ANKENY, Iowa — An Ankeny dog lover gave an out-of-state soldier one less thing to worry about while deployed to Iraq.
“This is the first time I’ve ever fostered,” said Tammi VanDerSluis.
She signed up to volunteer with the nonprofit Dogs on Deployment. The organization is full of volunteers who care for military pets while their owners are on duty.
For 16 months, Cutesy and Bentley made themselves right at home with her. The Lab and Great Dane stayed with VanDerSluis even longer after their owner’s deployment was extended.
But now, the wait is finally over. The dogs are about to see Andrew Dutton for the first time since he dropped them off.
“Hey boys, I have a surprise for you,” said VanDersluis.
Moments later, she let out of the dogs and they came running to a waiting Dutton.
“You kind of have that moment, are they going to remember me? That was not a worry for them,” he said.
Dutton, a Black Hawk pilot, deployed with the Minnesota National Guard. His wife was completing a fellowship at Mayo Clinic and they didn’t have anyone to watch the dogs while he was overseas.
“That peace of mind knowing that when you get home, you get back to the normalcy that you left. That’s the best hope you can have,” said Dutton.
While he can’t thank VanDerSluis enough for taking care of Cutesy and Bentley, she says it’s her way of thanking him for his service.
“Bye-bye boys. I’m going to miss you guys,” said VanDerSluis.
Her first mission accomplished feels bittersweet.
“It was very hard to see them go. I’m going to miss them. But at the same time, I’m very happy they’re where they belong.”
VanDerSluis is one of nine volunteer boarders in the Des Moines area listed on www.dogsondeployment.org. Cutesy and Bentley now join the nearly 2,200 successfully deployed pets