Military families face many unique challenges with relocations, deployments, and the constantly changing nature of the military lifestyle. Military families with pets can also face additional challenges when experiencing deployment. For many pet owners, the furry, feathered or not so furry house mates are more than just pets – they are family.
Amanda Layton-Malone is a military spouse and dog owner who has experienced many deployments. Amanda says, “Often the deployment cycle can be busy and overwhelming for both fur family member and human family members. The activity at home can increase as your spouse or loved one prepares to leave. Pets will sense this and can often show signs of stress. This is the very best time to do activities that include your entire family. Even if it is just quiet time on the couch cuddling and watching movies, the time spent can make your pets feel comforted.”
It is estimated by Statistics Canada that there are over 3.5 million dogs inCanada and 4.5 million cats, and all pets are becoming commonly accepted as family members. Pets experience deployments in similar ways to humans and provide an immense amount of security and love to families. But they also notice changed routines, they may get less exercise, and may also experience anxiety over the change in the home – not to mention they sense the emotions that humans go through. Upon reunion, some pets may need time to get reintegrated with their human counterparts and may need routines reestablished. For that reason, there are many tips and tricks families can use to minimize the stress on animals.
“I think one of the most important aspects of dealing with the deployment of a loved one and your pet is consistency. If you try to keep the environment and schedule similar your pets will find it less stressful. Also, meeting with friends with dogs so that you and your dog can socialize can be beneficial to everyone during a deployment,” says Layton-Malone.
It is also important to include pet care in your general planning for deployment. If an emergency situation were to come up, having plans in place will minimize your stress. When planning for pets, Layton-Malone has these suggestions, “When your loved one does deploy, remember that anything can happen, so make sure you have a good relationship with your vet. Also, having a list of emergency numbers of friends that you can count on for support or pet sitting is paramount. Having an emergency kit with any medications, food, and essentials for at least 48-72 hours is a must. Inquire with the MFRC where you might be able to go with your pets if you needed to leave your home for any reason, never leave without your pets.”
Here are a few more tips on how to prepare for a deployment when pets are part of your family:
* Minimize exits and entrances – some animals experience separation anxiety and as much as you may want to hug them and greet them, and reassure them, this can heighten their anxiety, especially when they are missing a loved one.
* Keep routines as normal as possible. If Fido wasn’t allowed on the couch when you’re deployed loved one is home don’t allow him up when he/she is gone.
* Join a training class or dog sport class (such as agility, Frisbee, tricks) to help dogs keep occupied when their favorite ball launcher is away. This can also help children and other family members learn to train and manage family dogs.
* Get your cat toys and cat scratching posts. Take some time daily to play with your cat.
* Take a pet first aid course. Inquire at your local veterinarian and St John Ambulance for information.
Most of all, remember that family pets can provide calm, loving friend to cuddle up with. Layton-Malone reminds everyone to “Just take a deep breath and remember that deployments will end and your loved one will be home soon.”
Do you have any tips about how your family has looked after pets during deployments? Post them on our facebook page.