Blind And Deaf Dog In Shelter 200 Days Till Combat Veteran Comes To His Rescue

Steve was dealing with loneliness and then the lingering effects of multiple combat deployments after he retired from the military. The veteran’s new ally may be a blind and deaf dog who spent nearly 200 days in Texas shelters before he found his home.

THE BONDS OF BROTHERHOOD Steve grew up in Wisconsin and enlisted in the Army National Guard in 1985. Because the son of a Korean War era veteran, he knew early that he wanted to serve his country. “I think it had been always my calling. Once I was a child growing up, I played Army all the time. It had been something that I always wanted to try to to ,” he says.

Guardsmen typically hold civilian jobs or attend college while maintaining their training on a part-time basis. While that balance between military and civilian life may be a benefit that appeals to several, Steve found it unfulfilling. “I just wasn’t getting out of it what I assumed I might. I wanted something more.” In 1997, Steve made the military his full-time job. He joined the active duty Army and served ten years as an important anti-armor infantryman. Soldiers during this military occupational specialty (MOS) are liable for assaulting and destroying enemy tanks, armored vehicles, emplacements, and weapons.

Steve enjoyed his work and nurtured the bonds he built as well as his brothers in arms. “I went everywhere the planet thereupon job, and there’s nothing just like the brotherhood in an infantry squad,” he shares. “You’re always searching for every other.” INVISIBLE WOUNDS OF WAR The job of an infantryman involves great risk, especially during times of conflict. Steve deployed to the center East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) in 2003. While there, he sustained injuries from an improvised device (IED) blast.

To this day, the veteran is still dealing with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These invisible wounds of war can have long-term effects on one’s memory, mood, and skill to focus. Other symptoms may include headaches, vision, and hearing problems. Ironically, it had been a non-service related injury that might ultimately change the direction of the soldier’s career.

Steve was stationed in Germany after his 15-month deployment to Iraq. He enjoyed exploring the country on his all-terrain bike while he wasn't at work. On one treacherous outing, he crashed and was thrown from his bike, causing significant damage to his wrist. The injury left Steve unable to adequately perform his infantry duties. He completed the reclassification process and altered his MOS to military intelligence (MI). The soldier was reluctant to maneuver on from his infantry squad, but had no choice. To his surprise, the work transition proved to be more gratifying than he initially expected.

“The time I spent within the infantry really helped me progress within my career in military intelligence,” he says. “It helped me understand what ground commanders wanted and needed as far as intelligence.” LIKE FATHER, LIKE SONS After Steve transferred to the intelligence field, he continued to serve in overseas operations. He would complete two more combat deployments. But it had been a singular peacekeeping that he remembers most fondly. “I worked on the Sinai with the Multinational Force and Observers. We were there to enforce the 1979 peace between Egypt and Israel,” he recollects. “We made sure there have been no treaty violations between the 2 countries.”

While Steve’s MI career was thriving, so was his life on the homefront. The soldier married and, in time, he and his wife decided to start a family. In 2011, the couple completed the requisite paperwork and training to become licensed foster parents. A short time later, Steve deployed to the center East for 6 months. The soon-to-be parents were matched with a pair of siblings much quicker than they anticipated. “My wife got the decision while i used to be in Afghanistan. She started fostering them and that i actually didn’t meet them until I came home,” he shares.

What's more, both of the biological brothers had been diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Children with ASD don't look different from their peers, but often behave, speak, interact, and learn differently. Steve lives with the lingering – and invisible- effects of TBI and PTSD, and relates to his sons’ especial needs. The couple officially adopted the boys two years later. Little did they know that a blind and deaf dog would soon join their especial family.

Do what you say Steve retired in January 2020 after 13 years in the National Guard and 23 years of active duty service. He traveled everywhere the planet during a career that spanned four decades. He settled in central Texas, an hour long chase away from his sons and now ex-wife. For many veterans, the transition from military to civilian life may be a challenging time. Steve missed the camaraderie he shared with fellow soldiers. And his boys live too distant to spend time with a day . The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic further compounded the new retiree’s feelings of isolation. And it made finding employment harder .

