07/10/12 — Ride for best friends

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Ride for best friends

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on July 10, 2012 1:46 PM


Lillian Kuhlman offers her dog, William, a drink Monday at Berkeley Park.


Angela Kuhlman poses with William and her 13-year-old cat, Schootch.

He didn't flinch when a brown-haired little girl barreled toward his dish -- when she plopped down beside it and started splashing water in his face.

He ignored her when she stuck her hand in the cool drink meant to ease the burden of the grueling heat -- and simply rolled his eyes when the 1-year-old tipped the container over, costing him continued deliverance from the draining sun.

He might be a dog, but William seemed to know that his best friend, Lillian, didn't know any better -- that what happened Monday at Berkeley Park was merely a continuation of the antics he has endured since the day his mom and dad brought her home from the hospital.

Or perhaps, he has been sensing the tension that has been mounting inside his home since Lillian's mother, Angela, "accepted" the fact that she might not be able to afford to take her 2-year-old shepherd and his feline counterparts to the Air Force base in England her husband recently received orders to.


He brings home a modest salary -- the F-15E Strike Eagle maintainer Angela fell for and married several years ago.

So when the couple found out that they would be leaving Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, that it would cost them more than $3,160, after they had planned and saved for a much-smaller amount, to bring their dog and two cats with them to England, they were devastated.

"There's no way. There's just no way," Angela said about the family's ability to foot the bill. "And everybody's like, 'Well, they're just animals.' You may think this is crazy ... but they are just as much a part of my family as any other member."

Her 13-year-old cat, Schootch, has been by her side ever since she was a little girl.

"My family got her from a friend and we bottle-fed her," Angela said. "I've had her since. She's been there with me everywhere I went."

And her black and white cat, Short Round, has never known another home.

So the thought of leaving them behind -- of what might happen to them in another home or shelter -- is beginning to take its toll on those who have loved them since shortly after they were born.

"We've tried everything. We've even put off grocery shopping to save money," Angela said. "But we leave at the end of the month, so we know it's not going to be enough."


A special message from the editor

Every day we ask them to protect us.

We ask them to leave their families or to cart them halfway around the world, to risk their lives, to protect our freedoms.

And they do, because they made us a promise that they would.

They don't ever ask for help. They don't ask for thanks. It is their duty, they say. They consider it an honor to serve.

And then, every once in a while, there comes to a chance to thank them -- to show our airmen and their families once again why they matter and that this community does not just say it is military-friendly, we live it.

I heard about a young family this week -- a mother, a father and a little girl, just a couple years old. They will be transferred to England in a few weeks, and they are faced with a choice that no one should have to make.

They, to this point, have been unable to raise the funds they need to take their rescued dog and cat and their 13-year-old cat, who has been in the family her whole life, with them.

They saved the money and made all the other purchases -- the shots, the carriers, the vet checks and even spayed the cat to comply with the regulations.

They even had a budget for the transportation and customs costs, which would have been offset by a military discount normally offered by the preferred carrier, Delta.

But Delta doesn't fly pets to England anymore and, let's face it, the Air Force cannot possibly get in the business of pet transportation. It is just not practical, no matter how much leaders might want to help.

Now, they are faced with using Continental Airlines -- and a bill that has just quadrupled to $3,163.50.

There just is not enough time to raise the funds, not for a young family just getting on its feet.

And you can only imagine what that means -- give up their beloved family members or put them down.

But that does not have to happen.

That's where we come in.

If you are a pet parent or have a beloved cat or dog in your family, you can understand how hard this must be.

And you have a chance to make sure it does not have to happen.

We can raise the money, as a community, to keep this family together -- and to remind this airman's family, and every other, that Wayne County stands behind those who serve. I am in, and so are a lot of other people at the News-Argus.

All of us have stories of our own about how our pets have made our lives complete. We could not imagine being faced with the same choice.

If you can give anything, that would help. Donate in your pet's name or as a family, however you wish. We can tell you from experience that every little bit helps.

These young people have put their trust in God to help them overcome this obstacle. They did not know where else to turn.

How nice would it be to be able to show them not only that their faith is well-placed, but that they live in a community that cares.

If you want to help, send a check made out to the News-Argus or to me to PAW FUND, P.O. Box 10629, Goldsboro, N.C. 27532 as soon as possible. Or if you are in our neighborhood, drop off a donation. I will make sure that it gets where it is supposed to go.

Any money raised

over the amount needed

will be donated to the Airmen and Family Readiness Center to be used to help our service members and their families.

No personal costs of any kind will come out of the money.

Thank you in advance for helping us make this family's dream come true.

Renee Carey is the editor of The Goldsboro News-Argus.

As much as Lillian loves her "partner in crime," William, she is even more attached to Short Round and Schootch.

"She's in love with the cats," Angela said. "Whenever they get up and walk away from her ... she starts crying because she loves them so much."

And when, in the midst of play, they bat a paw at that little girl, she breaks down.

"When that happens, it's the end of the world for the baby," Angela said. "Her feelings are hurt because the cats are mad at her."

Knowing that makes the possibility of making a new home without them even harder on the mother.

She can't imagine having to explain to Lillian that her best friends couldn't make the trip -- that her daddy, as an enlisted airman, simply doesn't make the kind of money necessary to ship three animals overseas.

"It breaks my heart," Angela said.


In an act of desperation, Angela started writing e-mails -- hoping that by sharing her story, somebody would find it in their heart to help a military family stay together.

But to-date, there have been few responses.

So when she found out Monday that word was spreading -- that a few hundred dollars had already been raised for the family in a town known for supporting its military; that a drive to cover the bill would soon be under way -- she choked up.

"I can't believe it," she said, wiping tears from her eyes. "I really can't believe that people would care about people like us."