In her opening remarks at the Paws and Claws Kennel ribbon-cutting on Sept. 28, Fort Irwin FMWR marketing assistant Candice Jamoles quoted 18th century philosopher Emanuel Kant, who said, "We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals."
Judging by the newly renovated kennel facility, the Fort Irwin community has a good heart as the facility now boasts eight concrete dog runs, new concrete flooring throughout the facility, soundproof doors, insulated ceilings and walls as well as a new air conditioning unit and ventilation system with an automatic air freshener to boot.
"This is all to create an environment to make your pet feel at home when you are away from home," Ms. Jamoles said.
Fort Irwin Garrison Commander Col. Jim Chevallier said one of the things that surprised him when he returned to Fort Irwin in 2008 after previously serving at the installation in 1992 was the state of the kennel.
"I came down to see all the MWR facilities, and the kennel looked exactly the same with a whole lot more wear and tear on it in 2008 than it did in 1992," Col. Chevallier said.
Having a renovated kennel facility is more important to the quality of life at Fort Irwin, much more so than other installations, he said.
" I can also remember being here in 1992 as a dog lover and a dog owner not being able to put my dog in the on-post kennel, and I think I had to go all the way to Apple Valley before I found a kennel that I thought was worthy of keeping my dog," he said. Apple Valley is more than 60 miles south of Fort Irwin.
Given Fort Irwin's rotational schedules and max leave schedules and comp time periods, it's absolutely essential that it has a kennel where dog owners are comfortable with leaving their pet, he said.
"It's a key aspect in protecting our pet population and taking care of Soldiers and their Families as we go about our mission out here," he said.
The kennel is the second Fort Irwin facility that was largely funded through the post's recycling program, which also provided money for the community skate park, he said.
"You can take your recycling to Barstow and get your whatever cents you get for your can or as a community it can make a big difference here," he said.
Projects like the kennel are always hard to do because they require a lot of coordination and effort, he explained.
"The staff really went through some Herculean efforts not to close down to be able to adequately take care of the animals," he said, noting that the kennel was only closed for three weeks during the renovations, which began in the spring.
The real impetus behind this project was not the garrison commander, but Fort Irwin FMWR director Silvia Bergland, who has two Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Col. Chevallier said.
"She moved out here when she first came out here and lived on post," he said. "Our director of FMWR would not put her babies in this kennel and that's kind of the words she used with me when she explained where I should prioritize this project in the community."
The Army Corps of Engineers also supported the project as it supervised the subcontractor, who completed the work, he said.
"This just one more small step in how we try to improve the quality of life in our community, and this is a successful one," Col. Chevallier said. "I'm looking forward to our community using this facility."