Too many animals find themselves abandoned, rejected and discarded at shelters and rescues across the country. When one Marine veteran decided it was time to add a four-legged member to the family, his first thought was to save a life and adopt a dog.
As it turns out, that dog was one who others had adopted and surrendered on more than one occasion. Priscilla seemed to be the dog nobody wanted.
Military as the path to a better life
Patriotism and hopes for a brighter future inspired Anthony to join the military. In 1995 he enlisted in the Marine Corps and served for four years, and remembers the many reasons that motivated him to enlist.
“Having an immense sense of pride, I enlisted to serve my country,” he says. “I also wanted to get away from the troubled area I lived in, to attain experience in the profession I wanted to ultimately be in and to earn money for college.”
Part of Anthony’s plan was to gain valuable experience in law enforcement. He served as a Military Police Officer with the Special Reaction Team and, with the exception of a one-year deployment to Okinawa, Japan, he served the majority of his time in Quantico, Virginia. Since Anthony was working as a first responder every day brought the prospect of something new and fun, including the day he delivered a baby.
Despite his many experiences in service, boot camp remains one of the most memorable times of his military career.
“Graduating boot camp was a huge highlight,” Anthony recalls. “Graduating SRT (Special Reaction Team) was pretty intense. We were a tight knit group [that] worked with FBI HRT (Hostage Rescue Team).”
Winning hearts and minds
Anthony always had pets, except while he was serving in the military. He recently moved in with his girlfriend and her daughter, eight year-old Alexandra. One of their first decisions as a new family was to get a dog. They all felt the time was right.
The Marine veteran started his search at the Big Dog Ranch Rescue, which happened to be one of hundreds of shelters, rescues and municipal animal controls that partner with Pets for Patriots.
“I heard about the Big Dog Ranch Rescue and when I went there, I was impressed by their facility,” Anthony says.
After asking Anthony a few questions and determining that he was a veteran, the Big Dog Ranch Rescue staff told him about Pets for Patriots and our companion pet adoption program for military veterans.
In addition to partnering with shelters and rescues across the country for companion pet adoption, Pets for Patriots provides a range of both one-time and ongoing benefits to help make pet guardianship affordable and enduring for military veterans. Adopters receive a generous gift card to defray the costs of ‘welcome home’ pet food and essentials, exclusive discounts on a wide range of pet supplies, and ongoing discounts on quality medical care through hundreds of veterinary partnerships. All in exchange for saving a hard-to-adopt dog or cat.
The Marine did his homework, looking online and meeting dogs in person to find the perfect match for young Alexandra. Knowing that she, like any eight year-old, “has a tendency to fall in love at first site with any pup,” he decided to narrow the potential dog candidates before taking her to the shelter.
During his third trip to the rescue’s facility and after seeing scores of dogs, Anthony brought Alexandra to see the ones who he thought would a good fit for the family. To his dismay, none of the three dogs Anthony had picked worked out for Alexandra.
“One was too rambunctious for her, the next one she didn’t like, and then the last one wasn’t working well with kids,” Anthony laments.
The princess and the pup
The Marine veteran and his girlfriend were distraught.
However, a volunteer suggested that the couple take a look at her favorite dog, one she had fostered. Anthony decided he had nothing to lose by meeting Priscilla, a then two year-old Pointer mix who had been repeatedly adopted and surrendered.
“Priscilla, on cue, came out and immediately sat at Alexandra’s feet and then rolled over to have her belly scratched,” Anthony remembers fondly. “That sealed the deal.”
Priscilla was rescued from a high-kill shelter, an unfortunate term that refers to shelters that have high rates of euthanasia and where animals often have little chance of making it out alive. Since her arrival at Big Dog Ranch Rescue, the black-and-white dog had been adopted and subsequently returned on more than one occasion. While very little is known about her prior life, Anthony is confident that she did not suffer an abusive past; her demeanor towards other dogs and people is nothing but kindness.
And then there were two
Although it was not part of the plan, Anthony and his family saved another dog at the same time that Alexandra and Priscilla adopted one another. Highway is a Pit Bull mix who, as his name suggests, was found on the road. The two dogs had never met prior to their dual adoption, but Anthony insists that you would never know it.
“The two of them together love each other,” says Anthony. “They rough-house, but they are hilarious. Highway – he was literally found on the road two days before.”
For her part, Priscilla had a rollercoaster first week with her new family. After being hyperactive for a day and experiencing depression for a couple of days after that, she finally settled into her new home.
“The first day,” he recounts, Priscilla was “really happy and running around the yard, and [she and Highway were] getting used to each other. It was difficult at first to get her in her crate at night. The next day was horrible; it was like she went into a depression. She wouldn’t eat. The third and fourth day it was getting better.”
By the end of the week Priscilla had turned a corner.
“Within five to six days she was better,” says the veteran, “like, ‘I am here; this is my house.’”
It did not take long, however, for Priscilla to exhibit some behaviors that might explain why she had been previously adopted and returned. Behavior issues are typically among the top reasons adopted animals are surrendered, even as many people who give up their pets say they do not have time to devote to their training.
“I have gone through five pairs of new shoes, my girlfriend has gone through three and our daughter just one,” Anthony says and he chronicles the losses, adding, “and a $150 pair of sunglasses, not to mention her bedding and our furniture.”
Winning hearts and minds
Anthony learned many things during his service as a Marine, among them perseverance. The veteran found himself drawing upon his training to help Priscilla become the amazing dog he knew she could be. He describes his new charge as something of a work in progress, noting that they are working with her “one day at a time.”
The Pointer mix, with her big personality, shows her gratitude by providing hours of laughter to the family: she seeks out fun in any way, shape or form.
“Priscilla is a stubborn but hilarious dog. I have never seen a dog seek out fun like she does,” Anthony says. “She jumps in the pool and goes for a swim when she likes. She is an acrobat and will suddenly appear on top of a table or toy chest. She is wonderful with kids, and sometimes too much so that she thinks she is one. She loves the trampoline and bouncing up and down.”
By saving harder-to-place pets like Priscilla and Highway, Anthony appreciates the importance of adopting – not purchasing – a family pet. And the Marine veteran has not been shy about getting the word out about Pets for Patriots.
“I also like the adoption part of getting a pet, so I suggest that instead of buying one that they at least look at the different adoption organizations around first.”
The benefits of adopting a pet through Pets for Patriots go beyond the financial support; Anthony found out it was more personal as well. The director of veteran outreach is a Marine Corps combat veteran who served in Vietnam; he reaches out to veterans both before and after their pet adoption. Many veterans, like Anthony, are surprised to receive phone calls asking how their adoption is going.
“I honestly did not know what to expect,” he says. “I have to say that this is a phenomenal organization and I have recommended you to all of my veteran coworkers. I think you have a great program and I am happy that we have found you, and I also know I can speak for Priscilla too!”