Late 2010 was a very tough time for Phoenix-area resident Gary, a Vietnam Veteran who had fallen on hard times. He lost his job, wife, and home, all within months of each other. What he still had was his truck … and his faithful companion, Libby, a 3-year-old yellow lab.
Gary, a handyman for more than 35 years, tried to find odd jobs where he could, all the while sleeping with Libby in his truck. But he knew it wasn’t a good situation for the happy-go-lucky dog, who needed a safe place to run and play and good, regular meals.
Gary made dozens of calls to animal rescue organizations pleading for someone to temporarily watch his dog until he got back on his feet. Libby is his life, and is all he has left, but he felt he needed to do what was best for her. Valley Dogs stepped up and found a temporary home for Libby. Gary tearfully said his goodbyes to Libby, and promised her would come back for her.
The Veterans Administration (VA) assisted Gary in getting an apartment in November, and he was ecstatic to get Libby back. Unfortunately, two weeks later, while walking across the street, Gary got hit by a drunk driver. His right leg was shattered, and about 5 inches of his leg had to be replaced with a metal rod. He pleaded with Michael, the president of Valley Dogs, to take Libby in again temporarily, until he could care for her again. Valley Dogs could not turn its back on Gary. Libby was placed in a foster home.
Gary was in the hospital for several weeks, and Libby was brought for a visit on Christmas. Libby was so excited to see Gary, she nearly knocked over the tray table to get to him; Gary had tears in his eyes, upon seeing his beloved Libby.
The only clothes Gary had at the hospital were all cut up, and he only had one shoe after the accident. Michael from Valley Dogs put out a plea to the rescue community, and clothes and shoes were collected for him.
It has been more than a month since Gary came home from the hospital. He has made progress walking with a cane, but is not able to walk for long distances. Gary’s VA social worker was able to secure in-home assistance for him, and he is more adept at getting around his apartment on his own.
Valley Dogs volunteers have been preparing meals, helping him pay his bills, and Libby’s foster mom has been bringing her over for visits, until he can care for her again.
Gary’s story has brought to light the issues that many homeless veterans face. According to the VA, there are reportedly 329 homeless veterans with pets in the Phoenix area. There currently is no transitional housing for these pet-owning vets. They have a choice of giving up their animal or continuing to live on the streets. Gary chose to sleep in his truck before finally deciding to give up Libby, only after being assured he could get her back.
Valley Dogs Rescue has partnered with the VA in creating a special fund called “Vets and Their Pets.” All funds go directly to assisting homeless veterans and their pets in the Phoenix area.
A big garage sale is being held from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 12, with all funds raised going to Vets and Their Pets. The sale will be located at 9295 E. Corrine Drive in Scottsdale, 85260.
Valley Dogs is calling on all animal rescues and animal lovers in the Phoenix area to pitch in and help a Vet and their Pet. The rescue group is working with the VA to identify vets in need who have a pet at risk. You can help by donating funds, or signing up to be a foster family. For more information, visit the website or call 480-898-3647.