Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dogs on Deployment: Taking Care of Pets While Deployed

Air Force Master Sgt. Robert Disney and his wife, Tess, gather their dogs, Sasha, Minnie and Wall-E, for a photo at their home, Feb. 24, 2011. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jamal D. Sutter

By Navy Lt. Theresa Donnelly
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2012 – Although the wars are drawing down, the deployment schedules for our men and women in uniform aren’t easing up. Troops continue to meet multiple operational needs, such as theater security exercises with partner nations, Navy ship cruises and other training requirements.

Many military pet parents struggle with what to do with their forever friend when serving our nation away from home. It can be tough to stay focused on the mission at hand if family affairs aren’t in order.

Enter our partners in the nonprofit sector. For the past several years, many organizations have stepped up to the plate, providing foster pet services to our deploying troops.

“Military members have a hundred things to worry about when deployment or training comes up. The last thing they should have to worry about is the care of their pets while they’re away,” said Alisa Johnson, a Marine Corps officer and president of Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit organization matching service members needing a foster pet family with volunteers who have agreed to take in their animals.

Alisa and her husband, Shawn, a Navy officer, observed the challenges military families face when it comes to pet care, which led to the creation of this service.

“We’re especially concerned with those military members that may live on one coast, while all their family lives on another, limiting those that they can rely on in their times of need,” Alisa said.
Since they launched the organization in June, more than 140 families have volunteered to be “boarders” and 20 dogs have been placed in temporary foster care.

Along with national organizations helping troops -- including Dogs on Deployment and Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet -- many local animal shelters are answering the call of duty and creating programs in their communities to help deployed service members with pet care.

The Hawaiian Humane Society’s Pets of Patriots program provides pet care assistance to military personnel deploying on short notice due to war. Families living on Oahu can sign up to be foster parents, while military pet owners provide food and medical care while away from their duty station. The society assists with the written agreements, provides sample forms and helps find suitable volunteers.

Additionally, the San Diego County Humane Society offered a low-cost seminar in December for military families to provide information on pet resources for relocation and deployment.

If you need a home for your pet while deployed, check with your local animal shelter to see if they might have a military pet outreach program, contact a national foster military pet organization or see if your command has a spouse communication network to seek temporary pet parents. The military in our own community can act as our second family, helping to provide resources for our furry friends.

(Guest blogger Navy Lt. Theresa Donnelly, of U.S. Pacific Command, is the owner of Hawaii Military Pets, which provides pet resources for military families. She’s offered to share her pet-related knowledge in a series of blogs for Family Matters.)

(c) DoD

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