Feb. 25—NESQUEHONING — John Wilcox thinks his son gave his life for his two elderly dogs who were found outside of the Marine veteran's home in Penn Forest Twp. following a tragic fire two days before Christmas.
The dogs, Ricco and Layla, have been in the care of the Carbon County Animal Shelter since they lost their owner, 37-year-old Matthew Wilcox, in the Dec. 23 fire, which his father said was ruled accidental.
"His dogs were his life," John Wilcox said. "He loved those dogs. I wouldn't doubt he went in to save them."
The dogs, who need to be homed together, have been at the shelter for about two months, waiting for the right person.
Tom Connors, shelter manager, believes people are hesitant to give these older dogs a chance because of their age.
Ricco is 11 and Layla is 9.
To help someone adopt them, their adoption fees have been covered by donors and Dr. Dawn Kocher Mriss at the Lehighton Animal Hospital has agreed to take care of their annual visits and shots at no cost, Connors said. Money will also be set aside for their future medical care, he said.
Connors hopes removing these potential barriers will encourage someone to take these gentle, loving dogs into their home to live out their lives.
Wilcox said family arrived at his son's home in the Indian Mountain Lake Development near Albrightsville hours after the fire started just after 3 a.m.
A state police fire marshal told them that the dogs were in the backyard, but Wilcox's son collapsed near the door and didn't make it out.
Family members took the dogs to their home, but as seniors, Ricco and Layla were set in their ways and didn't take well to other pets in the home or visiting children, John Wilcox said.
Both dogs love lounging around the house, but couldn't rest easy in an active, multiple pet home, he said.
"I feel I'm not doing justice by my son," Wilcox said with defeat in his voice, knowing how his son loved the dogs.
Matthew would have wanted his beloved dogs to have a peaceful home, he said. After all, his son, as a young Marine, rescued the older of the two from a dog fighting ring and the men in his platoon loved him, Wilcox said.
He brought in Layla shortly afterward, and always made sure his dogs had a place before moving to a new place with the Corps, his dad said.
"He wouldn't move without a place for his dogs," Wilcox said.
As a veteran dealing with post traumatic stress disorder, Wilcox's son helped out at Paul's House, a home for homeless veterans in Kunkletown, he said. The elder Wilcox reached out to Valor Clinic Foundation, which runs the home, but they couldn't take the dogs, he said.
Connors feels certain the right home for them exists, and hopes the arrangements to cover the fees and vet costs will motivate someone to adopt the senior dogs.
Anyone interested in adopting or meeting Ricco and Layla, or any of the dogs in CCAS' care, should call to make an appointment at 570-325-4828.
Contact the writer: kmonitz@stan 0dardspeaker.com; 570-501-3589