Soldier's often have to give up pets to go to war

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Soldier's often have to give up pets to go to war

Updated May 6, 2009

Pets often relinquished during times of war.
Pets are often relinquished during times of war.

Allow me to introduce you to Max. Max is a seven-year-old Golden Retriever with a sturdy frame, a bright orange coat, and just a touch of gray around his muzzle, the only hint of his advancing age. A soldier being deployed to the middle east had brought Max to the Humane Society because he didn’t have any family or friends who could care for him while he was gone. The soldier didn’t know how long he would be gone or when he would return. He didn’t know what he could do to ensure that Max would be well cared for and loved in his absence. He thought the shelter could help.

The realization that Max would not be home when he returned probably hadn’t hit him yet. His first concern was finding Max a new home. He had run out of options and was letting go of the leash that held his best friend close to him for so many years. The man could hardly speak, visibly shaken as he turned to leave. Trained to handle the most difficult of circumstances, the solider was reduced to tears over the loss of his best friend.

Sitting patiently, waiting for the familiar call of “come Max,” the dog watched the closing door and then looked up at the new person holding his leash.

Max is one of several pets that have been surrendered to shelters across the nation by military people being deployed to war zones. During uncertain times, it can be calming to have loved ones close by. But military people don’t always have that consolation. They have to leave behind family and friends. When those loved ones are loyal friends like Max, the heartache is double, since those pets sometimes won’t be there to greet them with a wagging tail when they return.

There may be times in our lives when circumstances change and we aren’t able to keep the pets that we once made a lifetime commitment to keep. If the life-changing situation is expected to be temporary, as in the case of military deployment, family and friends can help by offering to care for their animal companions until they can reclaim them again.

Foster care is another alternative, but a complicated one when you consider how long a soldier might be gone. Finding a family that could give a dog back after two years of care would be very difficult. Foster care is a serious commitment that depends on one’s ability to separate afterwards.

If family and friends can’t help, the soldier was right, an animal shelter is a good choice, especially one that will guarantee him a loving home. Look for a shelter where a pet would remain in the shelter’s care until adopted.

In case you’re wondering, Max was adopted by a wonderful family who promised to make him happy again. When they learned about Max’s previous caretaker, they also offered to keep in touch with him and give him access to visit Max when he returned.

Max is a very lucky dog. 

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Cathy Rosenthal, CHES, CFE
Animal Welfare Communications Specialist

Cathy brings more than 25 years' experience in the animal welfare field. She is a sought-after speaker, Certified Humane Education Specialist, a syndicated pet advice columnist, an author, a publisher, and of course - a loving pet parent.

Read more about Cathy here or check out her Non-Profit's page to see more ways she can help you and your organization.

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