Like many other military families, we are the proud owner of a fur child. Her name is Annie, and she is a black lab. She is gentle, loyal, great with our kids and the best company a girl could ask for. She kept my husband's side of the bed warm during his 15 month deployment to Iraq.
But if you asked me if I could go back in time, would I get a pet? The answer is "no" While pets can bring a lot of joy to a military family, they can also bring more complications to an already complicated life. Here's why:
You never know when you are going to PCS overseas. The military will pay to ship many things overseas. One thing they do not pay for is pets. Even if you can afford the expense of overseas shipment, many countries subject animals to lengthy quarantines.
Stateside PCSing with pets is challenging, too. If you are driving a lengthy distance to your new destination, you will probably require at least one overnight stop. Finding a hotel that accepts pets is both more difficult and more expensive. When you get to your new duty station, you may be required to live in temporary housing for an extended period of time. Most temporary lodging facilities have limited pet friendly quarters. You may be forced to find more expensive lodging or pay to board your pets locally. Finally, it's harder to find a rental home. If you are able to find a pet-friendly home that meets your needs, you are most likely subject to a hefty (and often non-refundable) pet deposit.
Pets need love, too! When our servicemembers are away, we spouses are often strapped thin. When my husband is traveling or on a deployment, I am overwhelmed by chasing my girls and picking up all the household duties. My dog often gets the short end of the stick. Not only is it more stressful for me, but it's not fair to Annie who does not get the TLC she deserves.
It's more expensive to visit friends and family. Many military families are frequent travelers. Since we are most often stationed away from our friends and families, we tend to hit the road to see our families when the opportunity to take leave arises. It's often hard to find someone to pet sit and having to board your animal makes an already costly trip even more expensive.
So -- is having a pet really worth the trade-off to you?