I grew up in the great state of New York. Growing up, my main interest was competitive swimming. When I went to college, I swam for their college team and then in grad school, I pursued a degree in Sport Management so that I could follow my dream of becoming a swim coach. I was lucky enough to become an Assistant Coach at University of Rochester. I had my life mapped out: assistant coach for a few years, start applying for a head coach position and continue working at great swimming colleges. I would save enough money to buy a house and then I could get my own dog. That was the plan.
Then a friend and I decided to sign up for Match.com. Well, my perfect plan was shot. I met a guy who was living in Watertown, NY (2 hours from where I was) and he was an officer in the Army, stationed at Ft. Drum. I liked this guy and then I loved this guy. Being in a relationship with someone in the Army comes with some interesting caveats: deployments, moving every 2-3 years, long periods of training, uncertainty, and sacrifice. So when we got married in 2013, that came with the knowledge that if we were to be together, we’d have to move together and leaving behind a career and a place I called home for over 20 years.
Right after we got married (for the second time-long story) we moved to Oklahoma for 6 short months. This was a bit of a cultural change for me! There we adopted our dog Geronimo. Next, we moved to Kansas. We’ve been here for 3 years and that’s where we found and adopted our second dog Lawrence.
Army Spouse Journey
Being an Army spouse comes with some challenges, but it also takes you on a journey that you might never have taken. Even though I had to leave a career behind (swimming is not particularly popular in this part of the country), I did have an opportunity to follow a passion in working with dogs. In Oklahoma I worked as an Assistant Vet Tech and learned SO much. In Kansas I worked as a dog walker, fostered, volunteered at a shelter, and started working as an Assistant Dog Trainer. I may have never done any of that or had the guts to switch careers had it not been for the Army.
My Little Army Family
Had I not met my husband, I probably would have never thought to live in this part of the country. If I hadn’t moved to Oklahoma and Kansas, we would never have met our two dogs, Lawrence and Geronimo. Those dogs have made our little family a happy one. And for that, I am thankful.
However, being an Army family means there will be some tough times. My husband left for an 8 month deployment while we were in Kansas, which meant Mo and I were on our own. It was tough because I couldn’t depend on my spouse to feed him or let him out if I was late at work. Mo had to have surgery on his side and it was a difficult month of healing. He had to be quarantined for a month due an incident in the park (everyone was ok!). Mo was a handful and I may have cried and wished my husband was home to help more than once.
But we made it! We relied on help from our vet, doggie daycare and our dog walkers. Mo and I had a stronger bond after all of that too. And the most amazing part was watching Mo welcome his Dog Dad home:
Military Pet Resources
I am aware that taking care of kids while a spouse is deployed is different from taking care of pets. However, pets can present their own challenges for a military family and even more so if there medical or behavioral issues. Here are some wonderful resources for you or a friend:
This non-profit organization helps military families with pets, whether it’s a single soldier, dual military family, or family in need. They assist families in finding boarding for their animals while they serve commitments. They believe that no pets should be surrendered due to their family serving the country.
If you are interested in helping, participate in one of their virtual races, donate, or volunteer to board pets.
Pets for Patriots aims to help veterans afford shelter pets. They help find homes for overlooked pets by pairing them with veterans. This is a win-win: pets find loving homes and veterans get the special bond from an animal. That bond can make all the difference for veterans and their families.
Veterinarians and shelters can help by becoming partners and everyone can help by donating!
Operation Military Pets is an initiative through SPCA International. They aim to support military families with relocation costs that they may incur when transporting a pet due to a new duty station. They offer grant’s and financial assistance to qualified applicants. Moving a pet across the ocean or country can become expensive.
You are of course able to donate and the application is easy to fill out!
4. Pet Travel
This is a great site to get information about traveling with your pets. It has information about plane travel, animal friendly hotels, driving tips, and more! For military families that are planning to move, this is a great place to start for some basic travel knowledge.
Both of these site can help with relocating your pet to your new duty station. There services require payment, but they help you navigate travel and keep your pet safe.
This another non-profit organization that works with military personnel or people in medical crisis so that they don’t have to unwillingly surrender their pets. They have a foster system that allows pets to stay in a warm home while their parents are away.
If you are looking to help, they are asking for donations, fosters, professional services, and volunteers.
Embrace Pet Insurance isn’t specifically military related, but having pet insurance can be a comfort when a pet needs medical help. We use this company and have received assistance when Mo needed surgery.
There are many pet insurance companies out there and for a military family, it is a wonderful safety net.
Have you come across some wonderful organizations that help military families and their pets? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to the list!