man – or a dog – needs to fulfill his potential is the right opportunity. For one man, that opportunity was becoming a Marine. Years later, that decision would help a dog in need get the ultimate gift: the chance to live a better life.
How the Marines made the man
After graduating high school in 2000, Edward could not believe how quickly time had passed. He was a single parent, and wanted to provide the best future possible for himself and his young daughter.
Enlisting in the United States Marine Corps was a way out – and a way up.
Whether stationed stateside in South Carolina or deployed far from home to Japan, Edward attributes his happiness and success today to the four years he spent serving his country. He remembers his time in the Marine Corps as a wonderful and transformative experience that helped shape him into a well-rounded person. It even made him a better father.
“I met some great people, it was fun,” he says, before turning more serious. “That’s where I grew up and learned to be a man.”
During his enlistment Edward discovered a great deal about himself. He become more open-minded about people whose experiences were very different from his own. Through his service he was exposed to people from different races, religions and backgrounds – all contributing to his evolving perspective on the world.
“It opened my eyes about how differently people are raised,” Edward shares. “It made me a better person all around.”
Although separated from service, Edward still keeps in touch with the friends he made in the Marines.
A difficult transition
Leaving the military was not an easy feat, and Edward was having a difficult time making the transition to civilian life. He knew that many veterans experienced depression when they are no longer serving, a circumstance he was eager to avoid.
What Edward realized he missed most was the structure he found in the Marine Corps; he admits it was a multi-year struggle to regain his sense of purpose.
“I was lost for a little while,” he says. “It took me three years to transition back.”
Another opportunity to serve
It was during those long three years that Edward started taking classes after work. Shortly before taking qualifying exams to become a police officer, he had a change of heart.
Unsure of his next move, the Marine Corps veteran prayed for a sign.
After much reflection and deliberation, Edward decided to become a firefighter. It seemed to satisfy all of the things he longed for and that mattered most to him: a sense of structure, the opportunity to help others and another chance to make his family proud.
It turns out that Edward made the right choice. Firefighting gives him the sense of fulfillment he experienced during his years as a Marine.
In addition to being a firefighter, Edward is a trained paramedic and responds to various emergency calls, not only those pertaining to fires – making his job even more exciting and meaningful.
Healing at the home front
Due to the nature of his work Edward spends much time of his time away from his beloved wife and daughters. While he is gone he worries about them, and he realizes that his absence infects the house with a sense of loneliness as well. The family came together and made a decision that would change all of their lives – plus one more – forever.
It was time to look for a dog.
Edward’s youngest daughter was particularly eager for a companion, a buddy. The Marine veteran heard about the benefits of adopting companion dogs, including for children in military families, and decided that it was the right choice for his family. With that in mind, he and his youngest daughter visited the Big Dog Ranch Rescue in Wellington, Florida.
Once at the shelter Edward learned about their partnership with Pets for Patriots, which would allow him to adopt a companion dog at a significant discount and receive other benefits that would make pet parenthood more affordable. And it was during that first visit that the veteran’s daughter fell instantly in love with a mixed breed dog named M&M.
As luck – or fate – would have it, M&M had been surrendered to the Big Dog Ranch Rescue right before Edward and his daughter had arrived.
A new name, a new life
Once the pair brought M&M home and in the spirit of new beginnings, the family decided to change the big dog’s name to Comet. At first he was a little “nervous in his new environment,” a very common circumstance for newly adopted pets.
“He would just pace. He took off a couple of times too,” Edward recalls.
Comet settled down quickly once he realized that he was truly home, and has since become quite the ladies’ man. He prefers Edward’s wife and daughters, and any women in the neighborhood who give him attention.
Despite this, Comet’s presence is giving comfort to Edward as well. Comet has gained some much-needed weight and is proving to be the missing family member that everyone needed. Edward’s youngest daughter got the brother and companion she wanted, and needed. And Edward is relieved that when he goes to work Comet is there looking out for the family – sort of.
“He puts on a good show,” the Marine veteran says, “but he is scared of his own shadow.”
Edward admits that he was not a big dog person prior to adopting Comet, but that has all changed. He is amazed at the profound satisfaction of rescuing a companion pet – giving an animal in need the second chance at life that he, or she, deserves.
To other veterans who might be considering pet adoption, the Marine veteran has a simple message.
“Look and shop around,” he says, “I don’t regret it.”
Are you or do you know a veteran who would benefit from a companion pet? Learn more here.