Adopted Dog Eases the Loneliness of Military Life

When being apart has her coming apart at the seams, Phoebe steps in to save the day.

every gift saves lives

every gift saves lives

Maddie + Phoebe

Phoebe is a spoiled Navy brat living on the island of Guam, but it wasn’t always that way. Before she joined our family, she was a stray on the streets of a California desert town. Then Southern California German Shepherd Rescue saved her. I honestly don’t know who would discard her, though, because she is the very definition of man’s best friend.

"Phoebe has since saved me from the loneliness that can be a military spouse life."

As an only child, I have always been alone except for the four-legged animals with whom I surround myself. When I married a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, I found myself alone again with his constant deployments and other work trips. That is, until we welcomed Phoebe into our family, two days after buying our first house and five days before he left for yet another deployment. Phoebe has since saved me from the loneliness that can be a military spouse life.

Being a military spouse has plenty of benefits, like traveling the world, meeting a new best friend on a regular basis, and having an immense pride in our country. But that doesn’t discount the mental hardship and the lifestyle that comes with moving every three years, starting over in a new town, and having your partner gone more often than not.

Phoebe has a sixth sense of sensitivity to emotions, knowing when to give puppy eyes, snuggle into laps, or be social. When the weight of living alone and keeping our lives together is beyond stressful, Phoebe tiptoes up to me with worried puppy eyes and a swaying tongue that’s ready to wipe away tears. Other times when it was hard to leave the house, she noses me to the door, lifting the weight of depression with sunshine and smells. And when the realization that I’m still alone in my adult life hits, Phoebe tenderly crawls on the couch and places her paws in my lap like a hug. I can feel her caring for me every day.

In the three years Phoebe has been in our lives, she has frolicked in Rocky Mountain snow, rolled in Arizona desert mud puddles, chased squirrels in Nevada’s Ruby Mountains, hiked to the top of two dozen peaks in Southern California, and traveled across the Pacific Ocean to continue being a part of our family on Guam, where she relishes the tropical beaches. She remains enthusiastic about every new place we visit and is unfazed by each move. Phoebe is my rock.

Our story is unique in that it is ours, although many military families share it in similar ways. Pets are more than four legs in a military household. They are our heart, our happiness, and our sanity.

Each year, the Petco Foundation invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Maddie Dolan won Southern California German Shepherd Rescue a 2017 Holiday Wishes award.