We’ve all heard (and most likely experienced) it before: “Deployments suck.” I might even sound like a broken record at this point.
There are so many different types of stress that can occur when a service member is on deployment or away. But, we often forget about the effect of separation between service members and their beloved pets.
Think about it this way, a deployment or separation is a difficult challenge for all family members. Don’t we all consider our furry, four-legged companions a part of the family?
It’s almost a given for dogs to be very attached to their human counterpart. Did you know that cats can suffer from separation anxiety too?
Felines express it differently, especially because a lot of cats are extremely independent already. Well, leave it to my cat to be the exception to the rule. She is very attached to both my husband and myself. We got her as a kitten when she was about 8 months old. My husband was actually the first of the two of us to hold her.
Since I work from home, I see her a lot more. When 4 to 5 p.m. rolls around, she’s waiting by the door for my husband to arrive. It’s actually really cute.
But, when my husband has TDYs, she stays waiting at the door and it breaks my heart! I can only imagine how she would react during a deployment.
Most pets are sociable creatures and love companionship, whether they are a dog or cat. I believe they can miss and even care for you. Our cat Xena does so by “grooming” or snuggling with us, which can get a little weird at times. Everything said is why it’s important for us to consider our family pets as well as all the other humans in your household that go through a deployment. There are some relatively simple things that can help our furry family members cope with their service members’ absences.
First, when we know he will be leaving for an extended amount of time, my husband makes sure he spends extra time with her. We call for her and pet her as much as possible.
Then when my husband is away, I mimic the same exact activities that my husband does with Xena. He’s pretty much the person that plays with her everyday with her favorite toy. When he’s away, I grab the toy and play with her until she starts panting and is tired. Keeping to routine is important.
Afterwards, I feed Xena her absolute favorite treats, which I’ve mentioned before, are Purina Whisker Lickin’s Crunchy Tuna Treats. Seriously, she absolutely loves them. My husband feeds her 3 nibblets following a play session. Rewarding your pet is a good way to help their attitude and as a result provide a positive environment for them.
It’s also a benefit to keep your pet distracted and socializing with others. If you have a pup (and if you’re brave with a cat), take them outside for plenty of walks and trips around town at places that are pet friendly.
For service members that need extra help during a deployment, there are organizations out there to assist when deployment orders get drawn and you have no one to watch your pet. Dogs on Deployment is a wonderful group that matches your pet with a loving home for them to board. The organization also considers cats too! Boarding your pet eases the stress of separation by giving them another home to live in the meantime. It also eases the stress for service members as they go through deployment and gives them peace of mind.
Don’t forget about the service member too! I send plenty of pictures of Xena to my husband when he’s away, so he can keep up with what’s going on at home. It’s a great way to keep them interacting with the family no matter where they are.
I can’t end this without sharing some of my favorite pet reunions! I’m a little particular to the unlikely one between a service member and his cat here.
But, you can never go wrong with dogs and their special service member companion here.