Veteran Robert and his Yellow Lab Sasha Find Kindness During Turbulent Times

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Provided by NOVA Veterans Association

Robert is a Marine Corps Veteran. He was referred to the Northern Virginia Veterans Association (NOVA Veterans) in need of transportation to the VA hospital in Washington, D.C. for ongoing cancer treatments. He was referred again later for a matter quite dear to his heart. Robert had been battling liver cancer for several years. While NOVA Veterans was working with him, he received great news on finally becoming a liver transplant candidate.

A Liver Transplant Meant Time Away from Sasha

However, this news meant time in the hospital for surgery and a few months recovery period away from . home and away from his closest companion Sasha. This  beautiful Yellow Labrador and best friend has been by his side every day during his ongoing battle with cancer.

At home, Robert’s beloved Sasha is what’s kept him going. Robert says everybody who meets her loves her
and she is a sweet, loving and loyal companion. Robert had worked as a helicopter mechanic until his declining health required him to stop. Not being able to do the little things like driving a car or walking Sasha had been the most difficult for him during these times of sickness. Thank goodness for caring neighbors who have helped out by driving Robert to the grocery store, taking Sasha for walks, and just being there.

Weekly medical visits and painful procedures were the norm for Robert along with the occasional unplanned hospital stay. Waiting on the transplant wasn’t easy as Robert’s health was declining daily. He said that he could get notified at any time that a liver was available for his transplant and he would have to go to the hospital immediately. Robert was worried about who would care for Sasha when he was in the
hospital and recovering from the transplant, which could take up to three months. That’s when Melissa Dargis, NOVA Veteran’s Director of Services, took immediate action and started researching options.

A Pet Foster Program

Melissa knew ensuring Sasha was safe and cared for would allow Robert to have peace of mind so he could focus on his recovery. She discovered a pet foster programs for veterans through a nonprofit called PACT for Animals (PACT). This non-profit finds free foster care homes for animals of veterans and deployed members of the military and those hospitalized. PACT screens every case to find the perfect match of foster home and veteran pet. Melissa assisted Robert with the application process, working with Amy Ricigliano, Executive Director of PACT. Amy responded quickly and efficiently, coordinating multiple potential fosters. Together they narrowed down the search to one local Northern Virginia family, just in the nick of time.

Robert received potential transplant notifications six times before finally having his transplant. Each time
required a hospital visit and a series of tests. His neighbors took care of Sasha during these times. Finally,
the seventh attempt at transplant, there was success! This happened at the same time the foster family, the
McLaughlins, was confirmed by PACT. Melissa joined Robert’s neighbor Kim and met the foster family, Rick
and Linda McLaughlin and their son Matt. When Sasha was placed in their home the bond was immediate.
Sasha’s tail never stopped wagging and she happily went right over to Matt. The two of them took a long walk together and it was evident they would be the best of friends.

Robert called from the hospital a week after his transplant. He thanked Melissa and NOVA Veterans for finding Sasha the temporary foster home through PACT. He had received pictures from the McLaughlin family and was so happy to see his Sasha enjoying her foster family.

A Community Coming Together

This was truly a community coming together to help our veteran Robert and his lab Sasha. A coworker referred Robert to NOVA Veterans. Melissa supported Robert’s transportation needs and then his need for a loving foster family. Robert’s neighbors Kim and Phillippe were always nearby to help Robert and care for Sasha during times of need. Finding PACT and bringing them on as a great partner to NOVA
Veterans was an amazing partnership. PACT responded quickly and worked fervently to secure Sasha a
family within two days of learning about Robert’s transplant. Linda and Rick (foster mom and dad) regularly
send photos of Sasha to Robert. Matt (foster brother) enjoys walks and romps

Robert looks forward to reuniting with Sasha when he is well and meeting the McLaughlin family in person. And he cannot wait for his long neighborhood walks with his sweet Sasha.


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