My love for animals goes way back to my earliest memories as a child. When I was 14 years old, I spent an entire summer taming wild cats that lived at our home in Oklahoma. Some of my fondest memories as a teenager involve going outside everyday with treats until I had the wild kittens eating out of my hand. Even today, I struggle with walking by the adoption centers and events without having to talk sense into myself about why I can’t bring home another dog. With moves and deployments, combined with the cost of pets and craziness of life, it's not realistic to adopt them all. Today, I am the proud owner of a retired mine-detection dog. “Adra” served six years in Afghanistan, providing an invaluable service finding mines that were left behind.
Adopting her was an easy decision because I’ve seen the wonderful impact that a pet can have on families. While our experience has been memorable and positive, not all families are equipped to take on a pet as a permanent member of the family. Alternatives exist for military families to consider, and with October being "Adopt a Shelter Dog Month," here are 3 ways you can help without adopting:
1. Spay or neuter your petFor several reasons, this is not always an easy decision. However, if everyone spayed or neutered their pet, it would significantly reduce the number of pets that are left without a home. If your pets are already fixed, perhaps you can donate a spay or neuter to your local shelter. The cost to execute this procedure often serves as a simple reason or excuse for pet-owners to avoid making the decision to spay/neuter. Unfortunately, the second and third-order effects involve a staggering number of pets who are left without a home. The number of homeless pets in our country is an often overlooked and disturbing statistic that can be directly attributed to our negligence in committing to a simple task.
2. Foster with Dogs on DeploymentSure, it’s not adoption, but you could be keeping a service member or family from having to take their pet to a shelter because of a deployment, training or a PCS move. It’s actually not just for dogs, as every military pet is eligible for a foster, and sometimes it’s for a relatively short period of time. The commitment to foster, in comparison to adopting, is minimal yet the result can be life-changing for both the pets and our military families.
3. VolunteerVolunteering at an animal shelter offers more than just cleaning cages. For example, are you a photographer? A great picture on social media can assist a shelter dog get adopted by a family in search of a pet. Do you enjoy going on runs while exercising? Several shelters near military installations offer an opportunity for runners to take dogs with them on their daily jog. This serves as a great method for the dog to break the monotony of its daily repetition within the shelter, and also provides a chance for the volunteer to make a new friend.
Animals are awesome companions especially when so many milspouses spend time alone. Caring for a pet offers an opportunity to experience true companionship and unconditional love, and certainly during difficult times when that bond is greatly valued. This October think about what you can do to help even if you aren’t in a position to bring home a new furry friend on a permanent basis.