When members of the U.S. military are deployed, who takes care of their pets?
Nicole Watson of Harmony, Minnesota, wants to help answer that question. As the mother of a Marine, she took on the responsibility of caring for her son's dog, Lilly, while he was overseas for about eight months.
And after her son, Jarek Burke, was tragically killed in a car accident while stationed at Camp Lejuene in North Carolina in October – just a couple months shy of retiring from active duty – Watson knew she wanted to do something to honor his life.
With the help of Burke's best friend Brittany Saulsgiver, Watson started Jarek's Corporal Canine Fostering, a service that aims to help service members find fosters for their dogs (and other pets) during deployments.
'Live Life Hard'
The fostering service was actually something Burke and his mom had discussed before he died, Saulsgiver told GoMN.
After Watson's husband passed away last year, Watson closed herself off from the rest of the world.
"Jarek basically told her to snap out of it, I need my mom back. I can't handle seeing someone I love and care so much about be like this. So, when Jarek passed away, Nicole knew he wouldn't want her to close herself off. So, she decided that this would be a perfect way to help keep his memory alive and would be another way for her to give back to the military," Saulsgiver said.
Burke's motto was "Live Life Hard," and the two women want to keep his legacy alive.
While the foundation is still in the early stages, more than 20 volunteers have expressed interest in becoming fosters, and most of them are veterans or have children in the military. They are hoping to go nationwide, and will have a website up and running soon.
"I actually had a woman email me from Maine saying she would love to foster, which is great because that means word is getting around," Saulsgiver told GoMN.
Interested in fostering a military pet? Check out the foundation's Facebook page for details.