Patriot Pets pair shelter dogs and cats with service members and veterans

Veteran Donald Rhodes adopted a rescue dog, a Yankee, through the Low-Cost Patriot Pet Program at the Harford County Animal Shelter in Connecticut.

Veteran Donald Rhodes adopted a rescue dog, a Yankee, through the Low-Cost Patriot Pet Program at the Harford County Animal Shelter in Connecticut. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun/TNS)

BALTIMORE (Tribune News Service) — When Army Sergeant Stacey Martin came home at night, she found the fall, uh, dog, sitting in the doorway — except for her tail, which was Trembling with anticipation. Martin couldn’t wait. This is precious time for both parties.

“I could have my worst day at work, but when I walked in, she was so happy to see me,” said Martin, 26, of Belcamp, Maryland. “Having an animal love you unconditionally is a way of connecting with you.” Different feeling. When I’m feeling down, Autumn catches it, draws me in, and licks my face. During some of the worst times of my life, she brought out the emotions closest to my heart. “

That’s the goal of Pets for Patriots, a national organization that connects animal shelters to promote adoption of homeless cats and dogs by active duty and veteran military personnel. Martin learned about the plan four years ago while stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground with her sergeant husband Antonio, and discovered Fall at the Harford County Humane Society in Falston. Pets for Patriots participants can receive adoption discounts, a $150 pet supplies gift card, and sometimes a veterinary discount as a reward.

“Gift cards help a lot, but honestly, we’re going to choose fall anyway,” Martin said.

Since 2010, Pets for Patriots – a Long Island woman’s brainstorm – has found homes for more than 3,700 animals (85% dogs, 15% cats) and military personnel.

“I had an epiphany while doing the dishes on a Memorial Day,” said Beth Zimmerman, 59, founder of Long Beach, New York, “and I thought about veterans and the problems they faced, and their plight. [homeless] Difficult to adopt animals. “

Matching the two wrongs together would make it right, she thought.

Veteran Donald Rhodes adopted a rescue dog, a Yankee, through the Low-Cost Patriot Pet Program at the Harford County Animal Shelter in Connecticut.

Veteran Donald Rhodes adopted a rescue dog, a Yankee, through the Low-Cost Patriot Pet Program at the Harford County Animal Shelter in Connecticut. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun/TNS)

“Those who serve in the military often move to places where they don’t have family or friends — just their adopted pets,” Zimmerman said. “It’s a critical link.”

At the same time, “out of service veterans have a hard time adjusting to civilian life. They may lack a clear purpose in the military — caring for a pet can make them feel like they’ve got that structure and are back as a partner.”

“Some veterans tell us that no matter how much they love their family, they only tell their dog or cat their secrets. There are things they can’t talk to other people about, and this release is extremely important to their mental health. It’s like quadruped therapy.”

All Pets for Patriots requirements are for the adoptee to bring some luggage – whether as an older animal, an animal with special needs, or other concerns about leaving them on a shelter shelf for some reason. There is a reason for this provision.

“Many veterans dealing with physical or emotional challenges see a reflection of their own problems in the animals they adopt,” Zimmerman said. “We had a young pilot who came home from deployment to find that his wife had left him. [Eventually] He went to a shelter and found a dog, curled up in a cage, that was also abandoned. The two of them understand each other. “

Clients acknowledge that hugging pets not only saves the animal’s life, but also their own. Like the Illinois Air Force veteran admitting adopting a disfigured dog named Thunder saved her from suicide.

“Every story may not be worth Kleenex, but every [pairing] Improve each other’s lives,” Zimmerman said.

A hound and bulldog hybrid, Autumn is a mainstay in Martin’s busy life, so much so that in 2019, when she and her spouse were deployed to Japan, they took the dog with them. When they had their first child last year, they named her Summer — a “coincidence,” she said.

In fact, they adopted Autumn on their honeymoon.

