A tradition of service, on land and sea
Jason spent his career fixing things, but never imagined that some day it would include a special needs dog desperate to have his life put back together again.
Now retired after more than 20 years of service, the Navy veteran admits that military service is in his DNA. While he followed in the proud footsteps of his father and brother, he took a slightly different path.
“I joined the Navy because my father and brother both had served in the Army, and I thought the Navy would be doing something different and exciting,” Jason says of his service.
During the course of his long Naval career Jason specialized in repairing communications equipment. He had tours on the USS Spruance and USS Hue City. Deployments took him to places near and far, including Spain, Florida, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
However, one of Jason’s most memorable and exciting experiences came on dry land. It was May 2007 and the 20th anniversary of Fleet Week in New York City. The expedition honors our nation’s maritime services and brings thousands of sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen to the week-long celebration.
“The people there were incredible,” Jason says. “They definitely gave us the rock star treatment while we were there. I never thought that a total stranger would want to take my picture, but it happened in Times Square. It was a very amazing and humbling experience.”
Forget me not
Jason and his wife, Kimberly, loved dogs and had adopted one several years earlier. But after Jason retired the couple thought Buddy needed, well – a buddy. In 2014 they went to the Richmond SPCA, a Pets for Patriots adoption and veterinary partner.
Once at the shelter the Naval retiree and his wife met with a few dogs, including a five year-old hound mix.
“I think Stark was the third dog we met, and after hearing his story from the technician there, it became pretty obvious that we wanted to adopt Stark,” Jason recalls. “He had been in the SPCA for a year, and he had been diagnosed with epilepsy.”
The staff at the Richmond SPCA told Jason about Pets for Patriots and our companion pet adoption program for military veterans. Stark is a special needs dog – an animal with a chronic medical condition or disability that requires lifelong vigilance and care. Even had he not had special needs, Stark’s age and size both made him eligible for our program.
Jason knew that adopting this special needs dog was a big decision.
“When we got home, Kimberly and I had a long conversation about Stark,” Jason remembers. “We knew it would be a big challenge for us due to his medical condition, and we knew if we did adopt him that it would be for life.”
A very special, special needs dog
The couple went home and learned as much as they could about epilepsy in dogs – and about Pets for Patriots. Their research led them to two conclusions.
“…we did want to adopt Stark and we wanted to do so through Pets for Patriots,” says Jason. “We submitted the paperwork and were approved, but then we ran into another roadblock.”
Stark suffered from internal bleeding and subsequently had his spleen removed. Jason and Kimberly fostered Stark through his recovery. Once the veterinarian gave the special needs dog a clean bill of health, Jason was able to officially adopt this once-forgotten hound.
A silly bundle of joy
Although retired from the Navy, Jason is still fixing things. Currently he works repairing copiers in the Richmond area. He and Kimberly have grown their pack to a four-legged family that includes Buddy, Stark and sister Molly.
“Stark has brought a lot of joy and happiness to my and Kimberly’s life,” says Jason. “He plays the roll of little brother to Buddy extremely well.”
Mature dogs and cats typically have fewer adoption prospects, and many people shun animals who have long-term or chronic medical needs. For his part, Stark seems to know that he found a family who is worthy of his devotion. The special needs dog is ever-watchful of his two human saviors.
“He is always there to greet us when we come home, and I know he checks in on us when we’re sleeping,” Jason says. “He is such a sweet and loving dog – kind of silly and goofy.”
Canine cancer strikes the pack
Life was good for Jason and his family until December, 2016. Out of the blue we received a call from the Navy veteran.
Stark had been diagnosed with soft cell sarcoma, a treatable form of cancer. If he received immediate and intensive radiation treatment he had an 85 percent chance to live a long, healthy life. Doing nothing held an equally great chance that the cancer would recur.
Jason turned to us for help and we were honored to answer his call. We contacted Stark’s oncologist and negotiated a significant charity discount. We raised enough money to fully fund Stark’s radiation treatments and spare Jason serious financial hardship. The Navy veteran and his wife were able to focus all of their energies on caring for their special needs dog, and not worry about the costs of his cancer treatments.
“Pets for Patriots is a great program,” Jason says. “They not only help with the adoption, but they are there for you after the adoption.”
Stark’s radiation therapy appears to be a great success, and he is already scheduled for a six-month follow up visit with the oncologist. And Jason knows that he can count on us to do whatever we reasonably can to help.
“Pets for Patriots is definitely one program that I will work with again.”
When Jason is ready, we will once again answer his call.
Stark spent one year in the shelter before he was adopted. Meet other Forget Me Not pets who need loving homes.