East Texans Open Hearts For Soldiers' Pets Left Behind - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

3/09/03 - East Texas

East Texans Open Hearts For Soldiers' Pets Left Behind

For some soldiers, the call to be deployed is even harder because some of their loved ones can't take care of themselves. With little notice, some soldiers have to make long-term arrangements for their pets.

Nineteen year-old Heather Morphis is opening her home to the four-legged families of soldiers.

"When they said the Humane Society might have to put some to sleep, I thought that was awful," Heather said.

While plans are made to deploy troops, people like Heather are doing what they can on the home front to take care of the animals left behind.

"If I had to go anywhere I couldn't be with my pets," she says, "I'd want to know that they were somewhere with a good home."

Heather's menagerie of dogs, birds, and fish have all become part of her family. She'll gladly extend that family to help a soldier in need.

"If I was in the Army," she explains, "And I had to leave my animal, I'd be sad. I wouldn't be able to fight my best because I'd be thinking about my dog."

Animal lovers want to take care of their pets when they're away. Soldiers getting ready for action are certainly no different.

"The soldiers I talked to said it's the last thing they have to take care of before they can leave," project co-organizer Natalie Fletcher says. "It's a nagging concern for them, it's always in the back of their mind."

Natalie and others are organizing a new program in East Texas to help take care of the friends who had to stay.

"If these people are going to go over there and dodge bullets and risk their lives," PAWS founder Julia McMurrey says, "The least we can do back here is take care of what they love and what they'd like to return to."

Heather has volunteered to be a part of the "I Luv My Pets" program, which matches soldiers with families as a sort of animal foster care. Even though she's got a house full already, Heather still wants to help.

"My dog Amy, she's like my best friend," Heather says. "I understand what they're going through."

So Heather wouldn't mind extending her four-legged family for a while.

If you're interested in serving as a foster family, or you know a soldier who needs a good home for a pet for a while, you can call one of two numbers. Those numbers are 903-533-0001, and 903-780-3963.

Reid Kerr (rkerr@kltv.com) reporting.

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