“I said, ‘Let’s go to the shelter and look around,'” said Army veterinary technician Martin. “I’m very dog-centric and my husband is always frustrated by my adventures.”

Immediately, Autumn stole her heart.

“She was just a baby, 10 months old, just sitting there a little sad, but with the prettiest eyes. I fell in love with her right there,” Martin said. But there’s a catch: This puppy has ringworm and can’t be adopted until the rash has healed.

“She made my heart hurt when she was in the kennel. I wanted her to come home with me,” she said. “That’s when I took out my ‘veterinary tech’ card and said I could treat her at home.”

Four days after the wedding, the Martins welcomed their newlyweds. On the way home from the Harford shelter, the 42-pound pup sat in the back seat, behind driver Antonio, with his head on his shoulder.

Why call her autumn?

“It was autumn, and her beautiful eyes reminded me of autumn leaves,” Martin said.

From the beginning, the dog slept with her family.

“She likes to cuddle her way, rest her head on our lap and stroke us in a certain way,” her owner said. “In deep sleep, she would snore, when she was dreaming, she would whimper, her eyes would go crazy, her tail would wag a little bit.”

Seven months later, the couple were deployed to Camp Zuma, a military outpost 25 miles from Tokyo. Autumn followed, eschewing Japan’s strict six-month quarantine rules for dogs because she would be living at a U.S. Army base. Soon after, the Martins added another dog, a 2-month-old mongrel with a torn ear rescued outside the base by soldiers who saw children play with puppies.

“We’ve been exploring options for a second dog,” she said, “and Jasper kind of fell on our lap.”

Now the two idiots are good friends.

“We call Jasper the ‘librarian’ because he’s kind of boring,” Martin said. “He can be like an annoying little brother to Autumn. If she has a toy, he will try to steal it, even though he really just wants to bother her with it. Autumn has a personality. Sometimes, when she gets excited, She’d get a ‘zoom shot’ and start running back and forth, knocking things over while Jasper was just staring. Jasper would never get a zoom.”

Autumn, the doting aunt to Martins’ daughter, often rests her head on Summer’s lap while the baby sleeps.

“She was a family member in every sense,” her owner said.

Veteran Donald Rhodes adopted a rescue dog, a Yankee, through the Low-Cost Patriot Pet Program at the Harford County Animal Shelter in Connecticut.

Veteran Donald Rhodes adopted a rescue dog, a Yankee, through the Low-Cost Patriot Pet Program at the Harford County Animal Shelter in Connecticut. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun/TNS)

Donald Rhodes recalls the day his Abingdon family browsed the boisterous aisles in the same Harford County shelter.

“A dog, a boxer half-breed, jumped over to the cage to meet us,” said Rhodes, 52. Our daughter Laila looked at him and said, ‘Calm down. sit. ‘ So he did. “

Rhodes, who served in the military for 24 years, believes: Any dog ​​that takes orders from an 8-year-old is my dog.

They adopted the dog through Pets for Patriots. Seven years later, the once emaciated and abusive Yankee became a strong and beloved pet at 110 pounds who could read Rhodes like a book.

“The Yankees often affect my mood,” his owner said. “If my wife and I had an argument, he would worry and try to calm us down. He would lick your hands with his nose.”

It wasn’t until after he retired that Rhodes had the urge to adopt. As a communications technician, he served 14 years in the Air Force and 10 years in the Air National Guard. He is now an Army engineering contractor at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

He said the Yankees were a big dick and kept him busy even at age 11, like his recent run-in with the Skunks.

“A week ago, I let him out at night to do his thing. When I went to pick him up, he ran out of the dark with a huge smell. So I was there in the middle of the night, bathing him in the driveway. He still stinks.”

Since the arrival of the Yankees, the Rhodes family has rescued another Chihuahua named Lily. Guess who is Alpha Dog?

“Lilly reigns supreme,” Rhodes said. “Yankee can swallow her if he wants to, but when she bluffs, he acts like a scared cat.”

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