A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

When Soldiers Deploy

. . . who cares for their pets?

Animals in War

When Animals Are Drafted
For 5,000 years they’ve been fighting our wars with us

War Horses – the Engines of Battle
A brief timeline of “the supreme animals of war”

For Kittens of War, Marines are Heroes
Rescued from the firing, now living happily ever after

All Creatures Great and Small
Elephants and pigeons on the battlefield

When Soldiers Deploy
What happens to their pets?

The 80th Commando
The dog who went after Osama bin Laden

Animal Soldiers Go Hi-Tech
Dolphins and bats as conscripts in war

Battle Buddy Now Therapy Donkey
Smoke settles in at his new home in Nebraska

Warrior Dog Gets Stem Cell Therapy
Basco’s hip healed from arthritis

Animals, Conspiracies and ‘The Avengers’
Testing out our weapons of war

Should We Be Testing Weapons of War on Animals?
Behind the scenes at secret laboratories

Stray Dogs of War Take a Bow
A special appearance at a prestigious dog show

The Most Decorated Dog
Sgt. Stubby – a World War I hero

The Lion of Afghanistan
How the King of Beasts became a sacrificial victim in a world gone astray

Kristle Aleman prepares to leave for Afghanistan

When Brian and Kristle Aleman were both deployed to Afghanistan, they had no one who could take their two dogs, Pepper and Rambo.

The couple had both been called to ship out together at short notice in January with the 422nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion. It was the second-biggest Army National Guard deployment in the state’s history, and Brian and Kristle were caught off guard.

Soldiers sometimes have family or friends who are able and willing to look after their pets. But not always. And it seemed that the only available option was the local animal shelter, where Pepper and Rambo might only last a few days before being killed. To the Alemans, this was no option at all.

But at the last minute, the couple learned of an organization, Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet (GASP), that’s made up of volunteers who take in pets of people in the military when they are deployed overseas. GASP moved quickly and Pepper, the Aleman’s black Lab was soon on his way to a foster home in Arkansas.

Carl Conklin with Pepper, one of the Alemans’ dogs

Today, Pepper is still at home with Karl and Kim Conklin in Arkansas. He’s a police driving instructor; she’s a library supervisor. The Aleman’s other dog, Rambo, a Yorkshire terrier, went to live with a family in Bakersfield.

“Maybe you could call it a civic duty,” Karl Conklin said. “Even if you don’t agree with the war, you should support the troops.”

Guardian Angels are very appreciative of their volunteers, but you still have to qualify as a good pet guardian to be part of the program. The initial questionnaire asks you about the number of pets in your household and whether you have children, a fenced backyard and a landlord who allows pets.

The organization was founded by Linda Spurlin-Dominik and Carol Olmedo in 2005. They currently have 2,500 foster homes signed up to take in pets.

GASP’s Facebook page is active with service people, foster families and volunteers all writing about the animals. One recent post says: “Being deployed for 2 months already, one more to go….. missing my black Lab Kender like crazy but happy he is being loved by his foster parents… thanks Guardians for all the help, is awesome to know everything is ok.”

Another program, PACT (People, Animals Companions Together) also matches pets of service people with foster homes, and, as part of the agreement, the foster family sends regular updates with photos and video. In return, when service people return home and take back their pets, the foster families get to visit them and continue to be part of their lives.

Foster families receive no compensation for caring for these pets, but the military families are expected to cover food and veterinary expenses.

What you can do: Learn more about being a foster home by visiting GASP’s Foster-a-Pet page.