Does the Horror of Pet PCS Keep You Down?


Our dog Gunner and his girlfriend Abby recently had puppies. In lieu of a stud fee, Abby’s owner offered us pick of the litter. When the pups were ready to venture out on their own, my family played with each one and brought home the cutest little black Labrador retriever in the entire world. We were all madly in love.

Unfortunately, we knew we wouldn’t be keeping sweet Princess Buttercup Penny Lane (can you tell I have a 5-year-old daughter?). When we first found out that Gunner was going to be a father, we loved the idea of adopting one of his offspring so he could have a playmate. But I quickly reconsidered adding another dog to our family after flashing back to visions of the last time we PCS’ed with a dog.

Ok, so maybe shipping a dog who had never been on an airplane before all the way to Japan was destined to be a awful experience, and maybe I shouldn’t let that one horrible move keep me from sharing my love with another pet. Unfortunately, anytime someone asks me about PCS’ing with a dog, all I can think about is shoving my poor 85-pound dog into a crate lined with towels, the crate we duct-taped with zipper bags filled with dog food and a note requesting that any possible handlers talk to our poor, anxiety-ridden dog.

I remember the trouble we had learning the requirements for moving a dog overseas, the debate with the vet over whether or not to drug him during the flight, the down-to-the wire last minute fear that we would have to cancel our flight because it was summertime and the temperatures were dangerously close to the maximum heat levels allowed in cargo hold where the dog would be traveling. And then there was the guilt of finally getting him through customs only to shove him back in that hateful crate for the last leg of the trip. By the time we retrieved our retriever at our final destination, I think I was just as traumatized as he was.

Even Princess Buttercup Penny Lane’s adorable puppy dog eyes couldn’t keep me from flashing forward to future PCS’es. I knew it wasn’t the right time in our military life to add a second extra large dog crate to our inventory list. I hated handing Gunner’s daughter over to a friend (yes, I promise she went to a good home), but one military brat of the pet variety is enough for me. Any more than that just adds complications to an already complicated lifestyle.

However, unlike me, it seems many military families aren’t fazed by a houseful of pets. We asked our Facebook followers how many MilPets they have, and most of the commenters had multiple pets of multiple species. Dogs, cats, fish, bunnies, guinea pigs, chickens, birds, lizards, a bearded dragon and even horses! And it sounds like these pets have traveled all over the world. Military life doesn’t slow these animals down one bit.

So MilPet owners, how many pets do you have? Does having pets make PCS’ing more difficult? Have you ever had to leave pets behind because of a PCS move?

While you’re in the commenting mood, take poll and then check out the results —  both below. We know that if there’s nothing else pet owners feel strongly about — it’s their love for their animals. We want to hear from you!

Fill out my online form.

(By the way, this is a great reference for those of you PCS’ing overseas with pets. I really could have used this 8 years ago!)

About the Author

Heather Sweeney
Heather Sweeney is an Associate Editor at, former Navy wife, mother of two, blogger, and avid runner. She’s the blogger formerly known as Wife on the Roller Coaster and still checks in every now and then at her blog Riding the Roller Coaster.
  • Heather

    I’ll start by saying we never had to PCS overseas with an animal, however, we have flown our dogs on a few occasions from the west coast to the east coast and vice versa. I think the experiences for them were probably not ideal, but, we were soon reunited and all was well. We have done a dozen PCS moves, all of which we had one to two dogs in tow (need I mention the 3 kids). This includes our PCS to and from Alaska, driving (including a 4 day ferry ride). Our animals are as much a part of our family as any of us and we would never think of getting rid of them just because it is inconvenient to travel. It is much easier to travel with kids then animals actually! lol Right now we have two Chihuahua’s, one is 11 years old, the other is 3 years old. They have covered more mileage across the US (including Alaska) then most people do in a lifetime! We would never give them up just because of a PCS move, we adjust.

  • I’ve had my cat for 7.5 years now. He’s moved houses and moved states. He’s happy as long as he is with us. Our dog was adopted just 3 years ago at our current location and hasn’t known any home other than this one. Our next move will be new for him, but I wouldn’t dream of doing anything else. He’s a part of this family. We even have a special situation with the cat, who is feline leukemia positive. I’ve already made arrangements with my mother, should the situation arise where we aren’t allowed to take him somewhere. He would stay with her until he could return to us.

    My pets are my family and I adopted them with the intention of doing everything I could to keep them with me. Unfortunately, many military families these days think pets are disposable and will adopt new pets at each location, only to give them away when it’s time to move. Many shelters are starting to second guess adoptions to military families because of this.

    And then you have the ones who care for their pets and do take them on every move, only to find conflicting pet policies at their new location. There is a petition out there to standardize the pet policies at military bases. Please consider signing it!

  • Theresa

    Thankfully most here said that it was worth the trouble. I find the poll though as a whole a little disturbing. Would we have a poll about taking our beloved children with us or dropping them off at a foster home? What makes a family pet, one you promised to love and raise forever any different?

    • Shezimm

      Thankfully, we’ve been able to avoid OCONUS with our pets. We wold never consider shipping our two 16 year old dogs, so we turned down a tour to Germany. Now that we have a 70 pound German Shepherd, we avoided a tour to Hawaii because we could not bear the crate time and quarantine. And I don’t even want to think of what the poor cat would be like. She’s neurotic on a goo day.We’ve been fortunate that we haven’t been forced to ship our furry ones.

