Adopted Dog Gives Veteran a New Lease on Life

In their golden years, George and Sam the Shepherd forge a lasting friendship.

George + Sam

When a German Shepherd named Sam meets a veteran named George, it’s love at first sight. With ties to the Navy, these constant companions are making the most of their golden years together.

"I’ve received a few medals, ribbons, and commendations during my Naval career, but this dog fills my heart more than than all of them put together."

Hello, my name is George Johnson, age 93, retired from the United States Navy and a decorated veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam. While I was deployed during WWII, my then-sweetheart sent me a “Dear John” letter. I was heartbroken, but I found peace through my four-legged best friends.

Adopted dog with Veteran

I have always had dogs and I am especially fond of white German Shepherds. It had been a few years since my last white German Shepherd, Velabit, passed away and I was lonely. I needed to have a buddy. So I called the German Shepherd Rescue of Orange County and asked if they had an older white German Shepherd for me. I talked with their director, Maria Dales, and she told me they didn’t, but she’d watch out for one.

Adopted dog and Veteran

A few days later, Maria called and said she found a white German Shepherd named Sam in Arizona. He was just days away from being euthanized because he was an older dog. She also mentioned that his owner was in the Navy and had been deployed so Sam had nowhere to go. A Navy man who had to give up his elderly dog to serve his country? It was meant to be. The two of us could grow older together, Sam and me.

A volunteer from the rescue drove all the way from California to Arizona to get Sam for me, and when I met him it was love at first sight. Sam sniffed me a little and gave his approval as well.

Adopted dog and Veteran

Sam has made a tremendous impact on my life. I have someone to love, someone to talk to, and someone to look after—and best of all, Sam won’t send me a “Dear John” letter. He sticks pretty close to me, never more than three feet away, so I know he’s looking out for me, too. I’ve received a few medals, ribbons, and commendations during my Naval career, but this dog fills my heart more than all of them put together. We like working in the yard; he’s very good at digging holes. Usually we stick pretty close to home, but Sam LOVES going for rides. He pulls himself in the car one leg at a time to get into the backseat for our adventures. Riding brings him such joy.

I spent 30 years in the Navy and I never forget that Sam’s previous owner was in the Navy defending our country. I am honored to be Sam’s caretaker and companion, and I don’t know what I’d do without him. He’s my best buddy and we share experiences and secrets. I think we’ve added years onto our lives by being together: Sam is now 13, and I’m 93. In dog years, we’re about the same age!

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 George won the German Shepherd Rescue of Orange County in California a 2018 Holiday Wishes award.

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