Serviceman’s dogs in hands of Glenwood foster family

Photo by Richie Ann Ashcraft—Pet foster parents Ross and Terri Terry hold on to their charges, Siberian husky Kira and chocolate Lab Dakota. The Terrys are volunteers with Guardian Angels For Soldier’s Pet, an organization that finds temporary homes for animals while their owners are serving overseas.

While William Sweringen of the Army Corps of Engineers   has been sweating under the Iraqi sun, his dogs Kira and Dakota have been living it up in fresh powder and Colorado sunshine.

For the past 11 months, the dogs have had a home at 8,755 feet elevation, halfway up Sunlight Peak near Glenwood Springs with Ross and Terri Terry.

Terri is the stable manager and accounting clerk for Sunlight Mountain Resort and Ski Area. Her husband, Ross, is the assistant general manager at the resort. Their house in the winter months is accessible by snowmobile only, and the dogs have been loving their snowy, temporary home.

The couple volunteered to foster Sweringen’s animals through Guardian Angels For Soldier’s Pet, an organization that finds temporary homes for animals while their owners are serving overseas.

The group’s mission is to prevent soldiers from having to relinquish their pets because of deployment. Volunteer foster families receive no compensation, beyond basic food and medical needs for the pet, for providing loving, often long-term homes.

The program finds foster families for all kinds of animals, from snakes to horses, Terri said.

“I just thought it was a great program, and we have the ideal place for pets up here,” she added.

The Terrys have three cats, but do not have dogs of their own.

“It’s a great way to rent a dog for awhile,” Ross said jokingly.

Kira and Dakota have been treated like royalty, allowed to lounge on the couch and run amok in the Colorado back country. They enjoyed camping in the summer months and a vacation to New Mexico.

This winter, the dogs are up to their bellies in snow. Dakota rides on the snowmobile while Kira prefers to run along beside it.

Last summer, the pups were often too curious about the critters they encountered on the mountain. The Terrys raised three turkeys over the summer. As the birds grew, the dogs soon discovered that a turkey is higher on the pecking order than a dog.

Plus, “Kira knows all about porcupines,” Terri said with a laugh.

That incident meant a trip for Kira to the local veterinarian’s office. The bill was paid through an account previously established by Sweringen for the care of his animals. Sweringen also opened a bank account in which he deposits money regularly for food, treats and other expenses.

Technicalities like these were established in a contract signed between Sweringen and the Terrys and implemented through the Guardian Angels program.

“It lays out who is in charge of the food, what is the maximum amount to be paid to the veterinarian if something happens, stuff like that,” Terri explained. It also discusses the possibility of adopting the pets if something were to happen to the soldier.

Weekly, the Terrys send pictures to Sweringen via e-mail to keep him up-to-date on what his dogs are up to.

The Terrys are strong supporters of the American military, and both are members of troop-support groups that send personal-care items to soldiers serving overseas.

Neither of them ever served in the military, but they appreciate what the troops sacrifice for the country.

Looking after the dogs is just a simple way to thank the soldiers for putting their life on the line in support of America’s freedoms, they say.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” Ross said.

Sweringen is coming home soon, most likely next month, Terri said. She and Ross admit that they will be sad to let Kira and Dakota go, but they know any parting sorrow will be quelled by happiness to see Sweringen reunited with his beloved pets.

“It’s something I wish more people would do,” Ross said.

To foster an animal, visit


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