Caring for a Soldier's Pet
What happens to the pet of a deployed member of the military? One group came to the rescue of these furry friends.
Melba Newsome, Contributor
Articles> Becoming a Pet Owner> Caring for a Soldier's Pet
soldier hugging dog

Major Randall G. Baucom was coping with a divorce and the death of his mother when his deployment to Iraq came up in 2006. He couldn't bear losing his two dogs, Buster and Little Girl, but didn't see any other option.

What happens to a servicemember's four-legged friend when he or she is deployed? Some are lucky enough to have a family or friend take custody for a year. But for many pets, there is no one able or willing to take them in while their owners are serving. As a result, many end up in animal shelters or with the local humane society and the servicemember ends up losing a companion.

That sad reality prompted Linda Spurlin-Dominik and Carol Olmedo to start Guardian Angels for Soldiers' Pets (GASP), a nationwide network of volunteers who provide a foster home for pets of the deployed.

It all started in January, 2005 when Spurlin-Dominik saw a posting on a military-support message board about a deploying servicemember who didn't know what to do with his dog, Scooby Doo. Because he had no friends or family who could step in, the soldier's only option was to relinquish his dog to a shelter and hope that they were able to find a permanent home for him. He knew that euthanization was a real possibility. Spurlin-Dominik believed that there were members of the military across the country in similar situations and wanted to find a way to help. GASP was her solution.

"These pets belong mainly to couples who are being deployed at once and single owners who are in the military," she says. "Of course, parents or other relatives will take in their children. But pets are often another story. This is a way to find these pets a good home until they can be reunited with their owners." (Read about the military's Family Care Plan to ensure children are cared for during a parent's deployment.)

The first animal officially fostered through GASP was a Chihuahua named Johnny Cash from Fort Hood, Texas. More than six years since its founding, Guardian Angels for Soldier's Pet oversees a national network of about 2,600 potential foster homes willing to care for the pets of active-duty troops, Guardsmen and reservists during deployment. The non-profit is managed by national and state management volunteer teams across the country. (Apply to foster a military pet.)

"We do not charge the military or veteran pet owner a fee for our services nor do we ask them for donations in order to provide these services," says Spurlin-Dominik. "The only thing we ask is the pet owner be responsible for costs related to their pets' care."

To date, GASP has played matchmaker for more than 300 military families nationwide with people willing to take the pets into their homes.

Barbara Lawrence, a retired doctor and animal lover, became a foster pet parent to two large dogs when a military mom was left behind with a young child and another on the way while her husband was deployed. She quickly grew overwhelmed and moved in with her parents temporarily. But she needed a place for their large two dogs. The family had almost resigned themselves to giving up their dogs when Lawrence agreed to foster them on her 3-acre Aledo, Texas farm for a year.

As for Major Baucom, Guardian Angels was able to find a foster family to care for Buster and Little Girl during his 15 month tour of duty.

"Members of the military are putting themselves in a position that could force them to face the ultimate sacrifice and they shouldn't have to give up their pets, too," says Spurlin-Dominik.

>    Search our selection of local pet sitters near you.

>    Read more about care resources for military families.

>    Learn the 10 things to do before deployment.

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(16) Comments
Denise
Denise
This is an amazing service but is it only offered to soldiers who are deployed? I live in Boston with my 3 children and BF. He left to Fort Jackson on Feb.17th. for 6 months for basic and job training. We have a 2 year old Rottweiler who is a sweetheart and 3 days before J left my landlady told me I have to get rid of our pup. This was devastating because we have no one who can take him for us and I do not want to take him to MSPCA because they will destroy him. I need the opportunity to have him cared for so that I can find us a new place and be reunited with both Bane (our puppy) and J our soldier. Any advice or recommendations is greatly appreciated!!
February 19, 2015 at 8:43 PM
America G.
America G.
i am willing to help you out! my dad is in the Navy and not being able to see him for long periods of time is terrifying i know how it feels when he arrives at home, and knowing that your pet will feel the same way seeing you walk threw that front door will be an unforgetable memory and i will be glad and honored to help you cherish that moment between you and your pet:)
June 23, 2014 at 9:59 PM
Ronnie H.
Ronnie H.
I've been the foster mommy to my daughters beloved cat for the past 3 years.It is very rewarding experience.I was going to fly him to her present base in Wash.However, she goes back to Afghanistan the first of the year.So I get to love on him for another year.
September 20, 2013 at 9:52 PM
Ann F.
Ann F.
I am looking for loving home for my 10yr. old shephard mix. updated w/ all shots and vac.under employed and can't find housing for both of us.
August 16, 2012 at 2:23 PM
marilyn
marilyn
Hi i live in queens or brooklyn nyc if theres any dogs where i live to work am willing to help and work i feed theme play walk and for soldiers services i could watch there loving dogs while they go back to there services.
August 1, 2012 at 8:49 PM
Penny C.
Penny C.
Great idea! I am scrolling now to find out how to share this with FB friends.
June 30, 2012 at 5:46 PM
Ruby V.
Ruby V.
I live in Cleburne Texas. If there are any pets near me I will be willing to help.!
April 2, 2012 at 6:53 PM
Glenda M.
Glenda M.
how can i find out if their are any animals in my area
March 23, 2012 at 1:16 AM
Dorothy H.
Dorothy H.
That's good there is a good group like GASP to help servicemembers when they are deployed for their animals so they can be cared for during their deployment and reunited with their pets when their deployment ends.
March 20, 2012 at 4:43 PM
Rachael C.
Rachael C.
I would love to help! My sister is in the Army and I write to service men and women, and I would love to support them in any other way possible
January 4, 2012 at 1:51 PM
Kaitlyn F.
Kaitlyn F.
This is an amazing story =) If I didn't live at home with my parents, and have a full house already I would love to help. Once i'm out on my own though, this will be something I will be doing.
December 10, 2011 at 7:57 AM
Jeffrey P.
Jeffrey P.
Oh god this is the greatest example of compassion towards the welfare of pets I have come across. Not only that its a great focus point in lowering the total of pets relinquished to shelters, or the streets. I am sure a large proportion of dogs whom end up in the shelters are victims of this sad twist involved in working in the service. Are troops already have to sacrifice so much for are national security, its just barbaric to force them to give up even there most loyal friends. Bravo GASP
October 28, 2011 at 12:08 PM
Kimberly F.
Kimberly F.
IAM CRAZY ABOUT PETS DOGS I WOULD LIKE TO HELP YOU OUT
October 26, 2011 at 9:43 PM
Holly B.
Holly B.
This brought tears to my eyes. I would be more than happy to help any member of the service. I have family in the service and understand what deployment does to family. I understand the healing benefits of dogs, too. Theses troops need these dogs now more than ever.
October 22, 2011 at 9:34 AM
Lindsay B.
Lindsay B.
anyone fighting for this country i will most defiantly help you baby sit your best friend
October 12, 2011 at 8:40 PM
Tara H.
Tara H.
i would love to help you
September 13, 2011 at 7:51 PM

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