When you first get to know John M, it’s his deep compassion towards animals that comes through loud and clear.
A frequent volunteer with dogs at his local Humane Society (he was awarded “Volunteer of the Quarter” in summer 2015), John will gently coax his canine friends out from behind their fortress-like cages–forging a sense of trust with these animals that have often experienced a great deal of abuse in their prior lives.
When asked what motivates him to reach out to these vulnerable four legged companions, John’s answer is simply but direct: “I don’t like to see a sad dog!”
John found his place among “Man’s Best Friends” while living at U.S.VETS – Prescott. He arrived almost a year ago, in late winter, after a string of unfortunately circumstances had propelled him to homelessness.
The 63-year-old Marine Corps veteran was headed to find shelter anywhere he could find it to in order to get out of the cold. As chance (and grace) would have it, he didn’t find himself living under a bridge, but instead walked onto the V.A. facility where he was immediately directed to U.S.VETS – Prescott.
Since he started working with staff here, John’s life has taken on a new direction and meaning. “U.S.VETS has provided me shelter, three square meals (a day) and the support I’ve needed to reinvent myself for the next phase of my life,” he said.
It’s this reinventing of one’s self that drives John’s passion when it comes to connecting with his dogs at the Humane Society.
“The fear and hostility that these vulnerable dogs possess were put there by humans, which means that with a compassionate approach, attention and patience it can be taken away, more times than not,” he said.
John volunteers between three and five hours a day with his four-legged friends: Walking, talking and, most importantly, listening to them and responding to their needs.
“I’ve never been afraid of any dog, because I meet them where they’re at and don’t push or threaten them, but allow them to be who they are, which gives me permission to relax and feel comfortable about my own feelings.”
Back at U.S.VETS – Prescott, John also talks about his future plans for travel, exploration and true freedom, with an air of excitement. One can’t help but listen to John’s story and wonder who was leading whom out of that seemingly impenetrable cage that life can sometimes put us in.
The big question that John seems to have answered since living at U.S.VETS – Prescott is that compassion, service work and taking responsibility will dissolve the bars and lead to freedom.
John pauses and then says, “Now which dog will I adopt when I graduate from U.S.VETS? That will be another one of those very difficult decisions because I want to take them all with me, they’re all my companions!”