Category Archives: Veteran Assistance

Pet Chit Success Means Bailey Can Bounce Back

Dogs Like Bailey Help with PTSD

After completely tearing her ACL, Bailey, a Siberian Husky and beloved pet of Erik and Jennifer Comstock, required veterinary surgery to repair it. With the help of the Dogs on Deployment Pet Chit Financial Assistance Program, Bailey’s family was able to schedule the operation and it was a success.

 

Beautiful Bailey, a Siberian Husky and member of the Comstock Family
Beautiful Bailey, a Siberian Husky and member of the Comstock Family

 

The Dogs on Deployment Pet Chit Financial Assistance Program (https://www.dogsondeployment.org/index.php?/financial_assistance/guest_petchit_register#register_tabs1) has helped hundreds of military service members meet the costs of unexpected veterinary care and emergencies since the organization was first started, granting a grand total of over $250,000 and counting! DoD has also proudly helped deploy over 1012 – so far! – dogs and pets of all kinds, reuniting them with U.S. military families stationed around the world.

Bailey’s story is significant since this beautiful dog has helped co-owner/co-parent Erik Comstock, E-4 veteran of the United States Army, cope with some of the anxiety and depression brought on by PTSD, and the frustrations of back and hip pain which have so far required him to undergo surgery twice. Eric is now a disabled veteran who served two tours in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. We are grateful to Eric for his service, and thank him and his wife, Jennifer for sharing their story.

 

A Powerful Bond with Man’s Best Friend

Bailey was rescued along with the other lucky dogs who are part of the Comstock family. One other Husky and two Pomeranians round out the pack. Bailey is roughly two years old, adores her playmate “Dory,” (also a Husky) and loves running around as much as a typical Husky does – which is a lot! Jennifer refers to the running laps Bailey does around the yard as “zoomies!” Beyond that, it seems Bailey knows that she has an important mission to fulfill.  Says Jennifer, “Bailey has truly become Erik’s best friend. Whenever Bailey thinks Erik is upset and struggling with the many effects of his PTSD, she forces him to pet her and then gives him non-stop kisses to try to relax him.”

 

Bailey, shown here with playmate/sister Dory to her right, and other siblings Jazmine and McKenzie, to Bailey's left side.
Bailey, shown here with playmate/sister Dory to her right, and other siblings Jazmine and McKenzie, to Bailey’s left side.

 

Initially, Eric couldn’t figure out why Bailey paid him this level of attention. The dog literally would demand that Eric pet her by getting in his space, sitting right in front of him, staring and pawing at him. Eventually, he and his wife realized that Bailey behaved this way every single time she sensed that Eric was getting upset over something. Bailey’s way of calming him down and deescalating the situation was to make Eric stop doing anything and have him only pay attention to her. And while Eric questioned it at first, he and Jennifer eventually made the connection and realized that Bailey’s presence did in fact make a difference in their lives.

Jennifer continues, “since coming into our home, this incredible dog has done everything in her power to help Eric. In return, we want to do everything in our power to help her!”

 

Injury, Surgery, Recovery

Bailey the escape artist got out from under the 6-foot fence in the Comstock’s yard one night and temporarily went missing. About seven hours later, neighbors alerted the family that Bailey had been found and they were all united. It soon became apparent to Eric and Jennifer, however, that Bailey was hurt. They gave her a couple of weeks’ time to heal, but seeing Bailey limp after her “zoomies” made it clear that the dog required veterinary care. X-rays revealed the torn ACL, and the determination was made that she would require extensive surgery.

After Bailey was injured, the Comstock family reached out to Dogs on Deployment for help covering their hefty vet bill. They applied in late August, 2016. Within two days of receiving their application, Dogs on Deployment was able to approve and apply a grant of $980.00 to help cover the surgery! We give thanks to our donors and sponsors who make this possible, and remind you that anyone can donate at www.bit.ly/dod-donate.

