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February 15, 2013 (Santee)--A Marine from Santee was chosen from more than 70 applicants to adopt the young Chihuahua that fell 80 feet from a cliff in Ocean Beach Jan. 11. The four-month-old pup has been under the care of County Animal Services while it recovered from head trauma, fractured ribs and numerous bruises. Once the little dog was healed, with the help of the department’s Spirit Fund, Animal Services began accepting adoption applications.

“Marine Gunnery Sergeant John Szczepanowski was chosen because he sent a story along with his application and it struck a chord,” said Animal Services Director Dawn Danielson. 

Szczepanowski 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 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.”  

While there was tremendous interest in Clifford, the department urges potential adopters to consider the many other animals hoping for a forever home. For more information on adoptions, photos of available animals and the Spirit Fund, visit


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