Most military kids are familiar with the challenges of moving. We know the basics of what to expect, like packing, traveling, etc, and we know how to brace ourselves for the changes to come. Our pets, on the other hand, have a harder time.
My family has a small cockapoo dog (a mix between a cocker spaniel and a poodle). She follows us everywhere we go, loves to play fetch out in the yard, and gets anxious when she sees suitcases. Cockapoos struggle with separation anxiety, which means crating her and having her travel in the belly of a plane isn’t an option when PCSing. She had to have special permission from our vet that said she could fly with us in a seat.
Pets, not just dogs, experience moving in the same light we do because they are right there with us. They have to adjust to long travel times, new climates, new territory, and new people and friends. They may become sick, nervous, depressed, and more. Sound familiar?
Although the problems animals face when moving are significant, it is also worth mentioning the added military paperwork-related stress that comes from having a pet. When my family and I were preparing to PCS overseas, we realized that there is a lot of work to be done to make sure a pet is safe to fly. My mom went to the vet’s office multiple times for checkups, examinations, to pick up paperwork, to sign paperwork, you name it. She also had to go to our local UPS store frequently to print certifications for our dog (our printer was already packed). To fly, a dog vest and certification tag had to be purchased by us to show that she was allowed to be in the cabin, and these items were not cheap.
At a PCS hub in the states, my family and I were waiting in the pet-specific line to check in and get our boarding passes. There were several other families with pets there, one with two large dogs and children, and a couple with a cat. Over the din of loud barking, children crying, people talking, and just general early-morning PCS brain fog, I realized that we were all going through the same things. Every adult in the line had been buried under a mountain of paperwork for their pet (especially those people with two large dogs), every child in the line could pass for a PCS pro, and every pet in the line was nervous. The dogs would bark at anyone they saw because they were not in their element and were scared. I only saw glimpses of the cat as she stayed in the back of her crate the entire time. My dog paced the floor and scratched at our legs, wanting to go home, or at least away from the loud airport lobby.
Pets face serious mental and physical problems when PCSing. The paperwork they require is overwhelming. Despite this, our pets brave their new challenges as fiercely as any time-worn military brat. They stand beside us and never falter, never allowing us to falter either. I am grateful for my military pet, and I can only hope she knows that she is a dearly loved and appreciated member of my family.