Long separated from the military and with his children grown and gone, Nathan was aching to fill his empty nest. The veteran fell in love with an abused shelter dog who has come to “lift everyone’s spirits.”
A passion for history and a history of service
As long as Nathan can remember he was a “history nut.” His fondest childhood memories were playing with model airplanes, boats, trucks, and tanks; he was fascinated with anything military. Given his family’s history of military service this might seem unsurprising: his father and his brothers all served, either in the Navy or Air Force.
After graduating high school in 1976 Nathan enlisted in the Navy.
“[I] enjoyed it,” he says, simply, reflecting on the good memories of his time in service.
Following his tour of duty, Nathan joined the National Guard as a combat engineer and continues to work for the Guard as a civilian security officer.
Nathan’s years in the military opened his eyes to the rest of the world. During his enlistments he traveled to the Bahamas and South America, during which time he “met a lot of great people.” Like many veterans looking back upon their service, he reminisces about the sense of camaraderie that is so difficult to replicate in the civilian world.
“We had a great crew,” he says. “We worked as a team.”
New leash on life for abused shelter dog
After he separated from the National Guard Nathan worked in the hospitality industry for many years. He graduated quickly from trainee to area supervisor for a major fast-food eatery, and used his skills to help ailing stores thrive.
“I would turn stores around to get them on the right track and make them profitable,” he says, noting that the experience was akin to teaching others the lessons he had learned.
Busy and social at work, Nathan’s home life consisted primarily of him and a Rottweiler whom he adopted from a friend. Eventually his beloved dog was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an often aggressive form of bone cancer, and in time had to be laid to rest humanely.
While Nathan enjoys a close relationship with his youngest daughter, following the death of his dog he was coming home after work to an empty – and lonely – house.
In time Nathan decided he was ready to find another four-legged family member. Because his daughter and grandchildren visited often it was important for him to feel that he was bringing home the right dog.
Nathan made several visits to the Macon County Animal Care and Control Center, during which time he learned that they partnered with Pets for Patriots to help the most overlooked dogs and cats in their care find loving homes with veterans.
The veteran realized that the choice of his new companion was not his to make alone: his granddaughter was a big part of the decision and even accompanied Nathan to the shelter. After a few visits they met a then two year-old Boxer, named Betsy at the time. They spent some time playing with her, after which Nathan walked out of the room and out of the dog’s sight.
Betsy sat and watched him go, looking to see where the veteran had gone. When he walked back into the room she was absolutely ecstatic to see him.
Nathan knew he found the perfect dog.
From shy to socialite
Nathan and his granddaughter were eager to help the abused shelter dog put her sad past behind her. Upon bringing her home they gave her a new name – Roxy – to signal a new start in life.
It was clear that Roxy never received any love or tenderness in her previous home, where it was determined that she was kept strictly for breeding purposes. With love and patience, “Roxy soon came out of her shell” and has even become quite the socialite.
“I take her to work with me when it’s slow,” he says. “The guys love her.”
Roxy runs from person to person, receiving as much attention as possible. Everyone enjoys her playful personality and her demands for attention; she “lifts everyone’s spirits,” especially Nathan’s.
The veteran admits that it took time for him to earn Roxy’s trust.
“I had her for a year now,” he says, “and she only keeps getting closer and closer to me.”
For the love of shelter pets
As Roxy and Nathan continue to bond the veteran is noticing positive changes in the previously abused dog’s behavior. Where she was once shy about having her ears touched, she now loves getting ear rubs. Fortunately Nathan realized that after having been mistreated by other people Roxy needed to feel safe before she could blossom.
The Navy-National Guard veteran believes that companion pet adoption is a good solution for other veterans who may be empty nesters, like him, or who have other situations that would benefit from a dog or cat – adding that the right match is key.
“Be patient, especially if you are adopting from a shelter,” he says. “Make sure if you have a family [that] the dog is compatible with everyone.”
Roxy has more than earned her stripes when it comes to getting along with others.
“She’s part of the family,” Nathan says, adding with a smile, “My daughter wants to steal her.”