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Molly Hayden, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public Affairs
HONOLULU (Army News Service, June 8, 2009) -
When Soldiers deploy they often leave behind loving family members, including small furry ones.
To alleviate some of the concerns Soldiers have regarding their pet's care, the Hawaiian Humane Society offers a unique service called the "Pets of Patriots" program.
Through the program, the Society helps match volunteers to animals and owners, providing a temporary home for pets of deploying Soldiers.
"A deployment is often a stressful time, and it's good to know that a pet will be taken care of in a loving family environment," said Anne Marie MacPherson, community relations coordinator, Hawaiian Humane Society. "We help our military so they have their companion to come back to."
Domestic short hair cats, Fancy and Jambo, have adjusted nicely since their parent, Staff Sgt. Roxanne Pratt deployed.
They strut through the living room of the home of Bianca Trombi, outreach programs coordinator, Hawaiian Humane Society, and Christopher Filimoehala, stopping in front of their foster mom for a quick pat on the head.
Fancy continued under the couch to hide and Jambo lounged as cats do best, sprawled out, beckoning for Trombi to continue stroking his fur.
"They both have a unique personality," said Trombi. "Bo's the snuggler and Fancy's the instigator."
Trombi decided to foster the cats so the siblings could stay together.
"These guys have grown up together, and it's important they stay together," said Trombi.
With more and more Soldiers deploying, the Pets of Patriots program is constantly expanding, Trombi explained. It's currently in need of volunteers willing to commit to long-term foster care.
"It's unique when you find someone that is willing to foster for a year," said MacPherson. "This is a great program and something only Hawaii has to offer, to support the high number of military present on the island."
For Pratt, finding Trombi was a huge relief.
"The Pets of Patriots Program allows a single and solitary Soldier like myself the joy of being able to raise animals without the pain and fear of having to give away a beloved pet at every deployment," said Pratt. "It has also allowed me to keep my commitment to ensure their safety and welfare, as well as minimize their being bounced from home to home."
From its busy shelter in the heart of Honolulu, the Hawaiian Humane Society is a focal point of Oahu's animal community and plays an ever-evolving role as mediator on the changing relationship between people and animals. The society's mission - to teach and promote the humane treatment of all living creatures - is a joyful one full of challenges and opportunities.
"We're here to serve the community and military families are an important part of that community," said Kawehi Yim, director of Community Relations for the Hawaiian Humane Society. "We are proud to reach out to them."
All active-duty military members who have a pet that needs temporary care are eligible for the Pets of Patriots program. Foster homes can be military or civilian. Some foster families even provide e-mails and photos for Soldiers overseas to help them cope with being away from home.
The pet owner, according to MacPherson, usually handles all of the pet's financial needs, and both parties should agree upon all financial responsibilities prior to deployment.
Meeting the volunteer and allowing a pet and the foster family to spend time together before deployment is also suggested.
"We Soldiers lose a great deal every time we leave and come back changed every time," said Pratt. "Programs such as Pets of Patriots help to whittle the stack of unsettling events surrounding deployments down to a bare minimum and let us concentrate on the business at hand."
"Pets have been and continue to be an important part of the family," said Trombi. "We are here to support animals and the military families who love them."