ALL volunteer 501c3 nonprofit “Military & Veterans Service Organization” (MVSO) supporting our active duty Military, Wounded Warriors, homeless Veterans, and their beloved Pets to ensure the pets are reunited with their owners following a deployment related to a combat or peace-keeping or humanitarian mission or unforeseen medical and/or homeless hardship situation through various programs/services/projects. For more information on providing a foster home, becoming a volunteer, or making a donation to Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet, please visit www.guardianangelsforsoldierspet.org or http://www.mvpsanctuary.org.
Put on your party hats and bring out the birthday cake, it’s time to celebrate! We would like to wish a very HappyBirthday to the following volunteers who celebrate a birthday in the month of December:
Kristen L.,Blog Editor (December 1)
Victoria S.,Northeast Director (December 31)
May all your birthday wishes come true!
Thank you for everything you do and hope you have a wonderful day!
“Let it be known that the accompanying flag was flown in the face of the enemy over Camp Dwyer in the Helman Province of Afghanistan on 8 April 2011 in honor of Kim and Tim.”
Captain Dave, a Chaplin in the Navy, presented the flag pictured above to Kim and Tim to show them just how much it meant to him for them to foster his beloved dog Rye. A certificate accompanied the flag, part of which is quoted above. Usually these flags are reserved for close friends and family members yet Captain Dave flew this flag in Kim and Tim’s honor even though he had never met them.
According to Kim, “People are always saying, ‘I want to support our troops’ and this is a real tangible way to see it right in front of you how you’re helping.” She went on to say, “On our end it doesn’t seem like that much of an effort but on their end they’re so thankful.”
Tim and Kim haven’t always had the traditional foster experience. Of the 8 families that they’ve helped in 5 years they’ve only had 2 meet and greets. They’ve taken in dogs that didn’t work out in other homes, dogs that, because of their breed nobody else wanted to foster and last minute emergency placements. They’ve never refused a dog and for GAfSP that’s a Godsend!
Miles was the next dog that Tim and Kim fostered and being a Husky many people didn’t want to take him in. His dad, Petty Officer 1st class, Jamaine, a Navy EAG (Weatherman) who was being deployed to the Middle East for 9 months was a little weary about who would be fostering his baby while he was gone. In fact Jamaine had checked out other places that foster military member’s dogs and he wasn’t happy with any of them, then he found Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet. A meet and greet was set up and Jamaine felt a weight lifted off his shoulders after meeting with Tim, Kim and their dogs.
“They were enthusiastic about even taking my dog and they didn’t know me, they didn’t know my dog.” Still he said, “In the beginning it’s hard. I love my dog tremendously. He’s like my best friend. Like all parents you always have the thought in the back of your mind that I hope he’s okay, I hope nothing happens.” About 2 weeks into his deployment Jamaine received a letter with pictures enclosed and that again put his mind at ease.
“They went above and beyond to keep me informed, even to reach out to me to make sure that I was okay. I was confident that he (Miles) was in good hands after that first letter.”
Each person Kim has fostered for always had the same concern. “When they’re gonna be deployed for 6, 9, 12 months they always ask, ‘Do you think they’re going to remember me?’ and I always tell them. ‘I promise they’re going to remember you.’”
Kim, always thinking of ways to put the dog owners at ease, began to create Facebook pages for each dog. When I asked her what she posts she told me, “I try to be silly and kind of a theme of what’s going on.”
For Christmas Kim tried to have Miles wear a santa hat but since he refused on the grounds of looking stupid she put it on Dakota instead.
One of her most popular Facebook pages is called “The Adventures of Mr. Tyson”. Tyson, an American Bulldog, is a regular at Kim and Tim’s Doggie Inn. His dad, Carl, a Naval Flight Officer, had to travel frequently for a few a few weeks at a time to a training facility so Tyson would go to his home away from home. Carl is now deployed so Tyson is on an extended stay at the Inn.
Tyson is happy to dress up for his dad and anybody else who enjoys checking out his exploits on his Facebook page. During one deployment Kim actually had a family member buy a Michigan University t-shirt for Tyson to wear because his dad is an alumni. Being football season Kim and Tim wanted his dad to know that Tyson was cheering the Wolverines on for him in his absence.
For Jamaine, Miles’ Facebook page meant the world to him. “It was very important…I’m a little choked up by it cause I’m just thinking of all the stuff that happened over there on that deployment and how a friendship and a bond was built just off of watching a dog to what it is now.” (The friendship).
Kim put it this way. “Like I said they truly do become like family.” Besides visiting with Father Dave in New York Kim and Tim have gone camping in the Sierra’s with Jamaine and Miles. She also said, “We have little mini dog reunions.”
