Lady was a second chance dog so riddled with fear and anxiety that it was no wonder she was routinely overlooked by potential adopters. All that changed when an Army family gave her a new leash on life, an opportunity the former pound pup used to return the love and healing they gave to her.
“We felt something missing in our lives”
In 2003, Kaitlin enlisted in the Army. She was stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington state and served as a medic at the base hospital before being assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division. Five years later the young veteran separated from the Army with an Honorable discharge and began her new life as a civilian.
Now married and with a nine year-old son, Kaitlin is attending college for precision machining. Although her military service ended years ago the Army veteran continues to be haunted by demons that disrupt her life. Together with her husband, Kaitlin decided to adopt a companion pet.
“We adopted a pet because we felt we were missing something in our lives,” Kaitlin says. “We thought getting a dog might help me with my anxiety and nightmares, as well.”
Lady in waiting
Kaitlin found out about Pets for Patriots through the Lollypop Farm Humane Society of Greater Rochester, which has partnered with our nonprofit since 2011. The shelter offers a 50% adoption fee discount to veterans in our program who adopt eligible dogs and cats.
Lady was a then three year-old Pitbull-Labrador mix in their care, without hope or a home. She was repeatedly overlooked for adoption.
“No one wanted her,” recalls Kaitlin. “She wasn’t a puppy or a purebred, or even super cute. But her personality drew us to her.”
Many companion animals adopted through Pets for Patriots have stories that, in some respects, mirror those of their saviors. They may have been subject to abuse or abandonment, or cope with anxieties that prevent them from living to their potential.
Lady was such a dog.
Love cures all
Nothing is known of Lady’s prior life, though it appears that she was the victim of some form of mistreatment. For months she was terrified to go down the stairs to make her way outside and, as a result, started to have accidents in the house. And like many newly adopted dogs she suffered with separation anxiety when her family was not home, though in Lady’s case it was quite severe.
The former Army medic was undaunted. Luckily, Lady landed in a home where she had someone who could relate to the fears and emotions she was experiencing. Kaitlin decided to crate train Lady in order to give her a safe haven, and assist with house-training as well.
“Despite all of this,” says Kaitlin, “she is such a good dog [and] our son loves her. She is sleeping in our son’s bed most nights as well.”
Second chance dog with a hidden talent
It took several months of love and patience to help Lady get adjusted to her new life, during which time the family made a remarkable discovery.
“Lady has been such a blessing. She was originally going to be my dog to help with the nightmares, but we noticed something amazing,” Kaitlin marvels. “Lady, without any training, can tell when my husband is close to having a seizure and gets someone in the house.”
The family has decided to get Lady formally trained as a seizure alert dog. While the vast majority of adopted companion pets have neither the skill nor temperament for service, in rare circumstances a pet may have the ingredients to train as a service animal. Still, there are many hurdles for a service dog-in-training to overcome, including passing the public access test.
“She is definitely proof that some dogs just need a bit of time,” says Kaitlin.
From scared pup to socialite
Now that Lady has blossomed into a more confident dog she is revealing more of her personality not only to her family, but to other people as well.
“She is now outgoing [and] can still have her moments though, but is super friendly with everyone,” says Kaitlin.
The Army veteran and her family are firm believers in second chances and Lady has not disappointed. In her own way she has become the family’s healer, much in the same way that Kaitlin healed others during her military career. Although Kaitlin’s husband receives the most obvious benefit from Lady’s many gifts and the dog has formed a close bond with the couple’s son, the former Army medic appreciates the healing powers of her second chance dog.
“She still knows when I really need someone though, too, and will just sit there and cuddle with me or be goofy to get me to laugh.”
The Army veteran then reflects, and adds the most elegant observation.
“She is the perfect dog for us.”