The veteran turned his thoughts to the various ways a companion pet can help ameliorate loneliness. Steve grew up with animals, and adopted several cats and dogs while married. He was ready for a pet of his own. However, even more important, Steve wanted to honor a pact he made with Nathan and Cole, now 11 and 10 years-old respectively. “I promised the boys I might get a dog someday, one they might have at my house so there was something there once they came to ascertain me, too.”

Patience may be a virtue Steve started looking for a four-legged friend online and eventually visited a shelter near his home. While he didn't find “the one” that day, he did devour a Pets for the Patriots brochure. The former analyst went online to find out about our mission and work. He was impressed with the various benefits our program provides for both veterans and shelter pets.

“There are tons of organizations out there that I feel you've got to be leery of,” he says, “but I could tell this wasn’t one among them.” Steve is willing to spend his time, even though he admits to being disappointed that he didn't directly find a suitable dog. The retired combat veteran knew it had been especially important to seek out a dog who would be good together with his two sons. “It can take a short time to seek out the right dog or cat. you only need to take some time because it’s not something you would like to rush into.” In the meantime Steve found something else to stay him busy while his look for a furry companion rolled on: employment .

The reward may be a blessing Steve is currently a contractor, instructing military intelligence analysts in the use of MI computer systems. He enjoys working with soldiers again, and then the job reaffirms something he learned years prior. “It took me an extended time to understand what my passion was, but I ultimately found out why I used to be within the military,” he shares. “My passion helps soldiers – taking care of them, training them, mentoring them.”

Steve now sees that his guidance to others over the years has rewarded him in unexpected ways. “The biggest reward is that albeit I’m now retired, I still have soldiers that hit me up and invite advice. They sign up on me to ascertain how I’m doing. Some hit me up and tell me I used to be really hard on them and now they know they needed that, and thank me for it.” Returning to the image helped Steve establish an alternative fighting rhythm. It added a much-needed structure and social interaction to his days and reignited his passion for working with soldiers.

But the military veteran still went home at the top of the day a lonely man. “GEEZ, THIS DOG WOULD FIT RIGHT IN WITH US” Steve checked local shelter websites regularly until one particular photo and profile stopped him in his tracks. He remembers the day vividly, because it with great care happened to be Veterans Day. Ernie was born on a ranch, deaf and nearly blind. The rancher surrendered him to a shelter, fearing that he couldn't provide a puppy with such challenges with a secure environment.

“I examine his special needs and thought, ‘Geez, this dog would fit right in with us.’ My kids have special needs. I’m quite deaf and blind and have special needs. I actually wanted to satisfy him.” At the time, the year-old cattle dog mix was in the care of Texas Humane Heroes, where he had been transferred after spending months at another Texas shelter. Since 2013 Texas Humane Heroes has offered veterans in our program half-priced adoptions through shelter locations in Leander and Killeen. Steve hung out with Ernie at the shelter. They went for walks and played together. The search was over. The retired combat veteran learned that Ernie spent nearly 200 days homeless – most of his very young life – between Texas Humane Heroes and therefore the previous shelter from which he was transferred.

“He was very skittish, and it took him a while to warm up,” he recollects. “But I just knew we were an honestfit”. BLIND AND DEAF DOG is that the PERFECT BATTLE BUDDY When Steve applied for our program, he arranged to raise a puppy with special needs. Once home together, the veteran’s first order of business was renaming his new companion. “I thought with my military background and therefore the rank I had, it had been only fitting to possess a personal , someone I could strong-arm ,” he jokes.

Steve and the individual were formally adopted in December 2020. By then, Private had fully adjusted to his new Lebensraum and so the pair found an innovative (thanks) to communicate. “If i want to urge his attention, I’ll snap my fingers, which will usually work,” Steve says. “Or if he’s near something I can tap on he will answer the vibration.” Private features a resourceful way of getting Steve’s attention, too.

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