VT Soldiers’ Angels: taking care of pets across the state

Veteran featured at Shelburne Museum Goes to the Dogs

By Lettie Stratton

Terri Sabens with her husband Jim Daignault. Sabens was instrumental in bringing Luis Carlos Montalvan to Shelburne Museum Goes to the Dogs.

In 2010, Terri Sabens saw an advertisement in the local paper for a military personnel’s dog that needed a home. Shortly after, Sabens and her husband Jim Daignault welcomed Anni, a shepherd hound, into their lives. Sabens has been involved with Vermont Soldiers’ Angels ever since, acting as their Pet Coordinator and helping to find temporary homes for pets whose soldier owners cannot care for them while they are engaged in military activity.

While Soldiers’ Angels is a national organization, pet fostering programs are conducted statewide. Sabens estimated that there are between 60-80 volunteers throughout the state of Vermont who welcome soldiers’ pets into their homes. If a soldier has a pet that needs to be cared for, an advertisement is placed and the soldier chooses from all interested parties who respond. Once a pet finds a home, the soldier pays for its care including food and medication. And the program is not just for dogs. Sabens said families have played host to birds and even snakes from time to time.

Sabens has been busy lately. She has been working since December to bring Luis Carlos Montalvan to the 10th anniversary of the Shelburne Museum Goes to the Dogs event on Sunday, Sept. 16. Montalvan is a U.S. Army Veteran who wrote a book called “Until Tuesday,” which chronicles his incredible relationship with his service dog named Tuesday. Montalvan will be giving two speeches at 12 pm and 3 pm and will be available for book signings, photographs, and a meet-and-greet. Sabens encourages all military personnel to attend and contact her for a free pass.

Sabens would like to thank the following sponsors for their support in helping her bring Montalvan to the Shelburne Museum event: Vermont Police K9, D.A.V. Chapter 5, Burlington Emergency & Veterinary Specialists, Therapy Dogs of VT, Sears in Middlebury, and Cosmo’s Cats. Sabens said the Marriott donated a hotel room for Luis and Heritage Aviation donated fuel for his plane ride. Those wishing to make a donation to the cause or interested in exploring the possibility of fostering a pet are welcome to contact Sabens at vtsoldiersangels@yahoo.com.

Expressing distress over the fact that Veterans are usually required to give up their pets when they enter senior housing, Sabens said her next project will be trying to get this policy changed. “I don’t want to see anyone have to give up their pet,” she said. “This whole housing thing bothers me a lot.”

Admittance to the Shelburne Museum Goes to the Dogs will be free for all active military members and all disabled veterans. Please bring your military ID. “Knowing we can help the military is the best part of this for me,” Sabens said.

Veteran Luis Carlos Montalvan poses with his service dog, Tuesday.

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