Couple creates Web site devoted to pets and their military owners
August 13, 2006
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Dustin and Melissa Troyer aren’t looking to add to their family anytime soon. They already have a 4-year-old daughter, Madison, and three canine companions: Bailey, Jackson and Ainsley.
But as people who love animals, especially schnauzers, they decided it was time that someone tried to address an ongoing issue: servicemembers with pets in Europe.
“We started off with just the Aviano area in mind,” says Dustin Troyer, a staff sergeant with the 31st Operations Support Squadron. “Then we decided to make it all of Europe. Then we expanded it to worldwide.”
The result is militarycritters.com, a Web site devoted to pets and military pet owners. It features tips for traveling with pets, links to adoption agencies and a planned adoption board.
“We just launched it a few weeks ago, and we’re trying to get the word out,” says Melissa Troyer. Much of the effort has gone to contacting vet clinics and family support centers around Europe.
Part of the impetus for the site was Stars and Stripes articles about servicemembers abandoning their pets as they left Germany. Many communities are shrinking or closing as the Army transforms, and some servicemembers are leaving their pets behind rather than going through sometimes-difficult and expensive procedures to take them along.
But the Troyers said the problem is not a new one and isn’t limited to Germany. They know that firsthand, because they temporarily adopted another dog that was being left behind in Aviano.
“Then we found a good family who would take her,” Dustin said.
They hope that the site’s classified section will help connect individuals looking for pets with those leaving Europe and planning to leave their pets behind. The decision to expand the site to the States and elsewhere made sense since the military population tends to pick up and move every few years.
“We’re just trying to make it easier for people [moving] or people already here to see that there are pets available,” Melissa says.
Those who choose to move with their pets can also benefit from the Web site, and at least one of the Troyers’ experiences.
The Troyers came to Aviano from Utah and thought they had all the paperwork for their dogs to fly with them. But one box was left unchecked, leaving the dogs temporarily behind. A conscientious Delta Air Lines employee helped to eventually get the dogs over, escorting them himself.
So the couple has added to the site links to various airlines and their pet policies as well as hotels around Europe where pets are welcomed. There’s also a spot for displaying photos of pets sent by their proud owners.
Melissa says the plan is to expand with listings or advertisements for businesses around various bases that cater to pets, such as groomers or boarding homes.
“We’re hoping to expand and add new stuff,” Dustin says.
Suggestions are welcome and the couple hopes to get participation from military pet owners around the globe.
Just don’t get any ideas about offering them another pet as they prepare to move to Geilenkirchen. “Three dogs is more than enough,” Melissa says.