Todd served as a paratrooper in the army for four years. In 1994, while stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, he survived a deadly plane crash at nearby Pope Air Force Base. Twenty-four members of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division were killed in the worst peacetime loss of life suffered by the division since the end of WW2. Several were Todd’s good friends.
This brave warrior, trained to parachute into an operation as part of an airborne force, was traumatized by the accident. Todd suffered PTSD for nearly two decades. Psychotherapy wasn’t working. He and wife Stephanie discussed getting a therapy dog. Too many objections arose. They were busy. Their three cats wouldn’t get along with a dog. A dog would prevent their weekend travel. “We came up with every excuse in the book,” Stephanie says.
In September of 2012, Stephanie was headed to work. She’s a fundraiser for Moffitt Cancer Center, a cancer hospital in Tampa, FL. She noticed a black dog on the side of the road near their neighborhood. She happened to be on the phone with Todd and commented on it. That evening, driving to pick up teenage daughter Rowan from band practice, Todd noticed the same dog still sitting on the side of the road. A few hours later, a thunder storm rolled in. Todd kept thinking about that dog.
“We love animals and hate to see them homeless, lonely and in pain,” Stephanie says. “But Todd had never been so focused on a stray. He was restless and worried and drove off in search of the dog. He spotted her as she ducked into some bushes. Five seconds later he’d have missed her. The poor dog was so weak she couldn’t jump into the car. Todd had to lift her.”
Todd brought the stray, a border collie mix, home. He, Stephanie and Rowan bathed her. They borrowed dog food from their neighbor and fed her. They created a bed for her on the patio out of old car wash towels. She was spayed but had no identification. They resolved to find her owner or find her a new home. The local animal shelter website knew of no dog matching her description.
Within a week of the stray dog’s arrival, Todd’s anxiety eased. This new member of the household comforted Todd. He felt more relaxed. They named her Shelby, a nod to Todd’s love for the Mustang Shelby GT Cobra. (He has owned a Mustang but not a Mustang Shelby.) Shelby instantly took to her new name. And her new owner. Whether Todd goes to the mailbox or has been gone for hours, she races to him and does her “Shelby dance.” Her feet tap rapidly; her rear end wags along with her tail. She kisses Todd and follows him from room to room. Although she weighs 50 lbs., she jumps into his lap when he reclines.
Stephanie says, “This loving, beautiful animal calmed my husband and brought him a peace he hadn’t felt for years. We knew our search for her family was over. We had found a new home for Shelby. She was meant to be Todd’s companion. He picked her up from the side of the road and gave her a second chance. She returned the favor and gave him a second chance.”
(We love animal stories. People stories, too! Please share your Godsign stories with me.)