Staying out of the doghouse

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Veronica Perez
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
What better way to start off your summer adventures than with a loyal, drooling friend by your side? Puppy season has begun and dogs in the area are ready to find new homes. There are certain considerations to take and resources available to Airmen looking for a new pal.

Owning a dog is a long-term commitment that takes time, energy, money and personal responsibility. Bringing a furry friend home requires proper planning and 100 percent commitment.

The benefits of owning a dog are easy to spot. They can positively affect over all well-being in multiple ways.

"It can definitely impact your morale," said Staff Sgt. Seth Williams, non-commissioned officer in charge of the U.S. Army Veterinarian treatment facility here. "You come home, they greet you, they say hello and you have someone to talk to," he said. "I think it generally increases a person's morale just by having that pet there."

Second Lt. David Casas, 319th Missile Squadron, adopted a german shepherd puppy named Timber from the Cheyenne Animal Shelter this spring, and their relationship is a testament to dogs boosting morale.

"For those Airmen out there, a dog is a great way to go if you left family behind or want someone to hang out with on the weekends or go hiking with," he said. "Man's best friend is always willing to go on a trip with you."

Recent studies show playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which can help calm and relax. Dogs can help busy Airmen reduce stress, but research is key to setting you and your potential new friend up for success.

"Research is the biggest thing," said Williams. "Look to see what you want, what the breed is you want and what the requirements are going to be for that breed to effectively take care of them."

It's also important to note that all dogs living on base must be registered through the vet clinic, and certain breeds are not allowed in base housing.

While different dog breeds require different maintenance, all household pets have one thing in common: they cost money. From buying food to routine check-ups, dog-care will put a dent in the wallet. Financial responsibility is paramount to successful dog ownership.

"It's all about budgeting and knowing what you can really afford," said Williams. "Don't always just expect the base clinic to take care of everything. We'll try, but with the time and manpower capabilities you also need to look to see how much it's going to cost off-base."

Williams said the base vet clinic's responsibility is to take care of the military working dogs. The clinic offers basic vaccination, sick-call services and prescription services, which are typically cheaper than off-base.

"A lot of times they think, 'ok I'm going to get this pet, but I'm only going to come here because it saves money," Williams said. "My whole thing is you should be able to afford that pet off base."

If you are able to confidently afford a dog, the next hurdle to overcome is time management. Dogs require daily physical activity, so free time becomes dog time. No matter the breed or age, dogs need consistent stimulation to prevent them from starting bad habits and to improve their overall health.

"You don't want to neglect a puppy," Casas said. "[Timber] was neglected with her previous family and just like a human being, you don't ever want to take responsibility of another life that you can't help."

Taking care of Timber has been relatively easy for Casas since he has three roommates and an older dog in the house. However, he said he would not have been able to properly care for her on his own.

"It would be really hard," he said. "It takes a lot to raise her, plus time, and if I was living by myself that would be a lot harder."

Take into consideration long-term plans as well. As members of the military, the possibility of temporary trainings, deploying and changes in duty station will all become tougher terrain to tackle with a dog.

Once a solid, long-term plan is created, you can begin searching for your perfect pooch. Williams said the best place to start is the local animal shelter.

"We as veterinary personnel always recommend you go to a shelter," he said. "Shelters are there to find homes for pets." 

Daniela Vaughan, Cheyenne Animal Shelter director of operations, works with shelters and animal rescues throughout the area to find animals good homes.

"If we have someone who is looking for that perfect dog, every shelter gets an influx of animals at different times," she said.

Just like puppies, shelter and rescue dogs will need time to adjust to their new surroundings, she said. She encourages potential owners to prepare for things like potty, crate and behavioral training.

"For our adopters, we offer the adoption option workshop and we offer it almost every week," she said. "It's a one night workshop and our adopters actually get a $20 rebate for coming, so they actually get paid to come to class."

These local resources are key components that can help steer you in the right direction toward responsible dog ownership. Two great ways to prepare and assess your readiness is by volunteering at the shelter or fostering a dog in need.

"We have quite a few volunteers that are active Air Force, so we really work with them because their schedules are so varying," Vaughan said. "Our coordinator is really flexible. You come when you can make it, and when you're busy and you can't come, we understand."

Deciding to get a dog is easy, but it will change your life the moment you bring him or her home. If your heart is set on getting a dog, do the research and planning your future friend needs. Stop by the base vet clinic or local animal shelters for more information.