To date Kim and Tim have fostered: Rye, Miles, Jessie, Bella, Ranger, Tyson, Ninia, Bronx and Chief. Many of the foster dog visits have over lapped making sure that Kim and Tim’s doggie inn stays full. (They have 3 dogs of their own.) “Our 3 dogs have been very welcoming and thankfully the foster dogs have been just as welcoming of each other.”
I asked Kim if it was ever hard when it came time to give any of the dogs back. “I think the first one Rye, just because it was our first time and I wasn’t really prepared and I knew they were going to be moving back to New York so I might not ever be seeing him again. So I think I remember crying the whole day.”
She needn’t have worried though since upon his return Tim and Kim became good friends with Father Dave and have even vacationed with him. When they visited Father Dave in Buffalo, New York he told me, “As soon as Rye heard her voice he was all over her.”
Still it’s not the same greeting that the dog’s parents get upon their return home. When asked how Rye reacted to seeing him he said, “It was great. He actually stole my marine corp hat. As soon as I got in the door he knocked me down and took the hat and tore it to shreds didn’t you? He still has that hat.” I could tell just how much Rye means to Father Dave because he kept talking to the dog during our interview. Somehow I think Rye understood what he was saying.
Kim admits “You think the dogs are very happy around you playing and stuff, but there’s like a whole other level when they see their mom or dad when they get home. It’s like ‘see ya, thank you’.”
Besides giving the dogs a happy home while their parents are away Kim and Tim make sure that the service members return home is a special one. They have signs made and bring the dog out from behind the house for the reunion. All the while they have a camera ready to capture the joyous occasion.
Some of the military pet parents have done special things for Kim and Tim, although it certainly isn’t necessary or expected.
“Miles’ dad invited us to sail with him on the last leg of their tour on the USS Stennis. We got to ride on the aircraft carrier pulling into Bremerton.”
Another special surprise was when Tyson’s dad, Carl, brought his mom to visit. “His mom came out this summer and he even brought his mom over to meet us and his mom just lost it. She started crying and thanking us for giving her son peace of mind. I met her and then I had to go to work and I looked like crap because I’m all puffy eyed and like darn it I wasn’t going to cry and then you cry.”
Kim and Tim feel honored to be able to help out members of the military in a way that is special to them. And the best part is seeing the reactions of the pet owner when they are reunited with their pet.
Jamiaine; “Coming back it was like getting my child back after being gone so long. They had a banner with welcome home Dad, that was great and then to get my companion back was emotional. I was happy.”
As for his feeling for Kim and Tim? “We have a friendship but I respect them so much above that it’s hard…for me it’s hard to put into words how much I appreciate and adore and respect and admire them for the work they do, for the contributions they make. Even keeping in contact with me to make sure that I’m okay is something that I didn’t expect. I’ve grown to respect and love them as if they’re my family. I’d like to thank Guardian Angels just for building an organization like this because military people are concerned with where their pets are gonna be and how their gonna be taken care of.”
Father Dave shares Jamaine’s sentiments. “I’ve very grateful for what they did. It was wonderful for them to volunteer to do that and it certainly took a load off my mind that I didn’t have to worry about the dog being cared for.” As for Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet? “It’s a great organization, you know I don’t know what I would have done without them.”
Kim and Tim said they will continue to foster dogs as long as there is a need. “Just giving them their peace of mind…it’s a good feeling.”
I’d like to thank Kim and Tim on behalf of Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet for opening their home to so many dogs and for going above and beyond to put each service member’s mind at ease while they are fighting for our freedom!
I’d also like to congratulate them on their 5th anniversary with Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet. November 20th, 2010 was the day that Rye arrived as their first foster dog.
How many of you adore your dog and treat him as if he were your child? I know I do. I talk to him, I feed him, I walk him, I hug him and I generally spoil him rotten. In return he follows me wherever I go, he licks my face, sleeps next to me, protects me and loves me unconditionally.
Now imagine that you have to decide whether to give your dog up or become homeless to keep him? How many of you would choose homelessness?
For veteran Airman, Clarence, the answer was clear. Go homeless. He would not leave Zeus behind no matter what. “We’d been together for 8 or 9 years and basically he’s the only friend I got.”
Clarence had fallen on hard times after being injured on the job as a corrections officer. “I got injured in Lebanon prison. I was a CO (corrections officer) up there for a couple of years and I got into a fight in a phone booth with an inmate. And what happened when I came out? I got two vertebrae’s touching a nerve and I got another chipped vertebrae.”
Despite being unable to return to work Clarence was denied disability. “If I get in an accident or if I slip and fall I could be paralyzed for the rest of my life.”
