Marine Gunnery Sergeant John Szczepanowski from Santee, Calif., was chosen from more than 70 applicants to adopt the 4-month-old Chihuahua that fell 80 feet from a cliff in Ocean Beach on January 11.
The tiny puppy, now named Clifford, has been under the care of San Diego County Animal Services while he recovered from head trauma, fractured ribs and numerous bruises. Once the little guy healed with the help of the Department's donor Spirit Fund, Animal Services began accepting adoption applications.
Sergeant Szczepanowski was chosen because he works in the Wounded Warrior Regiment at Marine Corps Headquarters.
"John's been through some tragedy in his life and Clifford has been through tragedy, and he wanted to partner with Clifford to go back to other wounded veterans and say, 'I made it. This little puppy made it. And you can make it too,'" said Animal Services Deputy Director Dan DeSousa.
The Gunnery Sergeant says he is a combat-wounded veteran himself and Clifford will help act as an icebreaker in his work helping other wounded, ill and injured Marines and corpsmen transition to life back home.
"He's going to become a therapy dog and he's going to do a lot of work with the local VA's and veteran centers here in San Diego and Southern California," said Szczepanowski. "It's given me another purpose and the ability to care for somebody that deserves to be cared for, and he's also going to be looking out for me too," he added as Clifford nestled in his arms.
Here’s the story of Clifford’s rescue by a Good Samaritan and lifeguards. The puppy was walking without a leash when he fell off the cliff and plunged 80 feet to the beach. His owners ran away.