VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) - Several Moody Air Force men and women returned to Valdosta over the weekend from their deployment, reuniting with their loved ones.
U.S. Air Force pilot William Dana was deployed from Moody to Osan, South Korea two years ago and had to leave behind his dog, Winston.
Winston was fostered all this time by Denise Smiley, coordinator of Moody Pet Guardian Angels.
“I’m gonna be a mess driving home tonight,” she told WCTV, awaiting Dana’s arrival. “I have completely fallen in love with Winston. I’m gonna be a mess losing him.”
Moody Pet Guardian Angels is a program sponsored by the Humane Society of Valdosta and Lowndes County that provides foster homes for military members' pets when they’re called on to leave for duty.
Smiley says saying goodbye after keeping a pet is always hard, but seeing the reunion is worth it all. Out of all the dogs she’s fostered, she’s had Winston the longest.
“I’m forever grateful,” Dana told WCTV. “I just want to say thank you to Denise with the Pet Guardian Angels at Moody, as well as the Humane Society, for having a, I guess, service, if you will, to be able to take care of animals, especially for military personnel in times like these.”
Board member William Whitesell with the Humane Society says he was shocked to find out Moody didn’t already have a pet kennel or fostering program in place.
He tells WCTV a phone call to their organization prompted their establishment of the program.
“It was a service member who had been deployed to Afghanistan many years ago,” he said.
According to Whitesell, the serviceman had no other option than to surrender his pet before leaving.
But mistaking the private, no-kill Humane Society for the Lowndes County Animal Shelter, he left his dog there until returning two years later to tragic news.
“He contacted the county shelter and found out his dog had been euthanized,” Whitesell said.
Moody Pet Guardian Angels was organized about one year ago with the mission of protecting a man’s best friend and meeting a need for those sacrificing so much.
“That’s the main purpose of the Moody Pet Guardians is to keep the pets with the military members that are selected to go on TDY’s, deployments, remote tours because pets are family,” Smiley said.
Whitesell and Smiley say Moody Pet Guardian Angels is in dire need of reliable fosters.
If you’re interested in opening up your home to a temporary pet, you can call the Humane Society at 229-247-3266 or reach out through their Facebook page.