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Tails from the Front Line

Official Blog of Guardian Angels for Soldier's Pet

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Veteran

A Homeless Veteran and His Best Friend Zeus

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?

Zeus vet story 4
Zeus

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.”

It was Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet© (GAfSP) that had put Zeus up in the kennel until they could find a foster home for Zeus. While he was there, GAfSP paid not only for the boarding fee but they also paid for Zeus to be neutered and to have a microchip.

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.

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Clarence, Zeus and David

“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.

Zeus vet story
Gentry, Clarence and David at the Volunteers of America

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!

 

Article Written by Laurie Sickles

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Subaru “Share the Loved”

Cleo Bay Subaru located in Killeen, TX held a four day special event between December 10 and 13, 2014 in support of Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet as their local chosen charity during the Subaru “Share the Love” campaign across the country.  Thanks to everyone at Cleo Bay Subaru efforts, $1,350 was raised during the  December four day special event.  The monies received is allocated to the Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet “Warriors’ Angels” (WA) program toward the establishment of the program’s PTSD service dog teams’ training facility.

The WA Training Facility will be located at the organization’s property outside of Gatesville in Coryell County (approx 14 miles west of Fort Hood).  Per Linda Spurlin-Dominik, WA Program Director, “Thanks to Cleo Bay Subaru’s wonderful efforts brings us a littler closer to our goal toward purchasing the training facility building materials”.

The Warriors’ Angels program was implemented in San Antonio, TX on August 1, 2014 and we are now working to expand the program to Central TX for Fort Hood, Killeen, Temple, Belton, Waco, Austin, and other communities surrounding Fort Hood per Ms. Spurlin-Dominik.The Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet© Warriors’ Angels (WA) program was developed to support service members and veterans who have been medically diagnosed with “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” (PTSD) and official recommendation from their Primary Care Manager (PCM) to us has been received that an “Assistance Service Canine” (ACS) will help improve the service member/veteran’s quality of life.  Full details about the program are available at: http://guardianangelsforsoldierspet.org/warriors-angels-program/waoverview/

Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet© is a national ALL-volunteer 501(c)3 Military and Veteran Support Organization assisting active duty service members, wounded warriors, veterans, and their beloved companion animals or assistance service canines through various assistance programs.  These programs include: the Military and Veteran Pet Foster Home Program, Military Pet Assistance fund, and the Warriors’ Angels Program (TX only). Unless stated otherwise programs are available in all 50 states and all Branches of Service including National Guard and Reserves.  Learn more at www.guardianangelsforsoldierspet.org and at www.mvpsanctuary.org plus follow our story on our blog, https://tailsfromthefrontline.wordpress.com.  

Life with a Warriors’ Angels Service Dog… from a Soldier’s Perspective

Our life has always provided us with so many miracles. Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet and their Warriors’ Angels Program gave me a huge miracle. I’ve been waiting on a Service Dog for 6 years but my wife’s significant allergies have prevented any animals coming into the house. Cherie walked into our life with this adorable Goldendoodle puppy, Sophie. My wife is not allergic to her which is an amazing miracle in itself! I have fallen in love with this bundle of joy! Words alone cannot explain the changes wrought since she came into our lives.

Jim_Sophie_Nov2014-1I feel like a new parent talking about a new baby.   Sophie has the sweetest disposition I have ever seen in a dog.   She is friendly with a unique personality all her own. I rediscovered happiness in life spending time with her, playing “puppy” games and teaching her some basic tricks. Sophie is so smart and picks up on new situations with little or no prompting.

Sophie is so protective of both me and my wife, but she knows she is my dog and always keeps me as her primary focus.

Sophie wakes me up if I am having a nightmare. When I’m awake she stays very close to me and will lean up against me if I’m starting to escalate or lose control of my anger in order to soothe me. If her leaning isn’t enough, she will bark and demand to go outside, taking me on a walk until I calm down. It is incredible how she is able to sense my moods and emotions, defusing the anger until it is gone.

We have two feral cats, one several years old and another about 4-5 months old. Sophie has made them a part of her life. The older cat is stand-offish, but if we aren’t looking, she will play with Sophie. Road Rash (the kitten) & Kitty Girl (the oldest feral cat) play with Sophie when they are outside. Her other buddy is a dog named Tommy who lives behind us. They run back and forth along the fence playing. When we go outside and “visit” Sophie is friendly to everyone, including the mailman who likes her as well.

My wife has been there throughout my multiple deployments and has always been a blessing.  Sophie fills a need that another person cannot. We have bonded. Sophie never criticizes or scolds me. She is just there, understanding and caring. Sophie just wants attention from me. I know that I’m the only thing that matters to her. Sophie knows when to play and when to just sit near me. Her cold nose & unconditional love provides comfort on a level people cannot begin to understand.

Mere words cannot express my gratitude for the gift of Sophie. She has done so much to erase my depression, defuse my angry outbursts, and verbal assaults.   She is there when I lose my sense of direction or my frustration over things I cannot control.   And my wife is not allergic to her!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Jim G. US Army, Retired

So, how can you get involved with the Warriors’ Angels Program?  It’s easy!  You can donate (Sponsorships & Support Levels), Volunteer, Spread the Word or Host 3rd Party Fundraiser.

For more details and questions, please email waap@guardianangelsforsoldierspet.org.

Originally posted in our December 2014 newsletter.

We Need Your Help: Military Pet Assistance Fund

Please share this with your family, friends, co-workers, and any one else you feel would be interested in helping.

Due to helping our homeless veterans with their pets related to veterinary care (spay/neuter, bring shots current, and micro-chipping) plus temporary boarding (foster care needed before we can get pet into a specific registered foster home in our network) up to 14 days, we need your help to replenish the “Military Pet Assistance” (MPA).

