It’s goodbye again.
Today, for the fifth and final time I said goodbye to Deycon, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, whom I have fostered on and off for the last four years. He was the first of a few foster pups who have come to me through Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet back in August of 2010 when Mom and Dad were both deploying and needed a place for this gentle giant. Though he officially became a “Mission Accomplished” foster in 2011, he has come back to me every few months ever since.
Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet has allowed me an opportunity to give at least four military families peace of mind while serving our country and thus enriched my life beyond measure. I’ve made lifelong friends along the way and can’t imagine not continuing to volunteer. I began this incredible journey some years ago when my Navy daughter had to give up her three cats the day she deployed. Violently allergic to their dander, I could not take them for her. It tore me apart as a mother to see her tortured face and hear her weep for her kitties. That was the moment I promised that no military member would go through that if I could help it. We didn’t know about Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet at the time and like so many military members, she never heard about her beloved furry family members again. Two years later, I discovered this organization and meeting my first foster dog gave me to opportunity to keep the promise I made that day.
This colossal puppy, Deycon (pronounced as deacon) took to my family as quickly as we took to him. He and my grandson, DJ, have been almost constant companions since the day they met. DJ doesn’t call the big guy by his given, he calls him “Deyconbuddy.” One of their first pictures was my little man using Deycon as a pillow, another shows his canine pal comforting him and today they said goodbye.
Deycon has been a family member, protector, life saver and best friend. Together we have traveled around the three surrounding counties talking about Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet to spread the word as much as we can. He has made an awesome ambassador.
I work in a facility for troubled adolescents where Deycon and his (not so) little sister, Dakota, have accompanied me on a few occasions. He has gotten into his share of fixes and helped me out of mine from time to time. He has endured being dressed up for holidays and even accompanied DJ for Halloween a few times since his first year, although he has refused to wear a costume. There are times when I could see by the look on his face that he was only tolerating us and our whimsy but loves us just the same. In the years since I first met this enormous boy, his family has grown. My family has grown by the addition of him and of his family.
It’s been truly heartbreaking each time I send him home. Watching this teddy bear and his rambunctious sister bound away from me and toward their mom and dad is one of the most satisfying and painful feelings I’ve ever had. Up until today, I’ve known that sooner or later one or both of these loving furbabies will be back for a vacation or to wait for Santa Paws for a short training or deployment period. Someone once described me jokingly as a horrible foster mom: “You only lend Deycon and Dakota to their parents!” That’s because our lives have become inextricably entwined and my home is also their home.
Our adventure went on for far longer than we had expected but I wouldn’t change a minute. I laugh when his parents and their families thank me. It is I who should thank them; thank them for their service, for this opportunity and for letting me get to know their puppies and allowing me to fulfill a promise I made to three cats years ago.
I’ve said good-bye at least four times already but this morning though was a little different. Deycon and Dakota have been with me for well over a year while their folks have been in flux. Their parents had been waiting for a reassignment that has finally come to fruition. Dakota left with her dad last week for his voyage south and a few hours ago I hugged Deycon for the last time. His mom picked him up at the halfway point between our homes on the first leg of her excursion to a new assignment in a southern state too far away for return visits.
I didn’t think I’d be as distressed as I am. I was tearful for 200 miles this morning and am still a little now. I will miss those two pups and miss them a lot! They’ve become as much a part of my family as of their own. However, this is what our program is all about. Deycon and Dakota and hundreds of other military furbabies were cared for, housed, transported, loved, and sent back all across this nation to Military moms and dads who have given so much of their lives to us.
Though I will always care about these canine kiddies, they are where they belong: home and that was the whole point. So, tonight I’ll cry a little more, go through our pictures and probably find toys and bones for weeks to come. I’ll shut down his Facebook page and file away these magnificent memories, antics and tears and then smile, grateful for this quest.
Today closes a long, long chapter on one hand but on the other opens a new one and gives me the chance to thank another military family by taking care of their furchild. As I’ve said before, I’ll take down the “No Vacancy” sign outside my front door and let my state coordinator know that I’m available for another placement, another opportunity to love a pup and eventually feel a little sorrow and heartbreak when it’s over. Honestly? I can’t wait!!
-Written by Eileen, Foster Mom in New York