Relocation and deployment are a cold hard truth of military service, and while it can separate families by thousands of miles, there’s a homecoming to hope for. For those with furry family members, however, the responsibilities can get complicated.
When the military calls, dogs don’t have the option of coming along with their owners. And wondering about a pet’s health can cause major stress to enlisted men and women during service. Fortunately, there are organizations that specialize in caring for and finding foster homes for dogs while their owners are on active duty.
“Worrying about who’d watch my pets was my number one stress point prior to my deployment,” said Kelly Collier, a service member who used the help of nonprofit Dogs on Deployment. “Many wonderful and kind people responded offering to open up their homes to both of my dogs! I eventually was able to meet with some of the people who offered and I’m so pleased to say that the family who took my dogs in couldn’t be more wonderful! I receive photos and emails about how they’re doing and I feel able to deploy without worry or concern about my beloved animals.”
Dogs On Deployment is a non-profit organization that offers service members an online network of volunteer foster homes that will watch their pets during their service commitments.
Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet is an all-volunteer organization that helps active military personnel and veterans with animals or assistance service canines through the Military and Veteran Pet Foster Home Program, and the Military Pet Assistance fund.
The Military Pets Foster Project, was created by Steve Albin in 2001 as a resource listing veterinarians and providing links to other pet-related sites. Albin’s project has since fostered more than 17,000 pets.
Programs like this have found tremendous success over the past few years, and helped keep families together, according to DoD Alabama Coordinator Lara Elizabeth Knight. But while the Alabama DoD and other groups across the country have already placed thousands of pets in caring temporary homes, word has not spread fast enough to service members or potential foster parents, Knight said.
“People have just been at the shelter in tears not thinking that they have any other option,” Knight told WHNT News.
The situation is similar in other states with bases and heavy military presence, said Corryn Myers, DoD spokesperson and an Army wife. Some Humane Societies have worked with local volunteers and other nonprofit organizations to help make foster home arrangements for the pets of service members but there are still a lot of pets being surrendered.
Caring for the animals of deployed service members is a kindness that goes a long way, providing more than just peace of mind. But animals also play a role in comforting those who come home from service with added emotional or physical issues. Operating nationwide, Pets for Patriots helps veterans combat the primary obstacle to pet ownership – cost of care – by providing access to ongoing discounted veterinary care, financial contributions towards the cost of pet food and essentials, and discounts for various pet products and services. Donate to the Pets for Patriots’ Veterans Pet Food Bank Program and you can help a veteran become a hero once more by saving the life of a dog or cat in need.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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