Adopted Dog Helps Retiree Find New Purpose

In saving Grace, this former firefighter saved himself.

James + Grace

I enjoyed my job as a professional firefighter in Akron, Ohio, but I also looked forward to retirement.

Travel, a warm climate, days without cares or responsibility: retirement was everything I thought it would be—for a while.

But rescue work is in my blood and I missed the camaraderie, excitement, and most of all, serving the people in my community. I was restless, and dare I say, just a little bored? And then I met Grace at the Farmers Market in Punta Gorda, Florida.

"I was restless, and dare I say, just a little bored? And then I met Grace at the Farmers Market in Punta Gorda, Florida. "

She and a volunteer were on an outing from the Animal Welfare League. I saw her and we just clicked. I asked if I could foster her and they agreed so I came and got her the next day. The following day I was back to adopt her permanently.

Grace is a hound mix who was about 18 months old when we met. She was a stray picked up by Animal Control and brought to the Animal Welfare League. She was well-behaved and knew several commands. Someone had obviously spent time with her but no one stepped up to claim her and she became available for adoption.

It didn’t take long to recognize that Grace had real potential. Just after I brought her home I discovered Peace River Search & Rescue (PRSAR). I don’t believe in coincidence: this was meant to be! Together, Grace and I joined this group of dedicated professionals who provide rescue services to local, state, and federal law enforcement as well as the military and private families across the country. We are ready 24 hours a day, every day.

PRSAR is a non-profit, self-funded organization and our service is provided free of charge. The PRSAR K-9 team is comprised of many types of dogs. Some you might expect, like German shepherds, Malinois, and Dobermans. But others, adopted mixed breeds, are also valuable members of our team. The most important attribute is a good nose and enthusiasm for the job.

Search and Rescue dogs work for different rewards. Food, praise, or a toy are just some of the motivations. Grace works hard for her reward: a good scratch behind her ears and confirmation that she’s a very good girl!

Grace is certified in search and rescue, recovery, and even helicopter deployment. When we aren’t training, we enjoy attending local events and demonstrations to draw attention to PRSAR. Grace is a natural, flawlessly demonstrating her skills and schmoozing with the crowd.

Our association with PRSAR has given me back what I was missing in retirement: camaraderie, purpose, and a chance to serve my newly adopted community. The Animal Welfare League rescued Grace and she rescued me.

Together we continue that tradition through our work with PRSAR.

Each year, Petco Love 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 James Case won Animal Welfare League of Charlotte County, Inc. in Florida a 2017 Holiday Wishes award.