Esprit de Corps

Soldiers’ buddies find a safe haven
By Lisa Wogan, February 2009, Updated February 2015

Checkers waits for SPC Brian Schaffer of the Pennsylvania National Guard Stryker Brigade.

You’re a soldier headed for 15 months in a war zone. You don’t know anyone who will foster your best friend while you’re gone, and you can’t afford a boarding kennel. You turn to the destination of last resort. “Grown men are walking up to shelters in tears,” says Laurie Lyon. “I just can’t imagine being put in that position.”

Lyon is doing her part to spare soldiers this fate. At Paw Prints Dog Sanctuary and Canine Corps in Perry County, Penn., she and her partner Kevin McCartin provide, free of charge, a just-like-home experience for the dogs of Pennsylvania soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. While another group,, helps match military dogs in need with foster families, the Canine Corps may be the only sanctuary of its kind.

Seasoned shelter volunteers, Lyon and McCartin met at a local dog park and in March 2007, began planning their own rescue/sanctuary for hard-to-place seniors and disabled dogs. When they learned about the soldiers’ dilemma, they contacted the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and tweaked their mission.

Life’s as good as it can be for the 16 Canine Corps residents separated from their guardians. They live in an open-format structure built just for them—heated floors, private pods, dog-friendly furniture and lots of volunteer attention—on five acres.
“The soldiers are in harm’s way,” Lyon says. “It’s an awesome responsibility to give their dogs the best care we can.”


Article first appeared in The Bark, Issue 53: Mar/Apr 2009

Photo by Fred A. Adams/Times Leader