 

POST-OP: Bailey rests with her leg bandaged and cone to keep her safe.
POST-OP: Bailey rests with her leg bandaged and cone to keep her safe.

 

On October 3, 2016, Bailey underwent surgery for her torn ACL, which according to the attending veterinarian, was really, really bad.” With Bailey’s successful surgery behind them, the Comstock family has to give her time to heal, in this case about three-four weeks’ time. You can be sure though that going forward Bailey will resume active duty — attending to and loving Eric as best she can.

 “All she wants to do is make sure Erik is feeling better and she will do anything she can to make sure it happens,” said Jennifer.  Go Bailey, go!

The Pet Chit Program & How to Get Help

A Pet Chit Award may be given pre-deployment, in a time of emergency such as an unexpected illness or injury, to help with emergency boarding, homelessness or other extreme financial circumstance, as well as for transportation costs associated with an emergency or general PCS move.

Without the generous donations of our supporters, the Dogs on Deployment Pet Chit Financial Assistance program would not be possible. You may make a donation directly our Pet Chit program by donating at www.bit.ly/dod-donate and selecting Donate to the Pet Chit Fund from the drop down menu. To learn more about Dogs on Deployment’s Pet Chit Financial Assistance Program or to apply for a grant, visit www.bit.ly/dod-petchit or contact us at petchit@dogsondeployment.org.

 

May: Memorials, Military Appreciation, and Reflection

National Military Spouse Day was recognized May 6, 2016. Each year on that day the United States acknowledges the significant contributions, support, and sacrifices of spouses of members of the Armed Forces.

Armed Forces Day was recognized May 21, 2016. Created in 1939 to replace the separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days, this single day celebration stemmed from the unification of the Armed Forces under the Department of Defense.

And of course, Memorial Day, celebrated this year on Monday, May 30 honors all men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.

As your Dogs on Defense Military Pet Tails Blog Editor, I salute everyone in all branches of the United States service and humbly want to offer a sincere thank you. I myself have never served in the military, but a number of people in my family have proudly done so.

My gratitude and appreciation for United States service members and their families runs deep. I hold enormous reverence towards each of you, in every military branch for your dedication and the selfless service you give to our fine country and to regular citizens like me. I have learned over time how blessed I am to have you representing me.

  • As a young woman I curiously watched an old man salute our United States flag in the morning. I learned years later that “Izzy” made that same salute every single morning upon coming outdoors. Izzy was on a ship in Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked.
  • On 9-11, I watched dumbstruck from outside my office building — Tower One of the World Trade Center — as one plane after another struck the buildings, eventually killing colleagues and friends of mine. For the first time, I understood survivor’s guilt. As it turns out, I had seen the iconic New York City skyline I’d always known for the last time.
  • As a woman some years later I encountered a different old man who chatted with me about matters including the modern state of warfare. “Bill” was troubled that enemies no longer clearly identified themselves while fighting and instead hid in caves. Bill had been captured at 17 years old by the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge.

It is my distinct honor to fly the United States flag everyday outside of the home I share with my beloved husband, himself a onetime U.S. Navy cryptographer.

And, as a regular citizen, it is also my privilege to serve as the Military Pet Tails Blog Editor for Dogs on Deployment. It enables me to lend my skills and support to a cause that I wholeheartedly believe in. The efforts of this organization are vitally important.

Anyone wondering how to support our troops can consider lending his or her time and talents to Dogs on Deployment. Volunteers are always needed and serve in a variety of capacities. You do not need experience with or knowledge of military life.

I am proof that you don’t have to be in the military to support the military or its causes, and I can tell you that my experience with DoD is very rewarding. I love serving as your Editor, and sincerely hope to be able to do so for many years to come.

Dogs on Deployment Military Pet Tails Blog Editor, Susan Nitka, with Lucy, her Jack Russell Terrier. Susan handles all the writing, while Lucy manages the editorial calendar.
Dogs on Deployment Military Pet Tails Blog Editor, Susan Nitka, with Lucy, her Jack Russell Terrier.  Susan handles all the writing, while Lucy manages the editorial calendar.

