A Marine Corps veteran draws upon lessons learned in the military to save, and be saved, by a shelter dog who was overlooked and unwanted.
Angela joined the United States Marine Corps in 1992. She was stationed at Camp Lejeune with the 2nd Force Service Support Group and served as a Legal Services Specialist until the end of her contract in 1996. Over the five years that followed, she gave birth to her son and daughter, respectively, and welcomed to the family Ladie – a Black Labrador mix – who eventually passed away at the age of 13.
After losing Ladie, dealing with divorce and several military moves, Angela’s children began asking for another dog. In 2012, the family moved back to Angela’s hometown in Indiana, but their apartment wasn’t dog friendly. The newly single mother knew that they would eventually have to move – again – if they were to get a dog.
Looking for an overlooked dog
While searching online for adoptable dogs on the Humane Society of Indianapolis website, Angela learned about their partnership with Pets for Patriots. If she was accepted by the nationally operating charity, in addition to receiving a 35% adoption fee discount she would be eligible for other benefits to help make pet adoption affordable, such as ongoing discounted veterinary care. Angela applied and was promptly approved.
From the start, the Marine veteran knew she wanted a dog who was overlooked due to age or other adoption challenges.
“I wanted an older dog,” she says. ”I wanted to save a dog who no one wants, one that was already established, and hopefully potty trained.”
Brandon and Jasmine, however, wanted a puppy. Being a dutiful mother, Angela took the kids to look at puppies, but was reminded that a puppy would not meet the Pets for Patriots eligibility requirements of an at-risk pet. The adoption staff at the shelter advised against a puppy as well.
“The counselor said that with me working and my kids at school, a puppy would be harder to train,” Angela explains. “We discussed it and agreed as a family to let the puppy go.”
A shy dog’s turn to shine
Rose had been living outside with her litter mates before arriving at the shelter. The mix of Bernese Mountain Dog and Smooth Collie was just over a year old, almost 50 pounds and had hip dysplasia. She was loving and playful, if not a little shy.
“My son was throwing a tennis ball with her, and she just wanted to play,” Angela says. “We knew then that she was the dog for us.”
The family went to adopt Rose the day before Easter. Everything went smoothly, except Angela forgot her Pets for Patriots approval letter.
“They were so helpful,” Angela says about Pets for Patriots. “I believe it was the executive director who actually faxed over the page that morning so we could take Rose home.”
Rose rises to the challenge
Despite her loving demeanor, integrating Rose into the family wasn’t without challenges. It took about six months for the big dog to fully settle in, and for Angela and her children to find a balance of positive behaviors for both humans and dog.
Even in her relative youth, Rose taught Angela an important life lesson: greater self control. The big dog still startles easily; Angela has learned not to get overly excited about little things so as not to upset Rose.
More challenging, however was Rose’s inappropriate biting. Angela hoped it was just part of the dog’s adjustment phase, but wondered if she was doing the right thing.
“There’s the sensible side that said, ‘hello, she’s biting your kids,’” Angela says, “But I asked myself, ‘how can I keep her and give her a second chance?’”
People close to Angela suggested that she surrender Rose back to the shelter, but Angela knew in her heart that she could never do that. The patience, tolerance and perseverance she learned in the military helped her overcome the learning curve of integrating Rose into her family. Her children were supportive and became even more active in the dog’s training: Brandon would make observations about Rose’s behavior and provide suggested solutions. He and Jasmine even made a schedule for taking her out for walks.
This military family’s dedication and teamwork paid off.
Rose is always there with love to give. When Jasmine has a hard time in school, she goes to Rose to feel better. Angela enjoys petting Rose and believes that peace is one of the most important things Rose brought to their lives, even if she is equally responsible for raising the energy level at home.
“It’s been a little crazier,” she confesses, “but it has made our bodies more peaceful. I am really glad we gave her a chance.”
A Rose by any other name
The support that Pets for Patriots provides allowed Angela to fulfill her children’s dream of having another dog after the dual traumas of losing Ladie and Angela’s subsequent divorce. The adoption fee discount and gift certificate, which “helped tremendously with the start-up costs for a pet,” made all the difference as the Marine veteran sought to rebuild her family’s lives.
“Being a single mom on a budget, I couldn’t have adopted Rose when we did had it not been for Pets for Patriots,” Angela says. “I am so thankful to have found the website, even though it turned out to be some months before I would actually adopt. The process was very easy and each person on the staff, to include the director, has been extremely courteous and helpful.”
Bringing up Rose is a true family affair in Angela’s household, with the children equally involved.
“We tell her every day how sweet, cuddly and loved she is and that we’re lucky to have her,” she says. “My son wrestles with her and my daughter has a way of calming Rose with her gentle ways and soft voice.”
Besides helping her with the financial aspects of pet ownership, Angela appreciates the personal touch that is part of being a Pets for Patriots member, recounting how the staff would “personally speak to me about my adoption, checking in with me along the journey.”
The Marine veteran realizes that adopting a pet saves many lives.
“I think the job you do is so important because having a dog to love and care for, who loves you back, heals the soul.”
In the end, the dog who no one wanted is instead profoundly needed by a military family, and they are all better for having found each other.
“We cannot imagine our lives without Rose,” says Angela. “We may have saved her, but she saved us right back.”