Volunteer Network of Pet Boarders Ease Stress for Military Members
Markita Andrews is a service member of the United States Air Force who works in water and fuels maintenance. Before her last deployment, she needed help finding someone to care for her beloved dog, Buddy. Markita went through the process of locating and interviewing the perfect boarder using the Dogs on Deployment online foster network. Samantha Graves and her husband, Eric, volunteered to board three-and-a-half-year-old Buddy for Markita Andrews.
Said Samantha, “My family loved having Buddy stay with us! He is a joy to know and really enriched our lives.”
Dogs on Deployment hopes that pet boarders have a wonderful boarding experience when they volunteer to help, and that the military service members who leave their pets behind have a positive experience too.
During Markita’s deployment, the Graves family sent Markita updates on how Buddy was doing, along with pictures of his canine adventures with their family, and holiday celebrations like Easter, Halloween, and Christmas.
DoD Dedicated Fosters = Big Hearts
Dogs on Deployment asked star boarders, Samantha and Eric Graves, what led them to become fosters for the DoD organization in the first place and what motivates them to participate. Samantha's reply appears below.
“I come from an animal rescue background. Having worked as a shelter manager of a rescue in a military area, I was always saddened when military members turned in their pets to the shelter because they were being deployed and didn’t have family to turn to as an option. During that time, I signed up as a foster through Dogs on Deployment. We always seemed to have another foster in our home when local DoD dogs needed a temporary home. Then last year, we saw Buddy’s request and had an opening. The timing was just right.
Buddy came to stay with us in September 2017. Prior to this, his fur-mom, Markita brought Buddy to visit us several times, and even left him for an afternoon. This was important because it gave Buddy and Guenivere, our family fur-baby, several opportunities to get acquainted before the big day.
Buddy settled in right away. He was the perfect house guest! He was sweet to everyone, and quickly became a member of the family.
Buddy was gentle with people of all ages, from our preschool granddaughter to our senior mother, and got along well with every dog he met. That is important, because aside from Guenivere, we have several extended-family dogs that come to visit regularly. He and Ike, my grand-dog Catahoula, became best friends. Buddy even loved our horses; the only family member he wasn’t fond of was our cat, and they agreed to just stay away from each other.
Since Buddy was such a gentleman, we treated him as one of our own. I serve on the Board of a local animal rescue organization, and as a result we participate in many public dog-focused events. Buddy attended events with us and was a hit with everyone he encountered! His childlike enthusiasm for everything is contagious. Buddy was an excellent ambassador for Dogs on Deployment, and we all enjoyed spreading awareness of your organization and the services it provides.
We kept up to date with Markita, sending emails with pictures of all his activities. When she responded, I read the emails out loud to Buddy, and he seemed to listen with fascination. He was incredibly adorable when a Christmas package from Markita arrived – he seemed to somehow understand that it was from her!
The seven months Buddy stayed with us passed far too quickly. We were so happy when we heard Markita was on her way home safely, but at the same time we knew we were going to miss our new friend.
Our family talked with Buddy about Markita’s pending return for about a week, and even helped him make a welcome home card for his mother. I remember the night she came to pick him up – he waited at the window as if he knew. As soon as Markita pulled in the driveway, Buddy went crazy with excitement! ! We miss him already but have told Markita that we will offer to Buddy-sit for him whenever she might need in the future. We will never forget this wonderful experience!”
“Samantha and Eric were fantastic boarders,” said Markita after she returned home. “I couldn’t have asked for a better family for Buddy to stay with during the nine months I was deployed! I’m so grateful to them.
“As for the homecoming and reunion, recalled Samantha, “we had to wait until Buddy stopped wiggling with excitement to get this picture!” Samantha added, “Buddy just lay at Markita’s feet until she finished visiting, and then headed out the door with a huge smile on his face. We enjoyed fostering him so much, but seeing how happy they were to be back together was by far the best part of all!”