EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. —The best way to end the workweek is with a head scratch and a tail wag. That’s exactly what happens each Friday at the 96th Logistics Readiness Squadron.
The “Pups and Popcorn” program began when Lt. Col. Ryan Mansfield, 96th LRS commander, partnered with Pet Welfare to bring an adoptable dog from the on-base shelter into his squadron each week.
Mansfield began volunteering his time at animal shelters over a decade ago. When he learned about Eglin’s unique asset, a partnership with Eglin’s Pet Welfare Center was born. Every Friday a meet-and-greet with the dogs assists with boosting morale, facilitating comradery, and building a connection with leadership.
“The ultimate goal is to connect with the community and help these dogs find their forever homes,” said Mansfield.
The event assists in meeting the all-volunteer shelter needs allowing the dogs to get outside while giving them exposure for potential adoption.
“The interaction with the dogs provides a great outlet for service members dealing with stress, plus provides a great morale booster and an opportunity to support the pet welfare mission,” said Mansfield, who adopted a dog from Pet Welfare during the program.
Approximately, 10 dogs were adopted within the squadron in the two years since the program began.
Tech. Sgt. Michael Peters, 96th LRS, adopted his dog, Riley, because of Pups and Popcorn.
“It was just a nice break during the day to get to pet a dog, it was something to look forward too,” said Peters, fire truck maintenance. “It has been phenomenal to have a good dog to come home to.”
The partnership opened additional volunteer opportunities for the squadron. Mansfield saw a need for more opportunities to allow the dogs to enjoy the outdoors.
“Getting dogs adopted is our goal, the publicity and support is beyond anything we could have expected,” said Carla Engeldinger, Pet Welfare board chairman.
“We really appreciate what a great job he does and continues to do. The fact that he took us on and helped us so much has been very rewarding for the animals and we have also gained more volunteers.”
A .25 mile walking nature trail was blazed by the squadron volunteers. The winding trail adds to the tail-waggers day, offering a safe opportunity for sniffing.
“It is so much better to take the dogs down the walking trail than down the road and they love the park,” said Engeldinger.
Most recently, an abandoned softball field was turned into a dog park. This was another volunteer project by the 96th LRS.
For more information about Pet Welfare, volunteer, or adopt a pet visit the website or call (850) 678-5066.
Story By 1st Lt. Karissa Rodriguez