CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Chief Warrant Officer Myra Jones held her two cats, Rufus and Chewy, yesterday at her Waianae home. Jones is hoping to find a temporary home for the animals while she is deployed in Iraq for one year. The Hawaiian Humane Society is assisting her and other military personnel, but volunteers are not always easy to find.
Pets a dilemma in rush to deploy
A placement program helps Hawaii-based troops find temporary homes for loved ones
A month after learning of her deployment, Chief Warrant Officer Myra Jones looks ready for her one-year stint in Iraq this summer.
Jones, whose husband is stationed in North Carolina, will leave her two baby boys with her mother-in-law in Delaware. She also found someone to rent her three-bedroom house in Waianae starting next month. Until she leaves, a small hotel room will do.
But the future is not so certain for Rufus and Chewy. Yes, the family's two indoor, declawed, male cats are searching for a temporary home.
"I don't know what to do, and I really don't want to give them away," Jones, 36, said yesterday as the pets circled around green duffel bags, an Army boot sticking out of one. "They are really playful. If there's a fly in the house, they are always after it. They are lovable."
Jones, a former Connecticut resident reassigned to Hawaii from Germany 2 1/2 years ago, is not the first pet owner in the military faced with the challenge. And as others have done, she is putting her hopes on Pets of Patriots, a Hawaiian Humane Society program that helps people like Jones find volunteers to watch their animals while they are away on duty.
It is a tough task, said society spokeswoman Alicia Maluafiti, especially because many who are in the military here either do not have family in the islands or close friends they feel comfortable asking for the favor.
Eric Bauer, a Navy worker at the USS Lake Erie, learned of his upcoming four-month deployment to Japan about six months ago. Now, with just four weeks left, the 23-year-old is still trying to find someone to adopt Shadow, a 2-year-old Rottweiler who loves the beach.
"It's kind of a lot to ask for somebody to watch my dog for four months," Bauer said. "But he's great, though. He's nice."
While finding a stranger to care for someone else's cat or dog -- especially a Rottweiler -- for a few weeks or months might sound like a long shot, it is not impossible.
There are at least 15 people in Hawaii currently feeding and sheltering the pets of soldiers who are serving abroad, Maluafiti said. Foster care of military pets also lets volunteers who enjoy animals -- but who cannot adopt one because they have busy travel schedules or other commitments -- spend time with cats or dogs.
Some are interested in caring only for kittens or puppies, or just want to have a pet for a few months so they will not get too attached.
But for those enlisted in the military, the program is often their only option.
Jones said her mother-in-law's home is not a choice because it is already taken by a "territorial" cat. Her island friends were also ruled out, since most are in the service and could face relocation without warning.
As for a kennel, that could cost her as much as $10,000 for both Rufus and Chewy, according to one shelter. A military discount was not much help, either, she said.
"They give you a certain percentage off, but it would really not have done anything, just a couple dollars," Jones said.