The organization could not function without volunteers. Many volunteer for a personal connection with our troops, some do it because of their love of animals and some just want to give back. Below is one story about why one foster mom opened her heart and home to care for a deployed soldier’s pet.
I remember clearly the day my daughter, a Navy Corpsman stationed in Virginia, announced she would be deployed to Kuwait. She was excited and troubled at the same time. I was as filled with pride and worry as any mom would be. I am her family contingency plan, so there was no question that her son DJ, a young toddler at the time, would come to stay with me.
“Mom, what do I do with my other children? Where are they going to go?” That question hung in the air with a heavy silence. She also had 3 cats that could not come to me. I am violently allergic and have a hard time staying in the same room as a feline friend, let alone living with them. It tore at my heart because I had no answer.
As deployment time approached, I drove the 400 miles to her home and helped her close her home. Furniture went to storage, clothes were packed and the baby’s crib was shipped to my house in New York. On the third of my 5 days with her, I walked into her home to find her sitting with her head in her hands, crying and shaking, distraught and torn.
“Mom! No one can take them. Not together or apart, not permanently or temporarily!! I’m leaving in two days and I have to bring them to a shelter! What am I going to do?” I couldn’t speak, I didn’t breathe for a few seconds. There was nothing I could do for her.
She had spent weeks calling friends, posting internet notices and asking neighbors and fellow Navy personnel for help. That day I also spent hours on the phone trying to find a home for them, offered bribes and room and board, but it didn’t happen. The day before her deployment, we drove to a local shelter and she surrendered her babies. The blank stare and empty look in her eyes ripped my heart out. I am her mother and there was nothing I could do to ease her pain. Eventually her cats were sent to separate homes and we never heard about them again.
We stayed in a hotel that night and I heard her crying and telling the kitties she was sorry.
When I left the next morning, she kissed her son, cuddled him and promised to write and keep in touch. She said, “I love you, mom. I’m sorry, I kept you awake.” In my soul, I know it was easier for her to hand her son to me, than it was to let those cats go. She was sacrificing her home life, watching her son’s first steps and her comfort, an putting her life on the line. To have to give up members of her family was just plain unacceptable.
After giving their promise to this country to protect and defend us, no military family should have that horrible look on their face when they already have so much on their minds. I wish I had known about Guardian Angels for Soldiers Pets back then…
– Written by Eileen, current Foster Mom in New York.