SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A Chihuahua puppy who survived an 80-foot fall in Ocean Beach was adopted Thursday by a Marine sergeant who helps wounded warriors make the transition to civilian life.
Gunnery Sgt. John Szczepanowski was selected out of about 70 applicants by the San Diego County Department of Animal Services to receive the 4-month-old canine, named Clifford, who didn't have a collar or name tag when found Jan. 11.
City lifeguards found the injured dog on the beach at the bottom of a cliff. Since then, he has been treated for head trauma, fractured ribs and numerous bruises. He's now fully healed, according to the county.
Szczepanowski told CBS 8 it was an honor to be chosen and thanked those who took care of Clifford.
"He's such an adorable little guy and I think his story kind of emulates a lot of veterans that we have today," Szczepanowski said. "At a young age, he endured some catastrophic events in his life and he overcame those events, and now he has a new way to his future."
The sergeant is the district injured service coordinator for San Diego, based at the Wounded Warrior Regiment office at Naval Medical Center San Diego.
The veteran of the Iraq War said he frequently faces awkward silence when he meets veterans for the first time, and having a "cute and adorable dog" like Clifford will help break the ice will help him with his mission.
The costs of Clifford's treatment were borne by the privately supported Spirit Fund.