Thank you to my Dogs on Deployment colleagues and friends for this opportunity. God bless all the United States military, and especially those we remember on Memorial Day.

 

Bailey: Another “Tail” of a Successful Pet Chit!

Everyone knows that Dogs on Deployment is there for service members when they need to find a safe, happy home when they are deployed. But, did you know that we are there for other things? For example, did you know that we can help provide financial assistance for veterinary care, or for emergencies?

Bailey 4When Adam and Rachel Revolinski were attending the Yellow Ribbon Program they ran across our organization. Dogs on Deployment was there to explain the services we provide to soldiers and veterans alike. Having just added a new puppy, Bailey, to their family, they were eager to find out how Dogs on Deployment might be able to help.

Once they got the chance to learn more about how we help those in the military provide for their animals while they serve our country, both were very impressed, especially for single pet owners. “It is hard to say goodbye to your pet during a deployment for several months,” Rachel said. “But to know that you could provide the with a good home while you’re away is a good feeling.”

Bailey 1Remembering Dogs on Deployment’s services is why, when they needed financial assistance to get Bailey spayed, they turned to Dogs on Deployment. They applied for the Pet Chit Financial Aid, and after filling out the necessary forms, Adam and Rachel were granted the money to pay for Bailey’s procedure.

After the procedure, Bailey recovered quickly. Rachel said that they did their best to keep their puppy calm so that they wouldn’t have to put the “white cone of shame” on her, but in the end, Bailey’s energy couldn’t be contained, and they had to concede. As it turns out, Bailey looked adorable in the cone, anyway!

These days, Bailey is growing up. She’s 65 pounds, and not done yet. She is energetic, but loving and gentle, and she surprises the Revolinskis everyday with her silliness.

Bailey 2Rachel recalls how when Bailey was younger, she was scared of loud noises, such as the icemaker. She would eye the untrustworthy refrigerator with trepidation, anytime Rachel went to it for ice. One day, she gave Bailey an ice cube after a particularly long walk, and she absolutely loved it. Now, whenever Rachel goes to get ice, Bailey is quickly ready to accept an ice cube of her own!

There are many services Dogs on Deployment provides for pet owners in the military, besides helping find homes for pets while you are deployed. We offer services such as Pet Chit Financial Aid that can help military families pay for their pet’s medical care.

PetsBestLogo

We are able to help pets like Bailey thanks to our partnership with Pet’s Best Insurance. Reach out to us if you think we can help in any way, and we will do our best to match your needs with our services. Every animal counts!

Reunion Long Time Coming: Why DoD Exists

When John Russo joined the Army in 2010 he never expected to find his beloved Bulldog, Bones, surrendered to a shelter.

“I joined the Army to serve a purpose in this world, and to protect the unable and unwilling of our country. I loved my time in, I made incredible friends and would be more than happy to lace my boots up again if need be,” said Russo. “My dog, Bones, was a Christmas gift from my mother back in 2008. [Bones] was just 8 weeks old at the time. I spent the next 2 years with that dog glued to my hip until I decided to join the United States Army as an Infantryman.”

thumbnailAfter joining the Army, Russo was sent to Boot Camp and then to Fort Lewis, WA. His schedule was not fit for Bones, so Russo looked to a past relationship for help with watching his favorite pooch. After arranging for care for Bones, Russo began his Army career and visited Bones as often as he could. In 2012, Russo deployed to Afghanistan with confidence that Bones was being well taken care of.

After returning home from Afghanistan, Russo began the process of transitioning into civilian life.

“I was virtually homeless when I got back to my home of record, not having much in my savings and not really roaring to jump back into the minimum wage line, a friend offered a spare room which I accepted,” recalled Russo. “I started to get my head on straight. Found a job, made some money, and got my own apartment. I was finally ready to get Bones back and give her a home.”

