We often hear about heroic warrior dogs that courageously go into battle alongside their human counterparts and assist in the most dangerous missions, including the most recent operation that took down Osama Bin Laden. But what about the everyday companion dogs that are left at home when their soldier owners go off to fight?  One organization is making sure that those dogs are not forgotten.

Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet was established in January 2005 by founders Linda Spurlin-Dominik and Carol Olmedo after they had learned that many soldiers were unable to find local caretakers for their pets and were relinquishing their dogs to local shelters due to a deployment.  Some get adopted, while others are euthanized due to age or overcrowding.

The two Arkansas residents decided that something had to be done to help these pet owners keep their animal companions safe and cared for while they were away serving their nation. Spurlin-Dominik  understood the needs, as the daughter of  the late Coy H. Spurlin, who served during World War II in the “Battle of the Bulge,” and the widow of John T. Dominik, a Vietnam Era Army Veteran. She has been involved with supporting the military community, veterans, their families, and their beloved pets for more than three decades.

As a result of their efforts, the Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet foster program was born. The program offers current and former military service members the option of placing their pets in one of the more than 2800, pre-screened foster homes across the US for the duration of their deployment or medical leave. Guardian Angels works one-on-one with the military pet owners to find the best-suited pairing for the dog and foster families and ensures the continued care of these companion animals. While the pet owner is still financially responsible for supporting their pet’s food and medical needs, there are no additional costs for the foster care. The organization has also created a fund for those who cannot afford the continued care of their pet.  On average, pets remain at the designated foster homes for a period of three to eight months, with some situations lasting as long as nine months to a year. “We feel every pet we are able to foster in our program is one less pet in a shelter or rescue group,” said CEO Linda Spurlin-Dominik. “Military families run into the same issues as civilian pet owners do.”

Watch this report for how the organization helped one soldier and his dog:

Individuals and families that are interested in fostering must go through an extensive application process.  Once approved, the owner and pet from the specified region are introduced to the new foster home.  In an effort to help the organization educate potential foster families on the ins-and-outs of caring for another’s pet, the Millan Foundation recently contributed a “fostering tip sheet” to share with new volunteer foster homes and includes advice from Cesar on how to keep human emotions in check for the betterment of the dog in often very highly charged, stressful conditions.

"We are so grateful to all of you for offering your expertise as we assist our soldiers and their pets," said Megan Summers, the Tennessee Chapter Communications Coordinator. “I cannot thank you enough for it.  I know it will be an awesome tool for us.”

One dog and soldier at a time, Guardian Angels hopes to promote an alternative option for veterans and those currently serving in the military and defer the unwanted surrender of a beloved animal.  “Every pet we have fostered is touching and inspiring in our eyes,” said Linda.  “The reaction of the pets seeing their owners after a yearlong deployment in harm’s way is priceless and our heroes tell us being reunited with their beloved pets assures them that there is one thing that has not changed while they were gone: the unconditional love provided by an animal.”

Article credit: Cesar's Way

Read more on dogs and the military:
Cesar in Fort Hood
News: Military Hero Dogs Return Home
The HEROES Come Home


date Tuesday, June 21, 2011

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