Reunited with pets, veteran rejoices in ‘miracle’

DOVER — Tails wagged, tongues licked and tears fell.

Amid the barks and excitement on Thursday, James Pack struggled to comprehend that his dearest wish had been granted. He was about to be reunited with his “babies.”

James Pack with his two “babies,” Blaze and Bailey. (Submitted/Lindsay Carrothers)

James Pack with his two “babies,” Blaze and Bailey. (Submitted/Lindsay Carrothers)

The two Labrador-pit bull mix dogs ended up in the care of the First State Animal Center and SPCA in Camden several months ago after Mr. Pack suffered a massive heart attack. The three have been separated for 90 days while he spent time in a trio of hospitals.

“He didn’t have anybody to care for his two dogs so he had to surrender them,” said Lindsay Carrothers, of Camden.

Mr. Pack, of Newark, was looking for a place to live  when he woke up in Christiana Hospital after suffering a massive heart attack. Family members didn’t have the means to take in the dogs.

He worried about the two, even as he struggled to get back on his feet. An infection set in after heart surgery and at one point his throat and left side were paralyzed, he said.

Although he barely could talk he would call the Camden shelter to check on the dogs, according to Ms. Carrothers, an employee of the SPCA.

“They are super adorable,” she said. “He has them trained to a T.”

Mr. Pack, 58, acquired both from different litters when they were 8 weeks old. The male, Blaze, will be 3 in January while the female Bailey will turn 2 on Christmas Eve.

James Pack of Newark had been separated from Bailey, left, and Blaze for 90 days. They were reunited Thursday at the First State Animal Center and SPCA adoption center at PetSmart in Dover. (Submitted/Lindsay Carrothers)

James Pack of Newark had been separated from Bailey, left, and Blaze for 90 days. They were reunited Thursday at the First State Animal Center and SPCA adoption center at PetSmart in Dover. (Submitted/Lindsay Carrothers)

Despite being “adorable” and well-trained, the dogs failed to catch the eyes of potential new owners and recently were rotated to the SPCA adoption site at PetSmart in Dover.

That’s where Mr. Pack had an all-too brief reunion with the dogs on Wednesday. Finally out of the hospital and having found a place to live that takes pets, he was eager to claim Bailey and Blaze.

However, because the dogs had been surrendered for possible adoption, he was told he needed to pay a fee of $210. He didn’t have the money, but before leaving the Dover store he spent time with the dogs.

“It was an emotional reunion,” Ms. Carrothers said. “He was emotional. The dogs were excited to see him.

“It was completely heart touching. Everybody cried.”

Mr. Pack left, vowing to return on Thursday with the money, even if he had to sell his car to get it.

“I was going to the scrapyard to scrap my car,” he said Friday morning.

But Santa Claus, in the guise of Melissa Eagle, intervened. An employee of First State Animal Center, Ms. Eagle proposed helping Mr. Pack. Volunteer Chris Malec offered to pay the adoption fee and other people pitched in with gift cards, dog food, toys and personalized treats. The fee ultimately was decreased to $125, Ms. Carrothers said, and Ms. Malec paid it.

The plan came together relatively quickly with the group — Ms. Eagle, Ms. Malec, Ms. Carrothers, Laura Allen, Melinda Santiago and husband, Linda Palmer and Shannon Garrett — deciding to surprise Mr. Pack when he returned Thursday afternoon.

Bailey, left, and Blaze are Labrador-pit bull mix. Bailey will be 2 Christmas Eve and Blaze will turn 3 in January. (Submitted/Lindsay Carrothers)

Bailey, left, and Blaze are Labrador-pit bull mix. Bailey will be 2 Christmas Eve and Blaze will turn 3 in January. (Submitted/Lindsay Carrothers)

And surprise him they did. A video captured Mr. Pack’s stunned reaction when the payment he offered was rejected.

He covered his mouth.

At first, he thought he was being told he couldn’t have the dogs. An employee reassured him that, yes, he could take them home. She explained about the donations.

“This is unbelievable,” he said, crying. “Thank you.”

He kissed his hand and raised it heavenward.

Disbelief turned to joy when Blaze and Bailey joined him. Between barks, Bailey covered Mr. Pack’s face with dog kisses while Blaze pushed against him. He got in a few licks, too.

“I don’t think there was a dry eye,” Ms. Carrothers said.

They sent Mr. Pack, Blaze and Bailey home with gift cards, dog food, toys and treats.

“This is a miracle,” Mr. Pack said. “After 90 days I figured they would be gone.”

Blaze and Bailey have adjusted to their new digs.

Chrissy Monteverde, Michea Beach, Melissa Eagle (kneeling), James Pack and Lindsay Carrothers pose for a photo before Mr. Pack leaves PetSmart with Bailey, left, and Blaze. (Submitted/Lindsay Carrothers)

Chrissy Monteverde, Michea Beach, Melissa Eagle (kneeling), James Pack and Lindsay Carrothers pose for a photo before Mr. Pack leaves PetSmart with Bailey, left, and Blaze. (Submitted/Lindsay Carrothers)

“The two babies are doing fine,” Mr. Pack said Friday. “I let them stay in bed with me last night, until they pushed me into the floor.”

He figured they deserved some babying. He moved to the couch and the dogs joined him there, unwilling to be separated again.

The future looks good, too.

A Navy veteran and one-time diesel mechanic who has an associate degree in construction management, Mr. Pack is considering returning to school to become an X-ray technician. Driving tractor trailers, a recent occupation, no longer is an option because of his heart condition.

It’s through the medical emergency that he’s learned about resources available through the federal Veterans Affairs and the Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs, including training for a new career.

“I didn’t know at the time that Veterans could help,” he said, recalling the time before his hospital stay when he was looking for a home. He was ready to live in his car with the dogs.

“I thank everybody involved,” he said. “Thank you, so much.”

His voice broke. “I didn’t think I would have my dogs back.

“This is the best Christmas ever.”

To help

The video of James Pack reunion with Blaze and Bailey can be seen here.
Donations are being accepted at the First State Animal Center and SPCA’s PetSmart adoption center at 1390 N. DuPont Highway in Dover.

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