Life in the military is life on the move, which can make it difficult to have a companion pet. But one active duty Coast Guardsman shows how he makes pet adoption and military service work.
Always ready to help the homeland
Evan serves in the Coast Guard in aviation maintenance, performing vital repairs on a wide range of military aircraft. He enlisted in February, 2015 and served as a deck seaman on the Coast Guard Cutter Alert in Astoria, Oregon.
Evan completed three patrols on that ship over the course of 18 months.
Following avionics electrical technician A school Evan graduated as a petty officer 3rd class. Upon graduation he was stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
The young Coastie was assigned to the H-60 avionics shop where he is responsible for helicopter repair and maintenance.
“I remain there today, working in the H-60 and serving as aircrew,” he says. “I joined the Coast Guard for a change of pace in my life, and I didn’t want to sit behind a desk. I wanted to help people here at home.”
Raising the bar
Although Evan has always served stateside, it is a common misconception that the Coast Guard does not deploy. During times of war they can be called upon to assist the Navy. And they have deployed in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, among other major overseas military campaigns.
Still, there are dangers in our own territorial waters as well. Evan recalls one of the most memorable – and harrowing – experiences of his service to date.
“My first time crossing the Columbia River Bar on the Alert,” he says. “It’s considered one of the roughest bars in the world, and the first time I crossed it I had to remain out on the forward deck as the emergency anchor rigger in case we had to abort the crossing.”
The Columbia River Bar is known as the most dangerous part of the Graveyard of the Pacific, so named for its unpredictable weather. This particular stretch of water has more than 2,000 shipwrecks to its credit. It has the added distinction of being the place where Evan first went to sea.
“I’d never really been to sea, and that was like a baptism by fire, riding 20 foot waves and hanging on to the rail. I was scared, but at the same time exhilarated because this is what I had signed up to do,” he says with pride. “They aren’t lying when they say you’ll do those sorts of things in the Coast Guard.”
Of pet adoption and military service
Evan is stationed currently far from the dangerous waters of the Pacific Northwest. But he found that North Carolina winters have their own dangers; they can bring a touch of the blues. So the young Coastie decided to do good in his downtime by volunteering at his local animal shelter.
“I live a mile from the SPCA shelter here in Elizabeth City, and I would volunteer to walk dogs a few times a week in the winter when things got slow,” Evan says. “I figured there’s no better cure for mid winter depression than hanging out with a dog, so I went up there afternoons after work.”
Luckily, the shelter believes that pet adoption and military service can go together. While some shelters will not adopt to active duty personnel because of their frequent relocations, the SPCA of Northeastern North Carolina embraces veterans at all stages of their careers.
It was at the shelter that Evan first learned about Pets for Patriots and how our program works. He thought that applying to adopt a companion pet through our partnership “seemed like a worthwhile thing” to do.
And it did not take long for Evan to find his new best friend. The very same day that he was approved into our program he adopted Barny, a then seven year-old terrier mix.
Adopting a pet for life
Evan’s new life with Barny dispels many misconceptions people have about older pets. For starters, Barny has plenty of energy and insists upon a long, brisk walk to start his day.
“I walk at least a mile every morning now because he likes to do it!” Evan exclaims. “I also have someone to hang out with and take on road trips now, and he never complains.”
It is perhaps the companionship that Evan values most about his new best friend. No matter where he will be stationed, the Coast Guard veteran has vowed that Barny will be part of his life.
Evan demonstrates that pet adoption and military service can be compatible. But prior to adoption active duty military personnel should be prepared for a range of possible scenarios. These include on-base dog breed restrictions, how to manage a permanent change of station, and pet care arrangements if they deploy.
Successful military pet guardians, like Evan, enter into adoption with the understanding that a pet is for life.
To know him is to love him
The young Coastie is not the only person to benefit from Barny’s exception demeanor. The older dog is a big hit with Evan’s friends and fellow veterans.
“All my friends here know him and love him,” he says. “Sometimes he even spends the night at the air station with me when I have overnight duty.”
One of Barny’s most endearing qualities is his calm nature. It provides much-needed balance to Evan’s otherwise hectic days at work.
“Barny is the lowest maintenance dog in the world,” he says. “I spend all day doing maintenance and fixing problems, and when I come home Barny is just there, chilling on the couch. I never have to worry about him chewing up things he shouldn’t. He’s just always happy to see me, and no matter how long of a day it’s been he makes me smile at the end of it.”
Older pets tend to have a relaxed demeanor and are far less excitable than their younger peers. Barny’s subdued, yet loving nature brings his guardian a welcome calm. It is as though his disposition is contagious.
“He loves to ride in cars so I’ll take him with me sometimes when I have errands to run,” Evan says. “He’s just really mellow and I feed off of his relaxedness.”
“…a great way to gain a buddy”
Evan found the right dog for his personality and lifestyle. He is the better for it, as is his canine companion. And he appreciates how we helped him navigate the process from application to adoption through post-adoption follow up.
“You don’t have to wait until you’re out to have a pet and Pets for Patriots can make the process really easy on you. Don’t count yourself out just because you think this program isn’t meant for you.”
Evan and Barny are stellar examples of how pet adoption and military service can work wonders for person and pet alike. The Coast Guard veteran is quick to point out that companion pets are wonderful for veterans in a range of circumstances.
“Yes, it’s a great way to gain a buddy even if you don’t need one,” he shares. “For anyone like me who has never been in combat or dealt with PTSD, don’t think that this isn’t for you. There are so many good pets out there who need homes, and even of you’re currently serving you can give them a second chance.”