Veteran finds comfort, companion at animal shelter

When Pahrump retired Navy veteran Dennis “Doc” Watkins lost a longtime friend and companion recently, his life was not the same.

His beloved cat Patches became ill and was euthanized because of the recommendation of a veterinarian.

Watkins, who is disabled and diagnosed with PTSD, uses a mobility scooter to get around and became dispirited with the void in his life.

Just recently, Watkins’ utter depression was transformed into joy when he happened by Symphony Animal Foundation and was introduced to Lil Dude, a 4-year-old Lhasa Apso, terrier mix.

Symphony Animal Foundation is a no-kill animal facility for all pets.

Caretaker Candy Kirk said it was a match made in heaven when man and dog made eye contact.

Symphony offers free adoptions to all veterans.

“When he walked in, he was very lonely,” she said. “He had been to a couple of other places in town and they told him it would cost more than $100 to adopt a dog but he is on a very limited income. He even asked if he could make payments.”

Kirk said Watkins, after being turned away from several other animal shelters in town when he could not afford to pay the adoption fees, stopped by Symphony as a last resort to find a new companion.

It was also his last stop.

“One of our policies is that we adopt out animals to veterans for free,” she said. “He found this little guy and fell in love with him. He sat here and cried. He was beside himself because the dog loved him. It was amazing.”

To learn whether Watkins and Lil Dude were still hitting it off, she called him the following day, as some adoptions just don’t work out at times.

“I called him the next day and he told me the dog slept with him and they just really hit it off,” she said. “I have never seen anything like it because he was so lonely. It got to the point where he was crying and I was crying. It was absolutely beautiful. He was so happy with this dog and it was like a dream come true for him. They bonded so fast.”

Symphony’s Eric Wilson also witnessed the connection.

“Doc was just overjoyed and so was the dog,” he said. “It’s like they were long-lost friends. He had a cat for about 17 years and the cat recently died.”

Watkins himself said the friendship has been therapeutic.

Watkins was busy Thursday morning taking his new friend to an animal grooming shop.

“All of the bad thoughts are gone because he won’t let me have them,” he said. “He just keeps smiling at me. When I want to take a nap, he lies at the foot of the bed. He’s housebroken but I understand that he’s never been trained. He loves me and I love him. As soon as I walked in there he jumped right in my lap.”

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at On Twitter: @pvtimes