Pancake, a 3-month-old Pomeranian puppy, was a bundle of energy Wednesday in the arms of new owner Phoebe Ervin, a retired Army combat veteran who served in the Gulf and Iraq wars.
Ervin, of New Hyde Park, thanked the proprietor and staff at The Left Paw pet shop for her new emotional support companion, who was dressed up for the occasion with a brown bow tie the perfect accent to his long fluffy beige fur. The pet store had searched for another support dog for Ervin, who suffers from PTSD.
The store, located in New Hyde Park, donated Pancake to her, Ervin said.
Ervin's previous companion, a Pomeranian named Pomie Sgt. Ervin — Pomie for short, and also acquired from the pet shop — was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver May 13 while Ervin was out of town attending the graduation of her daughter, Dennise Gregory, from Clark Atlanta University. Ervin said she had a dog sitter, but Pomie got loose.
After Pomie died, Ervin said, "I came home to an empty house. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat because he was my all and all.
"I am linked to the Northport VA [Veterans Administration Medical Center], so they are aware of what’s going on with me," she added. "They tried to encourage me … I was forgetting to take my medication, which is so important. I was actually coming by here to the puppy store just to look.’’
Ervin said she didn’t want to do "anything at all. I was hurt." But Pancake has brightened up her life.
"Mentally, I’m getting there," she said.
Ervin said The Left Paw's co-owner, Sarah Greenstein, has assured her store staff would watch Pancake whenever Ervin has to go out of town.
Ervin said "Pomie was my … companion." She said they'd comfort each other during loud displays of thunder or July Fourth fireworks. "We'd sit in the tub together. He was family to me," she added.
"The reason why I'm here today is to let the community and the world know how great Left Paw has been to me," Ervin said, surrounded by supporters from the Elmont American Legion Post 1033, where Ervin is vice commander, and other groups.
Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park), presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature, said the pet shop went out of its way to help "one of our veterans," calling it a "heartwarming tale."
Greenstein said she has always "respected the military and first responders." She said veterans such as Ervin are responsible for the freedoms she enjoys.
"Phoebe, immediately when we met her, she became like family to us," Greenstein said. "We love her, and we felt so bad about what happened to Pomie … So when she needed us, we had to step up."
Now with Pancake by her side, Ervin said, "My [blood] pressure has gone down. I'm calmer. I wasn't sleeping at all" before. And now she can.