Base offers service to care for pets of deployed soldiers

A soldier finishes packing his bags for deployment. The last thing to do on his final pre-deployment checklist --  make one more trip to say goodbye to someone that is close to him. After arriving to his last stop he leans down and kisses his four-legged friend goodbye.

As a soldier you also know at any minute you're called to serve your country. Meaning when you leave, you have to figure out who will take care of your dog. On Fort Meade that question has an answer -- the Fort George G Meade Pet Care Clinic.

For many single soldiers stationed at Fort Meade living in single housing has its perks. One is owning a dog. Having a dog brings security, someone to talk to on rainy days. In short, the dog becomes more than just a dog. When you're stationed miles from where you once called home, having a dog can bring a small sense of family back into your life.

The clinic sees similar scenes throughout the year. 

"The pet clinic houses at least 40 dogs a year from soldiers and Department of Defense contractors who have gone overseas," says Kimberly Taylor, who is the business manager for the Fort Meade Pet Care Clinic

SPC Michael Moskal from the 55 th Signal Company used the service when he was being sent to Honduras. "The service gave me a sense of ease because of the fact that I knew that my pet was going to be taken care of," Moskal says.

The service is one that doesn't just put the pet owners at ease. Taylor says there is a grieving period for the pet once its owner leaves.  Center employees do whatever they can to make sure the dog starts feeling better.

"We have all sorts of treatment that we give the pet," says Taylor, "from having a diet feeding habit, making sure that they go out on walks to even playing with other dogs."  

The treatment is similar to what some parents try use for children when their parents are deployed.

Owners can request even more specialized care for their pet.  The special care that a soldier can have provided can range from anything to having their dog walked at certain times, eating only a certain brand of food, to be only given baths on Sunday. However, most soldiers don't go that route.

The center has brought to light every idea to ensure that the soldiers' special friend has been properly taken care of.  According to Taylor, the only thing they haven't put a standard procedure in place for is if the soldier is killed on deployment.  

"Since we haven't had any pet owner from Fort Meade been killed overseas, we don't have a plan yet," says Taylor.  "But in the instance we do, we would most likely look for the next of kin to send the dog to."

When the soldier comes home from his long deployment to pick up his furry friend, the meeting is just as special as soldier returning to his family. The only difference -- instead of kisses and hugs the soldier is met with licks, barks of enthusiasm, and tail wags of love.

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