I want to tell you a story about a dog.
a lonely dog. an abandoned dog. an underdog.
It’s a story about love and second chances. A story about a hero.
In fact, its truly a story about more than one.
At the tail end of this past summer, just as the last stray drops of warm golden sunlight were fading away for the year – I opened up my inbox and found the most wonderful thing. In it, was an invitation to the Indian River Inlet United States Coast Guard base in Delaware asking me to chronicle the life of Mr. Beefy – a 6 year old Shelter Pit Bull mix with an incredible story. Needless to say – I graciously accepted the invitation – and scheduled the 7 hour road trip down to the Delaware Coast as soon as I possibly could. It would be an understatement to say that spending the day with the Officers of the Indian River Inlet USCG base was amazing – It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. And one that I wont soon forget.
So, without further ado – I am proud to share with you a remarkable story about a remarkable dog.
Mr. Beefy spent the first part of his life in loneliness and confusion, without any semblance of love or stability. For the most part, the first years of Mr. Beefy’s life are unknown. Although if he could talk, I imagine the tale would be heartbreaking.
Mr. Beefy was found one very hot summer afternoon chained to a tree behind an abandoned house. No food, no water, no relief from the sweltering heat. Just tied to a tree, left for dead.
This is where the story starts to take a turn. The amazing team of passionate, dedicated animal rescuers at the SPCA of Delaware’s Georgetown Shelter received an anonymous call, alerting them to this scared, abandoned dog’s situation, and they immediately stepped in to save his life. Moving slowly and deliberately, the SPCA team unchained a frightened and devastated Mr. Beefy from the horrible backyard prison where he was stuck, and proceeded to take him to their facility – where they could check his health, give him a warm bed and a belly full of food, and start the long journey of finding Mr. Beefy his perfect, forever family.
Mr. Beefy’s rescue proved to be a bit of challenge as Volunteer and Development Coordinator Joanne Bradley Murphy recalls – ‘When we got him to the shelter, he was so terrified that after 2 hours of trying to get him IN the building, it was decided he would spend the night in an outside run (we never do that, but had no choice). We believe that he had never actually been inside a building ever in his entire life. The next day we were able to move him inside the building. He was terrified of everything and would make this little “dolphin chirping” sound. He was afraid of men, squeaky toys and not so fond of other dogs. He hated to be outside by himself – one time he escaped from a yard and was throwing himself against the door to get back IN the shelter.’
The scared, sad dog that Mr. Beefy used to be, slowly started to fade and disappear into the past as he slowly earned his confidence back while learning and growing at the shelter. Hours turned into days, days turned into months, and months turned into years. All along, Mr. Beefy sat waiting patiently for his new family to come and change his story forever. As each person passed by his cage, he hoped. He peered out with big, glassy eyes, dreaming of finding his destiny on the other side of those metal bars. All he wanted in the whole world was one thing: to be loved. Mr. Beefy watched as his friends around him all found their forever homes. He stayed through the cycles, as cages were filled and emptied again all around him. Day in and day out, he watched warm, loving arms meet the other dogs with excitement as they were whisked off to their new homes. He was so patient, sitting quietly all along, watching the world spin and move around him, knowing in his heart of hearts, that one day, his time would come. He was a good dog too, wasn’t he? …
Well, here’s where it really starts to get good.
On a day just like any other, as the wind whipped through the trees outdoors like it usually did, and as Beefy napped and dreamed inside the shelter – everything that he ever knew changed forever. Michael Kristiansen, the United States Coast Guard Officer in Charge of the Indian River Inlet US Coast Guard base of Rehoboth Beach, DE, walked into the building. He and a fellow officer – BM2 Josh Talys – were there in search of a morale dog and they wanted to meet Mr. Beefy. Joanne Bradley recalls that unbelievable moment, “We were so excited, that I think all of the volunteers and everyone working that day went out with Beefy while he met the guys for the first time. He was scared at first, but they wanted him anyway.”
And through the happiest tears, she remembers the next moment: “He left the shelter that day for good, after waiting over a year for a home.”
And where is that home, you ask?
Mr. Beefy has found his perfect place in forever at the Indian River USCG Station in gorgeous Rehoboth Beach, DE. Mr. Beefy is now a ranked military officer with his official title being ‘Seamen Apprentice’ for the United States Coast Guard. He serves on an indefinite enlistment and tour length. Seaman Apprentice Beefy serves as unit morale booster and is authorized to conduct public outreach to promote U.S. Coast Guard recruiting and missions. Mr. Beefy can be advanced for exemplary performance and behavior. He lives, full time at the beautiful Indian River Inlet Coast Guard Station, keeping watch with a wag and a smile over the stretch of waterfront land that he calls home. As he is a documented Military Mascot, Mr. Beefy is afforded the same rights, privileges , support services and health surveillance as other as other government owned working animals. Beefy receives all of his medical treatment via Dover Air Force Base.
Mr. Beefy was adopted into the ranks of an amazing team. He is very proud to hold his spot in the lineup.
