Friday, April 4, 2014

Pets and Military Life

My toddler son adores dogs.  He is absolutely head-over-heels in love with any dog he meets.

My husband never had a dog growing up, but since we met he has told me how he always wanted a dog named Spot.  (I was completely annoyed that he wanted to name his dog Spot because I thought it was completely unoriginal.  I still hold to that argument.)

We thought about getting a puppy.

But...we're a military family!  We want to live overseas and know that it can be a big hassle to get pets overseas as they need special shots and (depending on where you go) they have to be quarantined for several weeks.  I know that when my husband deploys I want to be free to travel to see family without having an extra living being to worry about.  The bottom line was that we knew we wanted to be 100% committed to a dog before we added one to the family and we aren't sure that it is the right time for us.  Still I knew how happy dogs made my son and I wanted to capitalize on his excitement.

We found a compromise.  We fostered a darling puppy for a couple weeks.  He was, of course, dubbed Spot.  A couple of weeks of fostering was just long enough to remind me that I am absolutely NOT ready to commit to a dog longterm this year.  Whew.  Between the puppy and the toddler I used an inordinate amount of paper towels those two weeks.

Spot has since found a forever home (and we've gone back to sleeping through the night).  But our experience has made me wonder about pets and military life.  Is it a good idea for military families to have pets?

A week or so before Spot arrived we acquired a Beta fish from a family PCSing overseas, which is just another example of pets and military life not being the best fit.  Still, I would hate to tell my children that they could never have pets because of their dad's career choice.  And having a pet may be comfort and constant in their lives that will routinely be "interrupted" by PCS and deployments.

So now I'm asking you: What have you decided about pets and military life?  Do you have any advice for us??


  1. After my husband made the decision to join the Air Force my parents got us a puppy; mainly to keep me company while he was away. I'm so glad that we have her, she's the best dog. Super sweet but also protective when she needs to be. We have found that it's a little bit harder to go away and do things because we have to make arrangements for her, but as we make more friends here we find that more people are willing to help out if we need it. My personal opinion is it's nice for military families to have at least one pet because it's less lonely (this is particularly true for those without children). Is it a little more responsibility than a non-military family? Yes. It's all manageable, however.

  2. I think it all depends on the family, some are simply more suited towards having pets than others. My husband I are HUGE animals lovers and we always knew we would get a dog at some point when we moved in together. (Plus the little bugger keeps me company when he leaves me all alone for months at a time)

    We did know that we would have to make some compromises though since we are a military family. One, even though we love bigger dogs we purposely got a smaller one because it is so much easier to travel/move/find a house with a small dog. Two, we were toying with the idea of getting another dog but knew sticking with one was a smart decision. Also, Snoopy is a big part of our family and if we went overseas we would do anything/pay any amount to keep her with us.

    I think a lot of military families just spring into getting a pet(s) not thinking of the consequences and that is where the problems comes from. But as long as you are smart about it and are willing to do anything to keep that pet with you then it is totally worth it. If not, leave the little fur baby for a better suited home.

  3. Victoria FacciolaApril 4, 2014 at 11:14 AM

    We have a dog, and we once had orders to Japan (they got canceled last minute). We found out that for us to take our dog with us to Japan it would cost something like over $2000! We honestly sat down and decided that if our dog got sick today and he needed $2000 in vet care would we save him? Probably not. We couldn't afford it. So we decided that we needed to find a new home for him. Plus, there was a crazy 20 or 30 day quarantine period (all of which you would have to pay out of pocket around $20 a day) plus all the shots they have to have before they go. Not to mention they are in a kennel or crate for almost 24 hours if you are going overseas. We almost found a home for him but then our orders got canceled so we were able to keep him. State side, I don't think it would be that hard with moving around. It shouldn't be an issue. I wouldn't get a big dog in base housing because of damages and whatnot. But if your planing on going over seas, I wouldn't recommend it! If we ever get orders to go overseas again I'm sure that we would probably end up finding him a new home.

