Prudence Siebert | Staff photographer and longtime FLSF volunteer
I believe that my 3-year-old Australian shepherd mix, Bodie, was absolutely meant to be mine.
I think he is perfect, but his first family didn’t. He was relinquished to an area humane society after he was repeatedly picked up by animal control several miles from his home.
I adopted Bodie a year ago this week, and from the first moment when he became mine, he fit into my life perfectly. My 10-year-old corgi mix, Wiley, immediately became his biggest fan, and my very opinionated cat, Bing, welcomed him into our home the second he stepped through the door. I have no qualms about leaving him unsupervised in the yard with my chickens, he’s that trustworthy. He makes friends everywhere we go and he handles stressful situations with grace. And he seems to have been born to share my passion for trail-riding — there is no doubt that he is deliriously happy as he runs alongside me and my horse.
I recognize that my great fortune to have this outstanding dog in my life is possible because his first family relinquished him, hoping he would find a better fit.
The Fort Leavenworth Stray Facility also offers a relinquishment option, accepting pets from owners who live on post who need to rehome them.
When “PSC season” hits, the FLSF and other area animal shelters will sometimes see their stray and relinquished intake numbers increase. Service members have been stereotyped as being notorious for abandoning pets when they move, wrongly or justly depending on the case, but that stereotype need not endure. Many military families have faced making difficult decisions regarding their pets, and several have taken advantage of the relinquishment option offered at the FLSF. Stray Facility volunteers understand that there are reasons why a pet may need to be rehomed. We do our best to find the right forever home matches for the pets in our care.
Yes, pets are part of the family and should be part of a family care plan. A commitment for the life of the animal is made when people acquire a pet, but sometimes circumstances can make that commitment extremely difficult, and in those cases, relinquishment of a pet to a reputable organization can be a good option for pet owners.
In addition to Fort Leavenworth residents having the option to relinquish, residents of Leavenworth, Lansing and many of the surrounding communities also have access to facilities and organizations that accept owner-relinquished animals. Some of these organizations, like FLSF, use an adoption application process to check references and only euthanize pets because of severe illness or aggression. It should be noted, however, that some facilities adopt out on a first-come, first-served basis and euthanize occasionally for space. Pet owners need to understand and agree to the conditions of the facility or organization to which they are relinquishing their pets.
• Visit a veterinarian. Sometimes issues can be solved with proper medical care. A cat that is not using the litterbox properly may have bladder crystals, and a dog that suddenly seems to hate his best buddy may actually be in pain and protecting himself.
• Consult a dog trainer or at least offer the pet more exercise. Many of the dogs we work with at the FLSF come to us at about 1 year of age, when they still have a lot of energy and have become too much for their relinquishing family to handle. Even just a week or two later, after volunteers have doted on them, given them some basic obedience lessons, and walked and played with them on a regular basis, they are remarkably better.
• Look into foster care. Organizations exist that provide foster care for service members’ pets for the duration of a deployment.
• Ask the Stray Facility to post a courtesy Petfinder.com listing, where easily searchable profiles are listed for adoptable pets. This is a safer option than trying to rehome a pet via Craigslist or the like, and it allows us to also help service members who live off post and cannot relinquish their pets to the FLSF. Even for post residents who can relinquish, the courtesy listing allows the pet to be marketed as adoptable while staying in the comfort of its home until a suitable new home is found. This also frees up kennel space so we can help more pets, and it is easier on our volunteers, who work in shifts to care for the pets at the facility.
A friend of mine recently used the courtesy listing option to help rehome her elderly shih tzus. Although my friend and her family dearly love the dogs, they were afraid that the senior pups would not survive the 13-hour flight required to get to their next overseas duty station. Rather than risk the dogs dying en route, my friend opted to have them live the end of their lives here with another loving family. She started looking for a home for the dogs several months before the move and was quickly successful, but if she had not found a home for them before the move date, she could have relinquished the dogs to the FLSF.
Occasionally an unexpected and hard-to-navigate move can necessitate the need to rehome a pet. Sometimes a pet just isn’t a good fit for one family — perhaps because of the activity level the pet requires, personality conflicts with another pet, or because of a change in family dynamics — but that pet might be perfect for another family. My Bodie was.