Russo quickly discovered that the person he entrusted to watch over his dog had decided she could no longer care for Bones and had surrendered her to a local shelter.

“I was on the Internet one morning and decided to look at my local animal shelter’s website. I clicked in adoptable dogs and scrolled down to see a face that was extremely familiar; I thought for sure it was just a coincidence, until I clicked on the picture and it brought up the description. Everything matched up. Her age, the commands she understood, and her markings. I knew I had just found my Bones” said Russo.

“I jumped in my truck and drove down to the shelter and asked to see her. The lady behind the desk looked confused that I was asking about a specific dog but I told her my story and she told me that Bones had been brought back from a previous adoption because the family had a dog that wasn’t getting along with Bones. She was in the back and she would bring her right out. I stood there nervous thinking she wouldn’t remember me, or she would growl if I tried to pet her. ”

That, however, was not the case.

“When she came around the corner and saw me, she went wild. Jumping, licking, and whimpering. I couldn’t believe that after so many years, my dog would remember who I was, but she did. I took her home that day and I’m never letting her out of my sight again,” said Russo.

thumbnail (2)“I came home from Afghanistan different, or so the people who know me best say. The purpose I wanted so badly while enlisted is now what I’m searching for in the civilian world. The first few months I was battling depression, drinking heavily, and just feeling worthless. Bones can sense when I’m upset or I’m having an episode.

“After I relocated her I’ve noticed myself taking back my life one day at a time. She’s my hero and just seeing her so happy when I walk in the door and being able to take care of her gives me strength and makes me hopeful every day. ”

Russo is fortunate to have his companion back by his side because so many service members are not as lucky. Too many men and women of our Armed Forces are faced with re-homing or surrendering their pets due to military obligations. Russo wishes he would have known about Dogs on Deployment back when he needed the services they provide the most.

thumbnail (1)“If I knew about Dogs on Deployment I would have definitely came to them first. I think the service they provide for the military is outstanding and completely selfless,” said Russo.

In order to reach service members like Russo, Dogs on Deployment needs volunteers to help spread the word and willing to take in military pets. For more information please visit the website at www.dogsondeployment.org

Helping Veterans and their Pets: Information for Veteran Assistance Programs

By Alisa Johnson, President Dogs on Deployment

Lady and Copper's photo shared across social media sites to try to find a suitable foster home.
A veteran’s dogs whom we worked to help find placement.

Shortly after Dogs on Deployment started gaining steam in recruiting volunteers and military members began hearing about our program for the first time, so did the Veterans’ Affair (VA) Department in Virginia Beach, VA. The first veteran we helped was homeless, car-less, but not dog-less. With two Jack Russell Terriers that meant the world to him, he was unable to enroll in the VA Department’s homeless domicile and job rehabilitation program and care for them. He had to find a place for his dogs to live in order for him to receive help. Without Dogs on Deployment’s, and other organizations, businesses and individuals’ help, he would have had to either give up his dogs, or remain homeless. Thanks to countless supporters, he was able to find temporary care for his dogs so that he could enroll in the VA’s program; getting food, shelter and a chance to start again.

Since then, Dogs on Deployment has helped several other veterans facing the same or similar situation. We are usually contacted by the VA case worker who has one question: How do we proceed to help this veteran? The below information serves as a guideline how a veteran and their pets can be assisted through our program.

Find out the veteran’s situation. Every situation, person and pet is unique, and it is important to understand the veteran’s relationship to their pets, and then determine what the future holds for that veteran in order to give good advice in moving forward.

Can they provide long term care for their pets? Is rehoming a better option? While it may be obvious that a pet owner loves their pets, they may not be in the position to give long term care for their pets. Prolonged homelessness, mental stability, financial future, illness and other life factors contribute to whether or not a person is, or will be, in the best position to give long term care for a pet. If enrollment in the VA or treatment for a condition is anticipated to take an extended period, or a full recovery is not anticipated, permanently rehoming a pet may be a fair consideration. Though hard, there are many rescue groups that would be willing to help a veteran find a permanent and loving home for their pet.

