BARKS from the Guild September 2015

Page 53

The Perfect Storm



Amy Martin provides a glimpse into some of the common complexities and unique challenges faced by military families to help pet professionals gain a better understanding of them as clients

ew people understand the stressors that military families face. They deal with a wide range of issues ranging from frequent moves to the prolonged absence of their loved one during both war and peacetime deployments. These issues can last anywhere from a few months to a lifetime. This article will discuss some of the challenges that can arise within a military family, how they affect all living beings in the home, and how you can recognize them during your consultations.

Military life can be stressful for dogs, just as it is for family members

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

What comes to mind when you think of a military family? The idea that most people have is not always the reality. I am the wife of a Marine. Throughout my adult life I considered myself to be self-sufficient, but there were many times during my husband’s military absences when I felt alone, overwhelmed and at my wits’ end. I share this with you because my own challenges with military life enable me to deeply relate to the military families with whom I consult. My personal experiences are unique to me, but they represent issues that are commonplace in the military world.

Breaking It Down

Complicated does not come close to describing the military family’s lifestyle. These families are as diverse as you can possibly imagine, coming from all backgrounds, races and religions. While there are some common threads that are unique to the fabric of military life, many are the same type of things that “normal” people deal with: the need to deal with physical and emotional stress, being young parents, working with a limited or fixed budget, mom and dad both having to work, owning (perhaps multiple) pets that have been rescued, multiple children, a sometimes cavalier approach to dog training, and what is often a general lack of knowledge about dog (and cat) behavior and dog and child safety.

Lack of Choices

Military families do not have a lot of say in where they are assigned. The military move season is one of the most stressful times in their lives, and they go through it every three years or so. Did you choose what kind of home you live in now? Where your child goes to school and what doctor you see? If you did, count your blessings. Part of the military lifestyle is accepting the fact that living it means a lack of choices when it comes to many things like schools, health care specialists, and that other critical service providers are often chosen for you. Did you have to pay a pet deposit for your pets? Count that as a blessing too. Most

© Can Stock Photo/sveter

military base housing will not accept certain breeds of dogs, and many military families are often faced with the heart-breaking decision to surrender a furry family member to a shelter. Having a choice matters, and when those choices are taken away it creates a tremendous amount of worry and stress.

Lack of Life Experience

Most of the families I consult are young. That can be a disadvantage for them, especially when raising a family with multiple pets in the home. Many young military families are inexperienced and sometimes quite immature. This is something else to keep in mind when consulting with younger families. A lack of maturity can lead to a lack of awareness. A lack of awareness leads to a lack of security and safety in the home.

Lack of Stability

If you have ever moved, then you know the stress and strife that comes from having to pack up everything and relocate. Military families always feel like they are on the move, and they often have to move on short notice as well. According to the Military Child Education Coalition, military children move an average of six to 12 times during their school years. Add in the stress of finding a school or daycare for the children, a landlord who accepts pets and so on. Stress accumulates and affects every living being in the home.

What Deployments Entail

Deployments and what comes along with them are another chalBARKS from the Guild/September 2015


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