  4. I've seen pictures of your puppy on your blog and she looks sooo sweet! :D I think if we hadn't had a (surprise) baby right away, we would probably have gotten a dog since we had talked about doing it early in our marriage. But instead we have a wonderful toddler. :) I am pretty sure that we'll get a dog at some point, but will probably be once we 1) have more money 2) have older children who can help out a bit and 3) plan on staying CONUS for a bit. :)

  5. That's a great point that some families are better suited than others towards having fur babies! That's interesting that you intentionally chose a smaller dog because it would be better suited to military life. Our base housing is definitely not the best for big dogs - my friend said that her dog has wreaked havoc on their base home!

  6. yikes!! $2000!!! One of the main reasons we don't have a dog right now is that we don't have extra money to pay for one, so I can't imagine having to come up with $2000 to move the dog overseas! I talked with someone a few weeks ago who loves their dog (and has had it for much longer than they've had their child), but said that when it passes away, they won't be getting a new dog. Finding hotels and TLFs that accept pets is an extra step if you're doing a CONUS move, but (like you said) we definitely want to live overseas so this is not the best time for us to get a puppy. Someday!

  7. I'm so passionate about the fact that you don't have to give up your dog if you get an overseas assignment. Yes, it's extra work to get them there and back, but it's not a whole lot more than what we have to do to go over. The expense is an issue, though, if you can't get on the rotator/military plane (it was free for us to get our dog out to Italy, but we had to pay to bring her back home). Still, she's part of our family. We have friends and a reputable and trusted kennel where she stays when we go on vacation. I'm just so sad that some families leave them behind, because they think it'll be hard. Truly, it's an extra trip to the vet, which dog owners should do anyway before leaving for another place. Also, hotels are so accommodating for pets! (Clearly I'm a little bit passionate about this subject).

    I'm also a huge advocate for having a dog around during deployments. It was comforting knowing there was "someone else" in the house with me during those long days and nights.

    With all that said, I respect your decision to not get a dog since you know you're not ready. I think the worst thing to do is to get a dog, love it, and then realize you don't want to take it overseas with you. Dogs are part of the family and to leave it behind is just too sad. There are way too many homeless dogs because of that reason.

  8. When I decided to get my dog it was not a random decision. My dog is my family. I have taken her on over 10 plane rides and 5 homes. She goes with us (or just me if my hubby is deployed) everywhere. I think it's a bad idea if someone doesn't have the money to properly take care of a dog, or are willing to take the option of letting them go. It costs more to take my dog with us on the planes, and more to rent homes that will allow her. We could have saved a lot of money by having a cheaper apartment that don't allow pets multiple times.

    However, I knew what I was getting into when we added her to our family. My husband and I want a larger dog one day. We have a small one now. We knew with traveling and such that a big dog just wasn't going to be a good fit for us, unless we wanted to have our pet boarded a lot. We made sure to think about our decision of adding a pet to our family and what kind.

    I wouldn't give her up for anything, and would do whatever I need to make sure she is taken care of. That is my responsibility, and I am not going to let anything make me give her up. I will find a home where she can come, wherever that is, and will pay whatever I need to. It's my responsibility to her.

    I think it's pretty cool that you were able to foster a dog for a while. It's great when people can step up and help out. I also like your attitude towards not getting a dog until you are ready. I see so many people where I am at get a dog because they are bored, or think it will be fun, to only give them up a few months later. They have reasons such as moving, husband came home and didn't like it, too much time is needed for them ect, but it breaks my heart to see these dogs get passed around, or end up in a shelter. Especially when people buy pit bulls, then decide they want to move on base.

    I don't think it's impossible or a bad idea to have a pet with a military lifestyle. However, I do think the decision needs to be thought out carefully and you need to pick a dog that fits your lifestyle. They can be great, especially when going through hard or lonely times. My dog has put me in a better mood countless times just by being herself, and is a reminder of the little family my husband and I have started, wherever he may be. That may sound weird, but having my dog with me makes me feel more comfortable, especially if it is a new place and I am alone there for a while.


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