After losing most of his income Clarence moved in with his sister for a short time, but she wasn’t allowed to have dogs in her apartment so he eventually got kicked out. “We stayed down the street in an open field in a tent for a couple of days.”
Clarence had been working with Gentry, a case worker with the Veteran’s Affairs office so he gave him a call. “I told him what was going on and he hooked me up with you and Martha and a few other people. And we put him (Zeus) in a kennel for a while.”
Victoria S., the Northeast Regional Director, put Jamie M., the Pennsylvania Foster Coordination Liaison in charge of finding Zeus a foster home. According to Jamie, “It was fairly urgent that we got him (Zeus) out of there just for the cost and for Zeus’s well-being. Unfortunately Clarence thought Zeus needed to be an only pet so that limited our search. It was even harder in that a lot of people shy away from Akitas.”
And so the search began. “So I called I think every single person in the Ohio workbook. I reached out to VA’s I reached out to VFW’s American Legion, you know, all types of veteran organizations in Ohio. I sent out flyers.” Jamie got a couple of responses but each family already had other pets. “I opened up the search to Pennsylvania as well as New Jersey and I thought that if we found the perfect place we’d figure out how to get Zeus to his home.”
According to Jamie, “It wasn’t just me. I had an army of people.” Some of those most involved include Liz D., the New York Foster Coordination Liaison, Victoria S., the Northeast Regional Director, Jamie even recruited her mom and dad into helping.
Putting the word out finally paid off when a friend of Jamie’s recommended a friend of his who was a veteran himself who loved dogs. Thinking this was the ideal solution Jaime sent her husband, David, to Dayton, Ohio, to pick up Zeus while she went to do a home visit. What she discovered was shocking. “It turned out that he was a hoarder and there was not even one path through his rooms, he lived alone and things just unfortunately got out of hand. So I was panicking. I would not leave my dog there; it was dangerous. It was dangerous even for him (the hoarder) and I didn’t feel comfortable.”
Meanwhile David was almost to Columbus and thankfully Jamie’s father lived there so David was able to put his trip on hold and stay the night in Columbus. Once again Jamie was in a panic. “I called everybody I knew, every single dog person I knew…got the word out there because we needed a home right away.” Luckily Jamie found a woman in New Jersey who had just signed up to be a foster and although she wasn’t 100% comfortable at first knowing that Zeus was such a large dog, she finally came around when Jamie explained that Zeus was an older dog and he was a big teddy bear and a couch potato. For the first time in a long time Jamie was finally able to sleep easy without worrying about where Zeus would go.
“So I called my husband and said instead of coming back home with him you’re going to Cape May, New Jersey with Zeus. He said yup that’s fine.” About an hour later disaster would strike once again. “Like an hour later I get a call from the woman in Cape May in tears.” It turns out she lives in a community where they can’t have dogs that weigh over 50 pounds. “So at that point we’re back to square one and Zeus is in the truck.”
Jamie immediately began calling more people in her Pennsylvania workbook including calling people that had pets. With little hope of finding a home that would work, Jamie made one more call to a woman named Martha. “She’s a brilliant doctor that does a lot of volunteering with different humane societies and her local shelters. She has horses and goats and dogs and cats and I said no way it’s gonna work there and she said yea drop him off it’s fine. She (Martha) just stepped up, like there was no thought involved. I told her this whole desperate story and she was like yea drop him off, no big deal. Like “well” you don’t understand he’s an Akita. Yea that’s fine. You don’t understand he’s 8 and he doesn’t get along with anybody. Yup that’ll work.” So once again Jamie called her husband and had him change directions. He was now headed away from New Jersey and toward Pennsylvania.
Zeus finally arrived at his new foster home and the big test was going to be seeing how he would get along with all of the various animals that lived on Martha’s farm. As Martha so eloquently put it, “I knew it was a big risk because I didn’t know anything about this dog because he’s big and potentially he could have eaten me and eaten everybody else here but he was a lovely dog.” (I have to say I was relieved to hear that Zeus didn’t eat anybody or any of the animals at Martha’s farm!)
Back in Dayton, Clarence tried not to worry about Zeus as he moved into transitional housing at Volunteers of America. He was working at Kroger as a greeter and saving up money so that he could get back into an apartment or house where he could keep Zeus. He would periodically make calls to Martha to check on Zeus and they would exchange emails, but he said it was emotionally difficult to have Zeus so far away.
But despite missing Zeus, Clarence needn’t have worried about Zeus’s care. Martha was making sure that all of his veterinary needs were taken care of and he had plenty of pals to play with. “He (Zeus) and the goat and sheep played a lot. The sheep and goat would chase him and then he’d chase them.” Zeus was also a gentleman when it came to the chickens, horses, cats and other dogs. According to Martha, “He was probably the best trained dog that I’ve ever had. So even though he was huge he was very nice which made it much easier.”
