Do you believe in magic? Vinnie and his family sure do, and it is all thanks to an adopted dog named Abby – otherwise known as the magic shelter dog.
Warrior with a heart of gold
Vinnie is a retired Army veteran, a father, a husband, and a special needs teacher with a heart of gold. He served multiple tours of duty, including several years with the Army’s ‘First Strike’ force. This highly trained team must be prepared to deploy anywhere in the world on short notice – by air, land or sea.
“I served with the 1st Battalion of the 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, from 2004 to 2009,” he says. “I deployed to Iraq from 2005-2006 and again from 2007-2008.”
These days Vinnie lives a peaceful life with his wife, their two sons, and a great shelter dog named Abby.
“I live with my family in Baltimore City. I’m a special educator,” he says. “I teach students with severe cognitive and physical disabilities. My wife is an editor at a scientific journal focused on heart research. We’ve got two rambunctious boys who love having a dog around.”
But Abby has not always been there to keep the boys on their toes. Prior to adopting her, the Army veteran had been thinking about getting a dog “for a long time.”
“We were just waiting for the right time, right dog to come along.”
Then there was Abby.
Magic shelter dog, enter stage left
In August 2016, Vinnie and his family found Schatze, a then nine month-old Belgian Malinois at the Baltimore Humane Society.
Since 2013 the shelter has offered veterans in our program fee-waived adoptions and an ongoing 10% discount at their wellness clinic. Although Schatze was a relatively young dog, she was well over 40 pounds at the time and met one of our eligibility criteria.
Vinnie quickly adopted her and renamed her Abby.
“We found out about Pets for Patriots when we went to adopt Abby,” he says. “The Baltimore Humane Society staff informed us of the program.”
Just like that, Abby had finally found a home and Vinnie’s family had found a magic pup who had the goods to impress. Not only was Abby a sweet and gentle dog, but she filled a void the family did not even know they had. The Army veteran explains how the shelter dog brings untold joy to his household.
“Abby’s a great addition to our family. She’s got a big heart, and she puts a smile on everyone’s face.”
Not everyone was excited to welcome Abby home. Vinnie’s eldest son was apprehensive about the big shelter dog, and his fears were not entirely unfounded. When he was four years old he was bitten by a dog, unprovoked.
“He’s since been understandably skittish around dogs,” Vinnie shares, “but when Abby came into our lives, her warmth, big loopy grin and kind nature won him over within days.”
However, disappearing the eldest boy’s fear of dogs would not be the only magic act Abby would perform.
“Her first day at home, she broke out of her crate. She’s a bit of an escape artist. This is a steel crate with latches, leading [my son] to exclaim, ‘That dog’s magic!’” Vinnie marvels. “Magic she is! Abby’s awesome.”
What makes Abby so special? Well, everything she does is amazing! With the help of Vinnie and his family, Abby entered obedience classes. The Army veteran realizes the importance of proper training for any dog, but particularly one who is large, energetic, and powerful like Abby.
And his girl seems to learn everything remarkably fast.
“Abby is preternaturally intelligent and very kind,” Vinnie observes. “On the intelligent side, she’s learned her name, how to come when called, sit, shake hands, spin, stay, wait, lay down, fetch, leave it, and play hide and go seek with the kids. She’s also learned how to pop the latch on her crate and, when locked in – with up to four locks – how to bust out the corners of her steel crate to escape.”
Vinnie admits that crate training has been somewhat of a failure with Abby.
“We’ve since given up on the crate,” he says, adding, “She’s also a very kind dog. She loves every member of the family, and she’s accommodating with the cats.”
“A lovely idea”
Charles Dickens once said, “Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.”
For Abby, these words ring very true. She cast her spell on Vinnie and his family and they provided her with a forever home. For a sweet girl like Abby the word home holds far more meaning than a bit of magic. It is a dream that Pets for Patriots made come true.
“Pets for Patriots is a great program built around a lovely idea,” Vinnie says. “We’re very thankful for all they do for veterans, and neglected and homeless animals.”
A story like Abby’s can truly make anyone believe in magic.