By Erin Whitehead, USMC Spouse
What are the things you miss the most when you are separated from family and friends during the holidays? Military personnel often talk about missing not only loved ones and holiday traditions, but also the companionship of their furry family members.
A Special Non-Profit
We recently touched base with our friends at Dogs on Deployment, an all-volunteer, non-profit. Dogs on Deployment provides a central network for military members to find volunteers willing to board their pets while they are deployed or temporarily unable to care for their pets. Dogs on Deployment aids pets of all types belonging to active duty, reservists, guard, honorably discharged veterans and their families. They introduced us to one very special family member, “Leo” (short for Leonidas), one of their former Military Pets of the Year (and DoD mascot). Although his owner, Tim, was able to make it home for the holidays, when military orders required him to serve in another state, his family, including his beloved dog Leo, opted to remain in Hawaii.
In Tim’s case, his pet was able to remain with the rest of his family, but many service members find themselves in a difficult position when they get deployed, or have PCS orders that exclude their pet from accompanying them on tour. Dogs on Deployment have helped countless service members ensure that their beloved pets are taken care of during these separations, promoting life-long pet ownership in the military community.
Peace of Mind
Think about being deployed and knowing your fur-baby is in a home with free rein to sit on any couch he’d like! Fido will have a back yard to play in and a family to snuggle with, instead of being stuck in a boarding facility. Imagine that a breed restriction precludes you from bringing your pet with you during a PCS move. Instead of having to make the heartbreaking decision to re-home your pet or leave them at a shelter, Dogs on Deployment helps families find foster “parents” to care for them until the service member’s military service allows them to reunite with their pet.
Keeping in Touch
Many foster families set up Facebook pages for the pet of a service member they have volunteered to care for so they can keep the service member updated with photos and updates. To keep in touch throughout the year, many service members utilize technology to stay connected to their furry friends. Tim and Leo have frequent Skype sessions, and it is clear that both parties enjoy the experience!
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