Dog News

How A Vietnam Vet Changed The Life Of A Twice-Surrendered Shelter Dog

by Amy Drew

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John & Pat with Copper and Hope. Photo: Pets for Patriots


In 1962, John joined the Air Force during his last year of high school and during his four years of service, he told Pets for Patriots’ Wet Nose Blog, he was “scattered all over the darn place.” Back stateside, he was stationed at various places around the country and then, ultimately, was deployed to Saigon with the advent of the war.

In 1965, John completed his tour of duty and was discharged. He married and became the manager of a restaurant chain in his hometown of Saratoga Springs, NY, eventually relocating to Florida and beginning a productive career in the mortgage lending and banking industry. He spent 20 years helping senior citizens who were experiencing financial hardship.

Now retired and living in Tennessee, John stays busy doing what he’s always enjoyed: helping others. He’s involved with Meals on Wheels and the American Legion. He also spends time with his ample family.

“I have two daughters, seven grandchildren, and one great grandson who is eight months old.”

He and wife Pat had two dogs, but after losing Charlie to a heart attack, it was just them and Hope. They were all grieving and Hope seemed very despondent without her longtime friend.

“Hope and Charlie were inseparable,” he says. “Charlie was the only dog she knew. She was traumatized when he passed.”

And so before long, John and Pat set out to find a new four-legged family member. They went to the Blount County Animal Shelter, which since 2014 has partnered with Pets for Patriots to offer fee-waived adoptions to veterans in its community who save eligible dogs and cats.

That’s where they met Copper, a black-mouth cur mix who had been twice surrendered as a shelter dog.

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Energetic Copper now has a big yard where he can run and play. Photo: Pets for Patriots


The first time, his owner, a college student, had left Copper behind when she transferred to a new school. Though quickly adopted by a new couple, their busy lifestyle meant they weren’t home often enough to give him the exercise he needed, so he was returned to the shelter’s care.

“I bonded immediately with Copper. He was such a beautiful dog,” he says.

The couple decided to bring in Hope for a meet and greet and luckily, they hit it off right away and “bonded well.”

Copper has since proven himself to be a wonderful addition to the family.

“His energy is unbelievable. He sure keeps us busy. He barks at everything. Barks at the lawnmower, and he gets along so well with Hope,” John says. “She’s very docile and calm, which is the exact opposite of Copper…. He’s sure got his own personality.”

With a big yard, Copper has plenty of room to burn off that hound energy and Pets for Patriots got a new advocate in the community.

John hadn’t heard of the program, but it just so happened he was wearing an Air Force shirt the day he went to the shelter. Staffers there told him all about the benefits and how the organization’s mission is to promote companion pet adoption among veterans. John now tells everyone he can about Pets for Patriots and has reached out to them to learn more.

“I have been putting out brochures in a lot of places,” he says. “I talk to veterans continuously about what [they] do….”