|A friend in Balad|
By Senior Airman Joel Mease, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
SOUTHWEST ASIA (March 15, 2013) — Standing on all four paws, he weighs just a few pounds, but his energy and affinity to get people to smile is immeasurable.
Trained therapy dog, "Balad", makes his rounds visiting service members across the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing since November. His "parents," Melvin and Melissa DeVane, wanted a way to brighten the mood of service members, who don't normally get to see a domesticated dog in a deployed environment.
"It was just a way to try to bring a little morale booster to the deployed members, and Balad just loves meeting new people," said Mr. DeVane, who is the site manager for a contract here. "It's just a little touch of home being able to interact with Balad and it breaks up the monotony of being in this deployed location."
Because Balad is a trained therapy dog, he is also able to visit the clinic to see patients.
"Most members are just super excited to be able to pet Balad and when he does his tricks everybody smiles," said Mrs. Devane.
"While patients and hospital staff are more than happy to see him during one of his visits, the one who really gets excited is Balad," she added.
"The staff always makes us feel welcome and the patients really enjoy the break, and of course Balad loves being the star," Mrs. DeVane said.
"He loves it, first he gets to go for a ride and then when we get to the gate he starts whining excitedly because he knows he's going to get lots of attention," Mr. DeVane said. "It's funny on the way home he always looks so content and then crawls into the back seat and sleeps until we arrive home."
One of the reasons the DeVanes believes their dog is so popular around the installation is that he reminds service members of home.
"After receiving a visit from Balad, they normally just thank us and tell us how much they enjoyed it, then of course they tell us about their pet that they left back home and how much they miss them and can't wait to return home to their families," Mrs. DeVane said.
Balad is also willing to visit other service members around the installation. All they have to do is ask, Mr. DeVane said.
"It's nice to be able to bring a little enjoyment into people's lives and share our blessings," Mr. DeVane said. "Folks can contact Balad on Facebook at www.facebook.com/balad.devane to request a visit, see pictures and leave comments."