A veteran and his cat. ©Pets for Patriots, Inc.; all rights reserved.
A veteran and his cat.
©Pets for Patriots, Inc.; all rights reserved.

Is short-term fostering a feasible alternative? If a veteran is expected to make a fully recovery in a reasonable amount of time, fostering may be a great alternative to permanently rehoming a pet, as this would give the veteran the ability to receive needed treatment, time to concentrate on recovery, while ensuring peace of mind that their pet is in safe keeping for the time being. Veterans may rely on their friends, family or other relations to ask for aid in helping care for their pets during their treatment. If no one is available, organizations like Dogs on Deployment exist to provide a network of volunteer foster homes prepared to take on a veteran’s pet.

Understand what Dogs on Deployment does. Dogs on Deployment is a networking site; we do not arrange boarding between Pet Owners and DoD Boarders. It is the responsibility of the Pet Owner to contact DoD Boarders in their area and choose one that will be the right fit for their pet. This may be difficult for a veteran who may not have access to or experience with computers or the internet. Because of this, a veteran may need a representative to assist in creating an account and contacting possible homes. Any one whom the veteran gives permission to may act on their behalf; the VA social worker, a friend, family member or even a volunteer. The acting-pet owner may create an account and relay any possible homes to the veteran for discussion of possibilities. There is no guarantee that every Pet Owner will find a DoD Boarder through our network, but using our site proactively will increase the chances of finding the right DoD Boarder.

How to make an account on behalf of a veteran. In order to make an account on behalf of a veteran, visit www.dogsondeployment.org and click on “Create Account.” The registration form requires basic information regarding the veteran’s personal information, pets’ information and service information. Dogs on Deployment requires a form of ID and a DD-214 Honorable Discharge form. Ensure that all information is accurate and provide an email address and/or phone that can readily be accessed by either the acting-pet owner or the veteran. Give an honest best guess for how long boarding may be required and try to anticipate a lengthy boarding period if one may occur. Uploading a photo of the pet will increase chances of finding a suitable DoD Boarder as the photos are shared on our Facebook page.

Contacting and choosing a DoD Boarder. Dogs on Deployment has outlined a detailed guide on how to find and choose a suitable DoD Boarder. Once a DoD Boarder has agree to consider a pet, the veteran should ensure that a contract is completed between them and the DoD Boarder. It is recommended the DoD Boarder be given the ability to contact the VA to make inquires about the veteran, should communication between the veteran and the DoD Boarder cease for any reason. Should the DoD Boarder be unable to provide care for the pet for any reason during boarding, an emergency plan should be made in case such an occasion arise. It is important to find a DoD Boarder that understands the veteran’s situation and is able to be flexible should the need for boarding be extended for any reason.

A veteran whom Dogs on Deployment pledged $300 to help with his dog's emergency medical treatment.
A veteran whom Dogs on Deployment pledged $300 to help with his dog’s emergency medical treatment. ©Pets for Patriots, Inc.; all rights reserved.

Emergency funds and placement. Should a veteran be absolutely unable to care for their pet, or unable to find an immediate DoD Boarder as needed, Dogs on Deployment provides a Pet Chit Financial Assistance Program to assist. Dogs on Deployment can provide financial aid up to $500 for help with pet care. This money, which is funded solely by donations, can be used towards boarding costs, if a DoD Boarder cannot be found, or even for help with basic pet care: food, veterinarian expenses, vaccinations, transportation or other necessary supplies.

With care and patience, a veteran can be given the special opportunity to not only receive needed treatment or assistance, but also be able to keep their beloved pets. Pets can be essential to helping a person heal physically, mentally and emotionally. Some of these veterans loose everything, and with a little help we can give them the chance to keep something very precious.