Mr. Beefy has snuggled so gratefully in to his remarkable new home. The loneliness of yesterday has faded into tiny reflections in Mr. Beefy’s eyes. He’ll never forget where he started — as a frightened, abandoned dog, thrown out with the garbage and left for dead. Without his past, he could never appreciate where he is today – a ranked United States Coast Guard Officer surrounded by all of the love in the world.
When Mr. Beefy used to fall asleep on the cold hard floor in his cage at the shelter, he would dream up brilliant dreams of his forever home and a new family to call his own. But never did he ever imagine how incredible that dream would actually turn out to be. Mr. Beefy learned the most remarkable thing — that sometimes, reality is better than even the wildest imagination. Mr. Beefy now has more than just a place to call home. After waiting 1 year and 3 months, Mr. Beefy has more than just a family. Mr. Beefy, the canine officer of the Indian River US Coast Guard Base, now has 32 family members to watch over him. 32 sets of arms to keep him warm. And 32 hearts to love him completely.
For Mr. Beefy, this is heaven.
This is Mr. Beefy’s new family. This is where he belongs:
I had such an incredible time capturing the tiny details that are all a part of ‘Seamen Apprentice’ Beefy’s daily life at his new home on the base with his fellow officers.
From a lonely, scared shelter dog to a proud, ranked military officer for the United States Coast Guard. So, the next time you think that all shelters dogs are ‘broken’, and that they cant be taught how to love again – think of Mr. Beefy. Think of the brave men and women that have devoted their lives to protecting this great country, and how they opened their hearts to an underdog. They saw a sparkle in the eyes of an abandoned shelter pit bull when nobody else did.
And when you give love a chance, the most incredible things can happen. Would you just look at the miracle that love can perform? ….
And those heroes that I spoke of? Well here’s one. This is Joanne Bradley Murphy, the volunteer coordinator for the SPCA’s Georgetown Shelter. She and her team of rescuers dedicated endless time and energy to keeping watch over Mr. Beefy while he was in the shelter’s care. Their team kept him close and safe during the hardest parts, standing right beside him every step of the way through his incredible journey. Joanne helped to see him through to the very end. She came along on the day of our shoot to check in with her sweet boy, and to see how life on the waterfront has been treating him. Seeing these two together brought me so much joy – their intense connection and love was tangible. And would you just look at that smile on Mr. Beefy? Its safe to say that he’ll never forget the love that Joanne so selflessly poured out to him when he needed it most.
And speaking of heroes – after spending an afternoon with the USCG Officers – I cant continue without mentioning the men and women who have chosen to devote their lives to protecting this great country. I cant begin to express my gratitude for their service. Because of them, I have the freedom to live my dreams.Their sacrifice is a precious gift to all Americans. To the Officers of the USCG Indian River Inlet Base – Thank You. Not only did you step up and selflessly save the life of an abandoned shelter dog, but you live every day in the spirit of protecting my freedom in a country that I am proud to call home.
As far as heroes go – here are two more. This whole excursion wouldn’t have even been possible without these next two people. Tom and Renè – unwavering animal rescue advocates and bully breed supporters – are two of the most selfless, and endlessly giving people that I have ever had the privilege to meet. Their kindnesses are unprecedented and I am proud to fight feverishly alongside them to help save homeless animals in need. They are solely responsible for connecting me with the SPCA of Delaware and for arranging my travel and photo shoot with Mr. Beefy and the Coast Guard Officers.
Their passion is what made this whole adventure happen. I think Mr. Beefy was quite grateful to meet them.
Even I got a chance to be photographed with Mr. Beefy! I couldn’t help myself but to give this guy a good snuggle! That hug made the 7-hour trip worth every minute. 😛 (Thanks to my assistant Sam for snapping this shot of me with our photo star!)
Mr. Beefy had me cracking up for the better part of our session together. His kryptonite? Peanut Butter!!
While this post is about celebrating Mr. Beefy and his journey, there is also a much bigger picture that he stands for. Everyday, over 2,800 Pit Bulls die in shelters. That’s over 1 million Pit Bulls every year. Dogs just like Mr. Beefy – who were born to a world that let them down – a world in which, even just existing is a crime. Each and every dog with their own individual stories and personalities. Each with red beating hearts inside their chests and warm glowing lights of hope behind their eyes. Each with one simple wish, one common dream: to be understood, and to know love. They watch the world through the bars of their cages, hoping for families who never come. And after dreaming endless dreams of love, their lives are taken from them by a cold needle before they ever have a chance to fly.
Here’s to hoping that Mr. Beefy can be a reminder of all of these dogs – that he can stand up for their legacy. He is one of the rare ones – one of the ones who made it out. Let his story serve the memories of all of the ones who were left behind. Let the kindnesses of the men and women of the Indian River Coast Guard Station of this great country be a valuable lesson – you can find love in the most unexpected places if you’re just brave enough to look.
And, I know one fuzzy little guy who is very, very grateful that they did:
Until there are none, rescue one.
Save a life.
We love you Mr. Beefy!