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Program helps Navy veteran welcome new companion West County
Capital - 1/3/2020
Meet Cookie, a sweet, loveable, poodle mix, and canine companion to retired Navy veteran Matt Gill of Severn. Cookie came to the Gill household through a national program called Pets for Patriots.
Pets for Patriots partners with individual veterinarians and animal shelters all over the country.
It offers shelters, rescues, SPCAs, humane societies and municipal agencies a free, easy, and successful product that is designed to pair members of the military with companion pets that might be older and/or have disabilities that may hinder them in the placement process.
Pets for Patriots is a nonprofit organization operating through a network of committed partnerships nationwide. Shelter partners provide access to adoptable animals, veterinarians provide health services, and community partners carry supplies to welcome the new addition to the household.
The overall, driving mission of Pets for Patriots is found in the profound simplicity of their vision statement: "No more veterans in need, no more homeless pets." The agency strives to solve the humane crisis and the canine crisis by marrying the two, bringing an end to homeless animals and joy to those who serve our country.
Mathew Gill and his companion Cookie are just one of several Pets for Patriots success stories here in the west county area. It was Gill's wife, Debbie Gill, who got the ball rolling. Debbie Gill is the manager at Senior Dog Sanctuary of Maryland, Inc., located in Severn, a PFP shelter partner. She has been there since the shelter opened four years ago.
"Our family decided to foster Cookie, a poodle mix that needed to have her eye removed due to glaucoma," Gill said.
"Our plan was to foster Cookie to help her through her surgery so she would be ready for her new home when the right person came along. She did well at my house with my other dogs and we quickly fell in love! My husband is a Navy veteran so we decided to apply through (Pets for Patriots)."
Approval for a veteran to adopt a companion pet hinges on several requirements that must be met before the adoption process begins. First, program availability in the area needs to be determined. The applicant is required to live within 40 driving miles of a Pets for Patriots shelter partner and within 15 driving miles of a veterinary partner. Once approved, the applicant would then visit their local, affiliated shelter to select an eligible dog or cat for a life-companion.
For a dog or cat to be eligible for adoption through Pets for Patriots, they must be considered as overlooked or undervalued and meet at least one of the following criteria:
* The dog or cat is at least 2 years old.
* The dog or cat has special needs.
* The dog or cat has been homeless for six months or more.
* The dog weighs 40+ pounds at the time of adoption.
Once the adoption process has been completed in its entirety, the new pet owner is sent a $150 gift card to defray the cost of food and supplies for the new addition.
"The most rewarding part of adopting through Pets for Patriots was seeing Cookie and my husband bond," said Gill.
"She was initially nervous when she came home, but now she snuggles with him and is excited to see him every day after work."
Mathew Gill is a retired Navy linguist who spent quite a bit of his career overseas in addition to serving in the Gulf War and in the Balkans. The Navy vet is currently content to reside in Severn with his wife, and his sweet little Cookie.
"I watch Cookie curled up in front of the fire and I can't help but smile," Gill said.
"I cannot imagine what her life was before coming to live with us, given her skittishness and express need to be 'on patrol.' She will stalk and track movement and then, in a moment of softness, she sneaks in and leans into you. She is cuddly in her own right and in her own time. She is liberal with her kisses when she wants to be. Cookie is just a sweet dog who is fitting in well with our pack. For Christmas, (Pets for Patriots) gave us a new family member and I couldn't be happier."
Since partnering with Pets for Patriots in October 2018, Senior Dog Sanctuary of Maryland has already placed 12 dogs with veterans under the program. Four sweet senior pups received forever homes by Christmas that year. Since then, the sanctuary has placed an average of two dogs per month with veterans under the program.
"All of the dogs adopted through the program were placed in homes in Maryland," Debbie Gill said.
"There were scattered among several counties. All of the dogs are in their new homes, enjoying their new lives with the veterans!"
For Pets for Patriots to succeed in their mission to conquer animal homeless and serve those who served us going forward, they must expand their partnership network. Tax-exempt shelters, animal rescues and humane societies are encouraged to apply as are veterinary hospitals and clinics, private or government-funded. Eligibility criteria and application requirements for prospective shelter and veterinarian supporters may be found online at www.petsforpatriots.org.
Additional information about Senior Dog Sanctuary and rescues can be found on their website at www.seniordogsanctuary.com. For a practical look at rescue sanctuaries, former Sesame Street writer, Kama Einhorn, has added a new book to her series of sanctuary books. "Sweet Senior Pups: True Tail of Rescue," tells the sanctuary's story through the eyes of senior pup residents, Mino, Jack and Buffy. The book is available on Amazon and may be found in local bookstores as well.
To submit news for Severn, Hanover, Jessup, Harmans, Ft. Meade and Maryland City contact Sharon P. Schultzatpinkladysps@gmail.com.
Caption: Meet Cookie, a poodle mix sleeping contently before the fire, adopted by Navy veteran Matt Gill through Pets for Patriots, a national program that places shelter pets with military veterans.