Dayzee is a senior dog learning to live with various anxieties around people and other dogs. As fate would have it, she adopted an Army veteran coping with her own emotional challenges – making the duo an improbable, yet perfect match.
The ties that bind
Crystal knows her way around a kitchen – a skill that served her well when she enlisted in the Army. She served as a food service specialist and was stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany.
“I loved the fact that others saw my natural talent for culinary arts, and I was sent to many classes to sharpen and refine my skills,” she says.
Now separated from the Army with an honorable discharge, Crystal works in the healthcare industry as a dietary manager. Yet she misses the sense of duty – and belonging – that was such an integral part of her military career.
“What I miss the most is serving my country,” she says, “and the bonds of my fellow soldiers.”
Armed with her strong belief in service, Crystal continues to serve by volunteering with her local Disabled American Veterans (DAV) chapter, “answering the phone, taking messages and trying to be a good steward to those who have assisted me in my time of need.”
Senior dog “chose me”
When not working or volunteering, Crystal enjoys watching UFC/MMA fighters and her beloved New England Patriots. In a curious twist, the NFL team played an unlikely role in how she came to adopt a dog through our national companion pet adoption program for military veterans.
“Pets for Patriots attracted me first because of the name, and I am a New England Patriots fan,” the Army veteran explains.
Crystal learned more and read stories on our site about other veterans and their new pet friends. Inspired, she visited one of our local partners, the Virginia Beach SPCA, which offers discounted pet adoption and access to their low-cost veterinary clinic to veterans who join our program. She was looking for a small dog “to snuggle up with” and who could accompany her when she traveled. It did not take long for a little senior dog to make the decision for her.
“She ran right up to me,” Crystal says, “and she chose me.”
Like so many dogs and cats entering shelters each year, Dayzee’s prior life remains a mystery – one which Crystal was prepared to accept.
“I knew nothing about her past,” she says. “I just took a shot in the dark because she came right up to me and just sat right on my lap like she belonged there, which stole my heart.”
The waiting is the hardest part
Crystal left the Virginia Beach SCPA that day knowing that she would adopt Dayzee, but she was unable to take her home that same day since the little senior dog first needed to have several teeth pulled. When the big day came, the Army veteran was ready.
“I finally brought her home and stared at her all night.”
With each passing day Crystal became more smitten; even qualities that someone else might find unbecoming only drew the veteran closer to her tiny charge.
“What I love the most about her is the way her tongue hangs out the side of her mouth,” she says, “and she follows me everywhere.”
However it did not take long for some of Dayzee’s challenges to reveal themselves. Luckily, in Crystal the little senior dog had a very patient guardian.
Healing at both ends of the leash
“At the time I did not know she had issues with other dogs or people…but, I have my own issues,” Crystal shares. “I’ve taken her to dog classes to help her with her anxieties, which was a hot mess. She was and still is very aggressive with other animals, but we are working through that.”
Some dogs are more territorial than others by genetics or training; still others display aggression as a fear response. As a seven pound squeaker Dayzee would have never been a guard dog and most likely had some negative experiences that caused her to fear not only other dogs, but some people as well. With training the senior dog no longer tries to chase cars, buses, motorcycles and bicycles as much as she had when Crystal first brought her home.
Except for her aggression, the Army veteran believes that the pair “are the perfect match.”
“We are inseparable,” she says. “She is a great snuggler and will alert my partner when I am having a nightmare, which I think scares her. All I know is my partner will wake me and say ‘Dayzee is worried about you.’ We snuggle and go back to sleep.”
Both person and pet are works in progress, each with their own emotional challenges. Crystal believes that the little senior dog helps her cope with her own demons by forcing her to focus on someone else’s pain.
“She helps me by not having time to dwell on my issues because I’m focused on helping Dayzee overcome her issues,” Crystal explains, “and boy have we both grown.”
Love to the rescue
The Army veteran and her pint-sized therapist are inseparable. The pair enjoy many everyday things together, like “car rides, going for long walks, spinach and scrambled eggs.”
Crystal draws upon her military and culinary training to give Dayzee the structure and discipline she needs, albeit with a gourmet flair.
“She now can [obey] sit, down, and sit and wait for her own personal chef-prepared meals,” she says with pride. “They do say big things come in small packages.”
Another person might not have had the understanding or patience to help this senior dog overcome her fears. Many animals enter shelters because their guardians either cannot or will not give them proper training. Perhaps on that fateful day in the shelter Dayzee sensed in Crystal the tough, but tender love she needed – and in return is helping her Army veteran as well.
“Thanks Pets for Patriots. We are a good team and with time and lots of love,” she says, “we will both heal and grow even more.”