MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) — For 304 days Thunder, a 4-year-old pit bull mix, sat in his cage, waiting for his new owner.

During his stay, he spent Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day and Easter, alone. Sure, there were doggy dates. He even had a Twitter account with more than 200 followers, but every night he returned to A30, his 10-by-4-foot kennel at the shelter.

That changed this summer thanks to Muncie native Josh Gates.

"Well, I felt bad for the guy. He was in there for 300 and some days. I know what it's like to be somewhere for 300 and some days and just don't want to be there," said Gates, who was stationed in Fallujah, Iraq, for 13 months.

Though Gates is from Muncie, his family moved to Dayton, Ohio, when he was around 3 or 4 years old. While there, he enlisted in the military, where he served 2004-08.

After he saw Thunder in The Star Press, Gates said felt sorry for the dog. So, the next day he went to the shelter and took Thunder on a weeklong doggy date.

"He paced a lot . unfamiliar territory. I wouldn't say skittish. I wouldn't say scared — unaware of his surroundings and what he's getting into because I don't know where he's come from," Gates said.

That first week was a learning curve for both Thunder and Gates. Gates said Thunder paced A LOT. In fact, it's one of his favorite things to do — besides eating hamburgers, going on walks and cuddling, Gates said.

This kind of life isn't something Thunder is used to, said Gates. However, the caramel pit bull hadn't chewed anything up (besides his toys.)

Gates officially adopted Thunder on July 5 and in their first month of living together, Gates taught Thunder how to shake, "give five" and reinforced the basics like sit and speak. He also began to socialize Thunder.

"I've taken him around dogs. At first, I had him on the leash. Me and my mom and my stepdad were a little nervous, but I walked in the back last weekend and I didn't know the dogs were outside and I let him go and he went over and he smelled my mom's dog Sadie," Gates said.

The dogs got along fine, said Gates, who hopes to take Thunder to a dog park in the future.

As Thunder settled in his new place, he became more energetic, opting to chew and play with his toys instead of sleeping the day away in his favorite chair. He did still have a couple of obstacles to overcome, however, like running into coffee tables and the noise of the vacuum cleaner.

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Source: The Star Press

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Information from: The Star Press, http://www.thestarpress.com