      Choosing the ” we wouldn’t put our pet through an OCONUS move,” doesn’t mean that we are dumping our pets off. It may just mean that we are choosing other options for our family.

    • mongolberry
  • Theresa

    Or to be more clear if we should or should not have kids in the military? I guess that’s a little more accurate. It just seems like there’s always an excuse not to PCS with pets, but in my mind it should not even be a question.

  • Sarah

    Usually I agree with most of the things posted on here. However, how could you get a puppy and then rehome it? I know it went to a home, but if you knew that you weren’t ready to add another pet to your family you shouldnt have accepted.

    I have major problems with many military families leaving pets behind as they PCS. A lot of shelters where I am at are refusing to adopt because of this problem. They get new pets every duty station. Unfortunately, they are just adding to the problem for animal shelters who are struggling as it is. The only way I will ever get rid of an animal is if the dog had aggression issues.

    I have a 7 year old mutt, and a 3 month old Chi. They have already traveled quite a bit in their life times. When my husband and I PCS next month, we will be living with husbands parents temporarily while we are having our first house built. His parents already have 2 dogs, and we will have to find a foster home for our oldest dog because their HOA only allowed 3 dogs on the property. So, I will put her on the plane to a family friend for 5 months, and she will put her on a plane coming back to us.

    They are my pets. I made a life long commitment to them. No matter what, they will have a forever home with me. I will not rehome them, I will not drop them off at a shelter. I will do everything in my power to bring them with me until the day they have to be put down because of health problems, or until they go peacefully in their sleep.

    Don’t get animals if you are not willing to make that commitment to them. Don’t get breeds that may be outlawed on other posts. Don’t get breeds past a certain weight if you don’t want to deal with trying to find some place to rent with a 50 lbs dog in tow. Don’t attempt to hide your animals from your landlord. Don’t get animals if you are unwilling, or unable to pay for pet deposits, pet rent, flights, vet trips, pet cleaning fees, ect.

    The only reason to ever get rid of a dog is if they are aggressive. Period.

    • peeplesinmotion

      Have you ever actually lived in an OCONUS location? The local shelters in Bavaria won’t even consider allowing Americans to adopt because they continually dump pets here after finding out how expensive it will be to get them back to the US (quite often much more expensive, even if it wasn’t for your specific friend). She’s not suggesting that she considers it an option to get rid of a pet. She’s not advocating for the rights of others to do so either. It’s simply FACT of military life that people do this. Insisting that you’re above it will not change the truth, which is that countless others have abandoned a dog due to the extreme difficulty of flying a large animal over an ocean–and it IS much harder to do than a child of any age.

  • Sharon
  • MrsO

    That is why we have only one kitty. He fits nicely under the seat in the cabin with us when traveling by air.

  • Rquick

    Yeah i have 3 dogs and 1 is old and sickly. Were at Campbell now but I still worry about if ever go OCONUS! There just seem to be so many hoops to jump through. I would never leave my dogs. Although I may leave my oldest with my inlaws as I don’t think he could handle the flight but I wish that there was aclear cut policy for bring animals overseas. I read alot of conflicting info.

  • As much as we bleed red, white, and blue, my husband and I have no desire to live in the US when there’s a big world out there to explore. We met and married in Germany, moved to Hawaii, adopted two 15-pound Jack Russels and had a daughter, and now we’re moving to Ohio while he goes to Korea unaccompanied then we’re meeting up in Italy next year. I would never leave our dogs anywhere we don’t leave our baby. It makes me nervous moving from Hawaii to the mainland then to Europe with two dogs in tow, but I couldn’t dream of leaving them behind or limiting assignments to keep them!

    • Heather

      You have been ‘blessed’ as they say here in the south, with some fantastic assignments! Wish we could have been so lucky. lol Believe me, if we could have gotten overseas just once there would have been no question about our dogs going with us. And you are right there is a huge world out there to explore! ;)

    • Mandy

      How was it going from Germany to Hawaii? My husband and I are going from Mississippi to Hawaii. WE will be taking our beloved sheltie, Daisy. I’ll admit I am extremely nervous making the trip but that is because of the no fly period due to extreme heat/ cold, and worrying about her being scared. Any help with an OCONUS move would be great.

      • Melawian

        We pcs’d to Hawaii. Just be sure to get your rabies certificates in order, so your dog doesn’t have to go to quarantine. They will not let you fly the dog if it gets too hot or too cold. It depends on the time you are pcs’ing. Your pet will probably be scared, but mine is the biggest baby ever, and she did better than my husband and I.

        • Mandy

          Thanks! I have done the blood test for rabies. Now we are just waiting to get the health cert. and travel. We RNL May 30, 2013. So hopefully its not to hot by that time.

      • Bridget

        As long as you get your paper work done you should be fine. We went from Mississippi to Hawaii and are now back in Mississippi from Hawaii. We have 2 dogs, a golden retriever and a daschund. everything went fine. We flew the first week of June both times.

  • KJT

    Not many people know but it is alot easier to get pets into Europe, starting Jan 1st 2012 they lifted the 6 month quarantine (providing you have documented proof of rabies shots)…. No more excuses for pets left behind…!