Wilma was struggling with loneliness, depression and chronic pain. An abandoned Pit Bull ached for a home of her own. That they found one another is fate; that they saved each other is a miracle.
Someone to light the way
Wilma says she was in love from the moment she first saw Edith in a photograph.
“I don’t know how to explain it to you,” she says, “but it was all hearts and flowers.”
The image Wilma describes sounds more like a caricature than a photo. She says the Pit Bull Terrier was sitting awkwardly in a “silly little cat bed.” Her mouth was wide open and she had a clownish look to her face. Edith’s silliness appealed to Wilma, a self-described “goof.”
“She’s kind of the class clown, like I am.”
Wilma needed a little goofiness in her life.
The Navy veteran was sinking into depression. She was lonely and struggling to cope with constant back pain. Wilma had just laid her beloved German Shepherd to rest and her heart was still sore from the loss.
Everything changed once Wilma brought Edith home.
“Edith came into my life and it was like a light,” she says.
The once abandoned Pit Bull has a special way of connecting to Wilma – and the two are now inseparable. Sometimes Wilma has bad days and still feels lonely; other times her back pain flares up. But because Edith is there, neither the loneliness nor the pain last very long.
“It’s funny,” she says, “how a cuddle from a goofy-faced Pit Bull can put a smile on your face and make your day a little brighter.”
Long way from St. Louis
Wilma was 21 when she decided to venture from her hometown of St. Louis and serve in the military. She had all but signed the paperwork with the Air Force before deciding at the last moment to join the Navy.
Wilma thinks she made the right call, though admits that her parents “weren’t really crazy about the idea” of her enlisting in the military. Nonetheless, she followed her heart.
“At that time, I was interested in medical things,” she explains.
Wilma thought the Navy was more suited to her interests in medicine – in that respect the Navy delivered.
“All in all, it was great – especially corps school,” she says, “I was learning something I really wanted to learn.”
Wilma trained as a medical assistant in the obstetrics/gynecology department at St. Albans Naval Hospital in New York. She was able to take advantage of her new home’s location and explore neighboring New York City.
“It was a ‘wow’ moment for me,” she says. “It was quite a culture shock.”
The new environment was both challenging and rewarding for curious Wilma. She remembers guidance from a stern yet knowledgeable head nurse. The Navy veteran only wishes she would have had more freedom to explore other areas of medicine that interested her.
“I wanted to learn to specialize in other things,” she says.
As a woman during that time it was difficult to do. Wilma appreciates that women’s roles in the military have expanded greatly since her time in service.
The Navy veteran and the banana-loving dog
Wilma received an Honorable discharge from the Navy following a bad back injury. She kept a promise to herself to further her education, and became a licensed practical nurse.
Around the same time Wilma’s father was dying of cancer. The Navy veteran moved back to St. Louis to be closer to her family. She still lives in the area, but she now works as an alderman – a position she has held for 25 years. The Navy veteran sees her work in the community as an extension of her work in medical care.
“I take a lot of time trying to help people,” she says, “if I can, I help.”
Wilma’s selfless nature has given her a soft spot for animals in need. Over the years the Navy veteran has welcomed countless animals into her home – she even had a rooster at one point.
“I’ve had everything around this house,” she laughs.
Or at least she thought she had everything, until she adopted a banana-loving dog named Edith. The quirky, abandoned Pit Bull has revived Wilma’s spirit and renewed her sense of purpose.
“Now that Edith is here,” she says, “there is life.”
Abandoned Pit Bull is veteran’s lifeline
Wilma is delighted just watching Edith be Edith. It does not matter whether the big dog is rolling in the grass, relaxing on the porch, or running around the house in a flurry of excitement.
“It’s kind of fun just to sit and watch her,” Wilma laughs.
For her part, Edith seems to understand when her veteran needs her love the most.
“I’ll be sitting here,” Wilma explains, “and she will crawl up in the chair with me and we rock together in the chair.”
Knowing she can depend on Edith’s companionship has made all the difference.
“She saved me,” Wilma confides. “This dog is nothing but love on four feet. Whoever abandoned her, they missed out.”
The Navy veteran just cannot imagine how anyone could surrender this amazing creature. The pair met through Pets for Patriots and our partnership with Stray Rescue of St Louis. The organization joined our shelter/rescue partner program in 2015. It waives pet adoption fees for our veterans and offers free annual vaccinations at its on-site clinic as well.
“This dog would lay down her life for me”
As is the case with many rescued companion pets, little is known about Edith’s past. Wilma may never know the circumstances from which the oversized lap dog was saved.
Though no longer underweight, Edith still has some visible signs of her rough start. One ear is punctured and both ears have scars from what her veterinarian thinks are dog bites. And Edith can be skittish when she hears certain noises in the house.
Wilma is comforted in knowing that Edith now has a secure and loving home, even if it means occasional sacrifice.
“If I have to go without,” she says, “Edith is going to be taken care of. I think she’s going to be there to love me no matter what.”
The Navy veteran is grateful she can rely on Pets for Patriots for help if she needs it, which is why donations are essential to sustaining our work.
“They have been a blessing with my blessing,” Edith says of Pets for Patriots. “They have been there for me and Edith all the way.”
Wilma appreciates our efforts to save the most overlooked, undervalued companion animals. Dogs like Edith are often passed by at shelters due to their size, and because of misinformed perceptions of their breed.
“She loves people. I know she isn’t going to hurt anyone, but there’s a stigma,” Wilma says. “I believe sincerely that this dog would lay down her life for me.”
Some people might not think a senior citizen and an abandoned Pit Bull make a perfect pair, but Wilma believes that she has changed some minds.
“I think it softens people when they see her with me,” she says witha smile. “Having Edith is a support system. She takes care of her mama. We take care of each other.”