When Don first met Lucky at the Dumb Friends League in 2022, he was reeling from the tragic loss of two of his most significant relationships – his wife of nearly 64 years in 2016 and, more recently, his beloved dog, Wilson, who passed suddenly after a diagnosis of cancer. Feeling the need for a new companion in his life, Don asked his veterinary clinic if they had any recommendations on where he could adopt. That’s when he heard about the League and the girl who would change his life forever.

As a veteran who bravely served his country from 1954 to 1956, Don was encouraged to hear about the League’s adoption fee discount for veterans and active duty service members. (Throughout the year, we offer veterans and current service members 50% off adoption fees, courtesy of Lockheed Martin.) He worked initially with one of our Adoptions Associates, who played matchmaker and helped identify a few dogs Don should meet. One of those dogs was Lucky – a sweet, but timid, 4-year-old Labrador retriever who recently arrived at our doors. When the two met, Lucky was whimpering and pacing as her nerves overcame her. Rather than feeling dissuaded, Don was inspired to bring her home with him that very day. “I thought, I have to help her,” he said.

After adoption day, it didn’t take long for Lucky to warm to Don. Maybe it was the multiple daily walks or cozy mattresses he provided for her comfort. Or the “soft, red ball” and heaps of squeaky toys Lucky received soon after her arrival. Undoubtedly, it was Don’s warm attentiveness to her needs that nurtured their close relationship and Lucky’s growth. According to Don,

For about two weeks, I laid on the davenport with her … and she’d get up and I’d get up with her and talk to her and hug her and all that. Now, she’s so content. I mean, it’s kind of breaking me down even thinking about how much she’s changed.

It turns out Lucky wasn’t the only one with change on the horizon. When Don speaks (nay gushes) about her, he often talks about how she has “filled his life” and days with purpose. With his Lucky Charm, he now has a friend who accompanies him to the grocery store and joins him when, as Don says, “us older people meet for coffee.” Having each other to lean on – in good times and bad – has made all the difference for this loving pair. “She’s the greatest thing I’ve had since my wife died,” said Don. “I wouldn’t take a million bucks for her, I know that.”

Growing research (Cigna Healthcare, 2023; Fine et al., 2019; Gee et al., 2017) suggests that interacting with and caring for animals can have a positive impact for older and aging adults, including:

  • Opportunities for deep connection, physical touch, and communication
  • Improvements in mood, self-worth, and mindfulness
  • Structure, routine, and a renewed sense of purpose
  • Relief from loneliness and anxiety
  • Eased and enriched social interactions with other people
  • Motivation to be physically active and playful
  • Enhanced recovery from injury and illness

In these ways and so many more, the bond between Don and Lucky has been transformative for them both. Of course, no one can attest to that better than Don – 

Lucky’s just so faithful. She has turned my life around, and I’m helping her too. You know, [some] talk about older people [having] depression and isolation and stuff like that. But I don’t have a bit of that with her. She’s right there for me, with me … we’re going to stick together till the end. 

With gratitude and appreciation, the Dumb Friends League honors those who have served our country. From Nov. 6-12, the League will waive the adoption fees for all veterans, active duty service members, and military families. Thank you for your service, sacrifice, and dedication.