Lynn Boccia of South Carolina is looking after "Semper," a 2-year-old shepherd-mix owned by a deployed Marine.

Lynn Boccia of South Carolina is looking after "Semper," a 2-year-old shepherd-mix owned by a deployed Marine. (Courtesy to Stripes)

Steve Albin thought he’d be enjoying retirement right about now with lots of nothing to do.

Instead, the former dog breeder and owner of a kennel and grooming store works full-time running a global network, pairing troops and their pets with volunteers who’ll give those pets a temporary home.

Albin started in 1995.

“I heard what happened during the last desert war. If military members had no friends or family who could step up to the plate, they were left with nonacceptable options: shelter or abandonment.

“Either way, they would never see their pets again. … What a morale builder,” Albin deadpanned. “In order to serve and protect, you have to kill your best buddy.”

About 5,000 foster families worldwide make up the mosaic of pet lovers and owners that is the MilitaryPetsFOSTER Project, specifically designed to connect foster homes with military members who might be deploying, moving or going to school.

South Carolina resident Lynn Boccia is fostering “Semper,” a 2-year-old shepherd-mix owned by a Marine who deployed for seven months.

“With all we ask of our service personnel … I wondered what I could do on my end. I can’t take up arms and fight side-by-side, but I can open my home to their pets. That’s at least one worry off their mind,” said Boccia, assistant clerk for the Beaufort County Council.

Semper joined her home already filled with two dogs and two cats, and aside from the occasional “stand-off,” they’ve all gotten along. Every Monday morning when she gets to work, she e-mails the Marine, whom she declined to identify, keeping him in the loop on Semper’s activities and shenanigans, “like chasing moles in the backyard.”

Pets have to be legal (no venomous snakes, for example), up-to-date on all vaccinations, and spayed or neutered if they are not show animals, Albin said. Foster families must provide a list of references and contact information for a local veterinarian.

Anyone interested in taking in a pet or making a charitable donation can visit www.NetPets.Org.

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