Java is an adult Pit Bull who was homeless and in a San Diego shelter through no fault of her own. She bears the burden of inaccurate stereotypes that result in many dogs of her breed type to be horribly abused.
Yet this pup’s fortunes would be different. A military family looking for love and peace of mind saw her potential – and saved her life.
To father, with love
In 1988, Tan enlisted in the United States Air Force. He felt duty-bound to honor the memory of his father.
“My dad was a Navy Chief who taught me the values of patriotism and service,” Tan shares. “He died right after the war in Vietnam ended, due to Agent Orange-related symptoms. I, in turn, chose to serve in the Air Force because I wanted to honor his memory and learn a trade.”
During his four years in the Air Force Tan acquired many memories. He recalls one “hair-raising experience” that made a vivid and lasting impression.
“Watching a rocket blow up on the launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base,” he recalls, “then having to establish a cordon and make sure all personnel were evacuated as I watched a gas cloud slowly make its way towards me.”
Tan served as a law enforcement specialist, 81152 Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC), until his honorable separation in 1992. He lives in San Diego with his wife — “the beautiful Evangeline” — and four children. The couple has three daughters and one son.
Since 2011, County of San Diego Department of Animal Services has offered veterans in our program low- or no-cost dog and cat adoptions. Raja was a then five year-old Staffordshire Terrier in the care of their Bonita facility.
Like many shelters around the country, the County’s three campuses have no shortage of so-called Pit Bulls. The term is a blanket designation referring to four distinct terrier dog breeds.
Fortunately, more people are learning that these animals are smart, loyal, and loving creatures when treated with kindness. And they make wonderful family pets.
Raja would be one of the many hard-luck companion pets saved through our work with the County of San Diego.
Shelter dog is “a blessing in disguise”
Tan and his wife were ready to add a companion pet to their young, military family.
The Air Force veteran started his search online, the way many would-be adopters begin their journeys. Pets for Patriots came up quickly in an internet search. We operate nationally and have been working in San Diego County for several years.
“I did a random search for any veteran-related pet adoption programs, and Pets for Patriots was the first thing that popped up.”
At the time, Tan and his wife were in the process of closing on a new house. They were wise to hold off on adopting a pet until they moved. They knew that adding a new family member and their subsequent relocation would be stressful for all involved.
“After we closed escrow on our current home,” Tan explains, “I felt we needed a dog for both security and companionship.”
After their move the family started their search for a pet in earnest. It did not take long til they met Java — named Raja at the time — and fell in love. No one knows about the adult Pit Bull’s previous life, but she is well-mannered and adapted to her new life with ease.
“It didn’t take long for her to respond to her new name,” Tan says. “She has been a blessing in disguise! She is totally trained, housebroken, and properly socialized. Whomever her previous family was invested a lot of time in her training.”
Adult Pit Bull makes a house a home
Java is a priceless addition to this military family. She has four young human siblings as her playmates, and has formed a special bond with Tan.
“Java relaxes me and calms my nerves after a stressful day. I walk through the door and she’s jumping on me,” he says. “She’s so strong, yet gentle and obedient. How her tail wags when she’s ready for her walk, the way she looks at you when she’s wanting attention.”
Once without hope or a home, Java now has both. In short order the adult Pit Bull has become a beloved member of the family.
And Tan cannot believe that he was able to bring home someone of such value without opening his wallet.
“I’m still getting over the fact,” he marvels, “that she was basically free.”
Pets for Patriots gives the gifts of fidelity, joy and love to both veteran and pet through companion animal adoption. The organization helps veterans and military members adopt the most overlooked shelter pets, including adult, special needs and large breed pets, offering them a second chance at life through adoption. Pets for Patriots partners with U.S. shelter and veterinary networks, military and veteran organizations, and the public to value and honor the lives of both the most vulnerable and heroic among us. For more information, visit www.petsforpatriots.org.