Roughly 2.13 million individuals actively serve in the military1. We can’t thank these people enough for their service. The sacrifices they make, sometimes putting their lives in peril, are unimaginable to those of us stateside. It’s challenging enough to upend their and their family’s lives when they are deployed, but it’s that much more difficult if a pet is involved.
Most military personnel must leave their pets behind when duty calls. We understand how heartbreaking it must be for them. That’s saying nothing about the stress it causes their pets. After all, research has shown that our dogs and cats really do love and care for us2. Fortunately, many people have stepped up to the plate to pay it back to our national heroes.
If you or a loved one is in the military and needs advice on how to care for their pets, you’re in the right place. Keep reading!
Having a Plan
If you’re in the military and have a pet, having a deployment plan is imperative. It’s not unlike making a will. You know it’s necessary, but it forces you into an uncomfortable place. You have to think about the unthinkable. We suggest detaching yourself from the process to make it easier for you, and having this burden off your shoulders will make leaving less stressful, knowing your pet has a temporary home.
It’s far better to have the difficult conversations over before you have to put them into action. Remember that you must plan ahead because you never know what orders you might get. The Red Cross’s Pre-Deployment Preparedness Tool is an excellent place to start3.
The best advice we can give you is to practice open communication. Tackle the uncomfortable topics when discussing your pet with your family. What do you want to do if your furry friend gets sick while you’re gone? If money is an issue, do you have a plan in place for that to ensure they are taken care of? The sooner you speak with your loved ones about the care of your pet while you’re away, the better. It’s always good to be prepared for any scenario.
Finding a Temporary Home for Your Pet
Many people are fortunate to have family members or friends willing to take in your pet while you’re away. Nevertheless, we recommend ensuring it’s all right with them to give you peace of mind. We strongly urge you not to fret if no one is willing to step up to the task. Owning a pet, even if it’s temporary, is a significant responsibility, and not everyone is up to the challenge. So, where do you go from there?
One option is a foster home. It touched our hearts to learn about the organizations involved in this cause. Many were started by individuals who have gone through this trauma. They work diligently to find a suitable match between pets and foster homes. It can ease the transition if the group can find a setting that is similar to one the animal already knows.
Organizations offering help for our military include the following:
We also recommend drafting a written agreement for the care of your pet, no matter what route you choose. It’s essential to ensure you and your pet’s caregiver are on the same page. It’s just as important for you as the one taking care of your animal companion. It can provide answers to questions when they can’t get in touch with you, which can be critical during medical emergencies.
It’s essential to get your pet’s expenses in order before you deploy. That could be something as simple as having a credit card on file with your vet. You can also set up subscriptions to ensure your pup has the food, treats, and any medications it needs. We’re sure your veterinarian will work with you and your caregiver to make sure everything goes smoothly.
Thank goodness for Venmo for unexpected expenses! You might even consider setting up an emergency fund to cover added costs. We also suggest checking in with the friend or family member who wasn’t able to take in your pet if they would be willing to act as a go-between. The important thing is that you keep your pet up to date on its vaccinations, preventives, annual exams, and recommended tests.
The Benefits of Pet Insurance
If you’ve been on the fence about pet insurance, the prospect of being deployed might change your mind. It can help cover expenses from catastrophic events. Wellness plans can cover the routine items at significant savings to you. It can make this aspect of taking care of your pet streamlined for your pet’s foster home.
USAA goes the extra mile for military personnel and veterans with their pet insurance plans. They provide a 24/7 hotline and virtual vet visits to help your caregiver with health issues that may arise. They’ll also cover emergency care, including diagnostics.
Help for Military Personnel
Other organizations provide financial support for military personnel. That could involve funds for veterinary care, service animals for veterans in need, pet boarding, and assistance for military hero dogs. It’s gratifying to know how much support exists for our nation’s heroes. You’ll likely find that many brick-and-mortar and online stores offer discounts to make pet ownership more affordable.
We suggest checking into these offers before you deploy if you’re not using them already. You might be surprised to learn how many companies go out of their way to support the military.
Caring for a pet while serving in the military presents challenges that other people may not have. Individuals in the armed forces don’t always have the luxury of having someone to look over their furry friends. Deployment can separate owners from their BFFs, stressing both them and their pets.
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to ensure your animal companion gets the care it needs, even if someone else is providing it. Several organizations can match you with reliable foster homes to take care of your pets. Others offer support on many levels, from financial to mental health resources. Rest assured, you and your pets have options.
Featured Image Credit: Drazen Zigic, Shutterstock