Jamie also stayed in contact with Martha and made sure to send her heart-worm and any other supplies she needed.
What was originally supposed to be a 4 month stay turned into 10 months. But eventually the day came to take Zeus back home and Jamie was determined to get him there. “So finally when he got an apartment, I thought, whatever we need to do to get Zeus back home let’s do it and Martha’s like I’ll drive him out, no big deal. And she did. She drove him 5 hours one way and met him, did the whole reunion thing, drove back all in one day. She is awesome.”
Martha told me that she wanted to drive Zeus home. She wanted to meet Clarence and let him know about some health issues that he (Zeus) developed and make sure he had food and any other items he might need.
When she arrived she said, “I was like totally excited and just almost in tears when I saw he had a lovely quiet little cottage with a little nice yard around it and trees and, oh my gosh, Clarence is a wonderful man, beautiful man.”
When Zeus got out of the car Martha said, “He just jumped on Clarence’s shoulders, put his paws up there and danced around at his feet!” After that she jokingly said he was so excited he had to stop and do his business! Clarence described his reunion like this. “I thought it was great! A week later I became a granddad for the first time and it’s kind of like the same experience.”
Martha and Clarence both experienced something special from this arrangement. Clarence said of Martha, “Can’t ask for a better friend and I just don’t really know why people do things for you like that; it’s just amazing.”
But Martha shared a mutual respect for Clarence. “He’s a real gentleman, nice guy, and I really was just amazed and thankful that everything’s gonna…I think he’ll be okay.”
As for Jamie, she still keeps in touch with Clarence to make sure he’s doing well. She has even helped Clarence with some vet bills for Zeus when he didn’t have the money because he’d just paid his rent. She told Clarence, “I don’t want you to have to worry about giving him up again because of some silly $200.00 thing.” She added, “It’s Clarence’s dog, he’s had him since he was a puppy. They need each other at this point.”
Clarence says he will be forever grateful to Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet, Martha and Jamie. “It kept me from losing him (Zeus) and we reunited and I’m passing the word on to other people at the VA.”
I would like to personally congratulate Jamie, her husband David, Victoria, Liz and all of those who assisted Jamie in getting the word out, Martha and Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet for a job well done and giving Airman Clarence and Zeus their happily ever after!
And to Clarence, God bless you for serving our great country!
Airman Mary was based out of New Jersey so I began calling all of the foster homes listed in New Jersey whose circumstances seemed to be compatible with caring for Tully and Kona. Hours went by, my fingers were sore from dialing the phone, my ear was numb from having the phone pressed so tightly against my head and I was going cross-eyed trying to read each number that I dialed. After two days of frantically making calls I was in full panic mode! And that’s where the beauty of working for such a great organization as GAfSP comes in. I reached out for help and people came running. I was thrown a life preserver from two wonderful women. Victoria S., Northeast Region Director and Jaime M., Foster Home Coordinator for Pennsylvania. With their help I was able to keep afloat while continuing my search. I never did find anybody in New Jersey to foster Tully and Kona. But since Mary’s base was close to Pennsylvania I was able to begin dialing away on the Pennsylvania foster home list provided to me by Jaime. With so many more possibilities I once again believed that this would be an easy task. But Noooo. As my grip began to slip off of the life preserver and I was starting to drown I got another small life line. It was suggested that I send out an urgent, mass e-mail to foster homes in both states. It was a pain staking process because I had to manually copy and paste each e-mail address from the state lists that had been compiled over time. But once I was finished I sent out the e-mail and then all I could do was pray! Finally I was sent a giant life boat! Not one of the approved foster homes stepped forward but some kind soul did forward my e-mail message to a friend and that woman e-mailed me saying she wanted to help. I wanted to jump through the phone and hug her when I called to talk to her. She would have to be rushed through the screening process and approved at warp speed. (Thank you Linda and Jaime.) Once again members of GAfSP stepped up to the plate and made sure that our new recruit got approval just in time for her to meet up with Mary, Kona and Tully. The Guardian Angels were watching over Mary and her dogs that day because the home was a perfect fit for Kona and Tully. Mary loved the woman who had so graciously opened her doors to care for her furbabies and the woman loved Tully and Kona and felt blessed to be able to help out someone who was serving our great country. This for me was the gratification I was seeking. Despite getting drenched, in the long run, my efforts paid off and I felt a tremendous sense of satisfaction that I too had helped out a person serving our country.
Many more Foster Home Coordinators are still needed! Please check out the states that have been defined as needing help the most.
Note: Airman’s name has been changed due to OPSEC guidelines.