Military family deployed, forced to leave beloved dog behind

Military family deployed, forced to leave beloved dog behind
Baby Lily playing with her dog Calvin. Courtesy Katie Garberding.

PACIFIC, Wash. -- KOMO News has received some pretty peculiar mail over the years, but I suspect the letter we recently received from “Calvin, The Big Red Dog” was our first canine correspondence.
Pacific resident Katie Garberding wrote to KOMO on behalf of Calvin, a 6-year-old Chesapeake Bay /Golden Retriever mix, asking for help reuniting him with his family.

Calvin belongs to Garberding’s daughter Helen, whose military family moved to Belgium earlier this month. Despite the family’s love for their dog, they could not afford to fly him overseas.

“A few weeks ago my family hugged me and kissed me as they said their goodbyes,” Garberding wrote on behalf of Calvin. “I know that they didn’t want to leave me.”

Garberding is now collecting donations to send Calvin to Belgium. She says her grandchildren desperately miss him. 

When 4-year-old Lily got sick after the flight to her new home, Garberding says she kept asking for the family dog.

“They’re all devastated,” Garberding says. “They’re in a new country where they don’t know anybody and they’re not complete.”

Garberding says Calvin will always have a home with her, but she can tell he misses his family. She says the retriever has “sad eyes” and often sits in her driveway watching cars pass by.

“It’s almost like he’s waiting for them to come get him,” Garberding says.

Not unlike other military families, Helen's has moved around a lot. She and her husband Ryan enlisted in the Army in 1997. She left the service shortly after her 11-year-old son Thomas was born. The family has lived in New York, Texas and Germany while Ryan was deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan.

Three years ago Ryan was transferred to Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the family moved to Washington, Helen’s home state. That’s when Calvin came into their lives.

The dog had been living with Helen’s sister Emily until she moved to an apartment that didn’t allow pets. As soon as the Bingamans took Calvin in, Garberding says he adopted their three children as his “puppies.”

“He is so gentle with the kids,” Garberding says. “He is the rock that keeps them together.”

But when Helen's family was preparing to move to Belgium, they learned it would costs between $1,100 and $2,000 to fly Calvin with them. Helen asked her mother to babysit Calvin until the family could save enough money to fly him over.

To help reunite the family, Garberding has created a savings account at Chase Bank to collect the funds needed to fly Calvin to Belgium and back again when the family returns to the United States in 3 years. She hopes to raise $4,000. Garberding says any funds that are not used on Calvin’s flight will be donated to the Auburn Humane Society.

“We love him, but my grandkids need him,” Garberding says. “They need as much consistency as possible.”

Readers can help Calvin by contacting Garberding at imadaisylady@aol.com.