Since January 1, 2014 we have helped our service members and veterans with beloved pets through the fund in the amount of $1,852.14 involving both veterinary care and temp boarding for 4 beloved pets. Average expenditures per a Homeless veteran’s pet is $1,000 (minimum $400-$500 for vet care and minimum of $500-$600 for temp boarding).

Our goal between May 1, 2014 and June 14, 2014 is to raise $3,000 for the MPA fund.

As more of our Homeless veterans seek a hand up via a VA and/or VA approved “Homeless Transition” program, our ability to assist them with their pets involving veterinary care and temp boarding increases and we can only help them with your help.

As of April 28, 2014, we have received calls from VA case workers in the states of CO, CA, VA, and MD with Homeless Veteran cases where the veteran has a 1-2 pets needing our assistance via the both our Foster Home and MPA Fund programs over during the month of May while they are receiving a “hand up” via Homeless Transition programs across the country. Please note these expenditures are paid directly to a service provider providing vet care and boarding services. We do not nor are able to send these funds directly to a service member or veteran at any time.

For those able to help replenish the MPA fund, contributions can be made as follows:

Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet MPA fund 9725 FM 1783 Gatesville, TX 76528-4931

Thank you for your assistance and support!

Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet Celebrates its Ninth Anniversary and Enters Into Its Tenth Year of Operations

Gatesville, TX, January 26, 2014 – Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet© proudly announce that the organization is celebrating its ninth anniversary and entering into their tenth year of operations. Linda Spurlin-Dominik and Carol Olmedo in the state of Arkansas with one simple goal founded the organization on January 26, 2005; to support of our deploying military and their companion animals. Since then, we have had many milestones, including:

  • growing to a national 501c3 non-profit in all 50 states,
  • establishing our Military and Veteran Pet Foster Home (MVPFH) program in January 2005,
  • announcing plans for the MVP Sanctuary project in January 2007,
  • establishing our Military Pet Assistance (MPA) fund in February 2008,
  • purchasing 13 acres of land in Coryell County TX (outside Gatesville) in June 2010,
  • moving our National office and day-to-day operations from Hot Springs, AR to Gatesville, TX in August 2010,
  • purchasing an additional 1.75 acres of land in Gatesville, TX to provide additional land to support our military and veterans in June 2012,
  • establishing our volunteer Regional and State level support teams,
  • establishing our Warriors’ Angels (WA) program in SW Missouri in 2013 with plans to implement the program in TX (in and around San Antonio area initially) in January 2014,
  • changing our MVP Sanctuary project to a nonprofit public charity corporation in July 2013,
  • reuniting 550+ companion animals with their Military Service Members, Veteran or Wounded Warriors owners, and
  • developing a network of potential foster homes across the country.

As the organization moves into it’s tenth year of operations, we wish to thank those who have supported us, look forward to continue growing our programs and affiliate organizations and being their to support our military service members, veterans, wounded warriors, and their companion/service animals.

About Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet©:

An ALL volunteer 501c3 Military and Veterans Support Organization supporting our active duty military, wounded warriors, veterans, and their beloved companion animals with programs to ensure these beloved pets are reunited with their owners following a deployment (combat or peacekeeping or humanitarian mission) and/or an unforeseen medical and/or homeless hardship. Also supporting our service members and veterans diagnosed with PTSD needing a specially trained assistance canine enhancing the service member/veteran’s quality of life.

Learn more at www.guardianangelsforsoldierspet.org and follow our story on our blog, https://tailsfromthefrontline.wordpress.com.

Media Inquiries: media@guardianangelsforsoldierspet.org

Two Days Left in 2013…

Like many other 501(c)3 nonprofits, we depend on the generosity of our supporters to keep the doors open to provide our programs to our Soldiers, Veterans, Wounded Warriors, and their pets.

So before 2013 ends, we ask that you consider making a donation to financially support one of our programs.

Our Programs Include:

Donations made to Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet (Fed Tax ID: 20-2229425) are tax deductible as defined under section 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) of the Internal Revenue Code and specific tax deductible related questions should be discussed with your personal tax advisor.

Our Affiliates include:

Even if you can’t give, we ask that you check out our website to learn about our Allocation of Donations.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for helping to keep programs going for our military and their pets.

Wishing you a Happy and Safe New Year’s!

Foster Homes Needed: Hawaii

Cat friendly foster homes are needed in or near Miliani, Hawaii. If interested please submit foster home required information by visiting our website.

Foster term approx 6-12 months beginning in February 2014.

Once your application is received, a state volunteer will provide more detail about the specific needs in your area.

It’s the End of the Year…

and we need your help.  Like many other 501(c)3 nonprofits, we depend on the generosity of our supporters to keep the doors open to provide our programs to our Soldiers, Veterans, Wounded Warriors, and their pets.

So this holiday season, we ask that you consider making a donation to financially support one of our programs.

Our Programs Include:

Donations made to Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet (Fed Tax ID: 20-2229425) are tax deductible as defined under section 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) of the Internal Revenue Code and specific tax deductible related questions should be discussed with your personal tax advisor.

Our Affiliates include:

Even if you can’t give, we ask that you check out our website to learn about our Allocation of Donations.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for helping to keep programs going for our military and their pets.

Foster Homes Needed: Pennsylvania

Dog friendly foster homes are needed in Pennsylvania. If interested please submit foster home required information by visiting our website.

Foster term approx 3-6 months beginning in December 2013.

Once your application is received, a state volunteer will provide more detail about the specific needs in your area.

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