Airman volunteers, gives back to Valdosta pet community

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Tara Thompson, 23d Security Forces confinement officer, poses for a photo with Charlie, a local rescue dog, at a local pet store Jan. 31, 2015, in Valdosta, Ga. Thompson’s volunteer group, the Moody Pet Guardian Angels, helps find homes and fosters for deployed Airmen’s animals and rescues. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Tara Thompson, 23d Security Forces confinement officer, poses for a photo with Charlie, a local rescue dog, at a local pet store Jan. 31, 2015, in Valdosta, Ga. Thompson’s volunteer group, the Moody Pet Guardian Angels, helps find homes and fosters for deployed Airmen’s animals and rescues. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Tara Thompson, right, 23d Security Forces Squadron confinement officer, and Staff Sgt. Ryan Frederick, 23d SFS military working dog instructor, pose with their rescue dog Apollo Jan. 30, 2015, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. In addition to Apollo, Thompson and Frederick own another rescue dog, Atticus, and a retired military working dog, Rico. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Tara Thompson, right, 23d Security Forces Squadron confinement officer, and Staff Sgt. Ryan Frederick, 23d SFS military working dog instructor, pose with their rescue dog Apollo Jan. 30, 2015, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. In addition to Apollo, Thompson and Frederick own another rescue dog, Atticus, and a retired military working dog, Rico. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman/Released)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

Her passion to volunteer didn't just come out of the blue. In fact, the animal lover used to fear dogs; she saw them as snarling beasts.

At least, until her fiancé introduced her to a life of puppy love.

For this reason, she spent last year volunteering over 700 hours for pets, and she continues to give back any way she can.

"By the love they would show me from me being nice to them and giving them affection, they stole my heart," said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Tara Thompson, 23d Security Forces Squadron confinement officer. "No matter how big or small, they just want to be loved."

By day, she watches over Moody's confined Airmen undergoing courts martial. By night, she's taking care of her dogs and tackling plans for her next big volunteer project.

Thompson fuels her passion for volunteering by giving back to the Valdosta pet community.

Growing up in Pittsburgh, Penn., Thompson began her passion for volunteering at a young age through her parents.

"My parents always wanted to instill in me the importance of helping others regardless of how you volunteered," said Thompson. "You never know when you may need a helping hand."

Thompson was rarely exposed to other pets besides cats until her fiancé, Staff Sgt. Ryan Frederick, 23d SFS military working dog canine trainer, opened her eyes to the love of dogs.

"I never owned a dog until I met [Ryan]. I was even afraid of them," said Thompson.

"They're a huge factor in my life now," she added. "It's always a happy sight to come home and have these loving animals greeting me."

Thompson and Frederick own two rescue dogs, Atticus and Apollo, and one retired military working dog, Rico, and she said they are her inspiration to help all animals in need.

"She really cares a bunch for all these animals," said Frederick. "If she could, she would take them all home. Three is [more than] enough for our household, and I've had to tell her we can't take one home."

From the love she feels for her animals, Thompson's interest in volunteering was triggered to help Valdosta's pets in need.

"I always felt the need to be their voice," said Thompson. "If you can step up and save or foster an animal, or even donate, you can save a life. You have that opportunity to do so, they don't."

Thompson's volunteer legacy here lies in the Moody Pet Guardian Angels.

MPGA is a program founded by Thompson, her coworkers and the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care (BARC) Humane Society, and they help find homes and fosters for deployed Airmen's animals.

"There are a lot of challenges we face with the [MPGA]," said Thompson. "My weekends are mostly spent at the Humane Society or managing fundraisers for them."

"I enjoy every part that I do [for MPGA]," she added. "I wouldn't trade it for the world, but it can be time consuming."

Thompson's supervisor, 1st Lt. Felicia Racine, 23d SFS operations officer, also helps with MPGA events, and has her own rescue dog from the BARC Humane Society.

"Lieutenant Racine is the one who gives me the opportunity to go out and help the community," said Thompson.

According to Thompson, without the support from Ryan and her coworkers, a lot of her volunteer work wouldn't have been possible.

"She is the best person at organizing her time to the point that it's never a problem for her to take some time to go work on a volunteer effort," said Racine. "It's her passion."

Thompson and her family are leaving Moody soon, and she plans to carry her passion and legacy throughout her Air Force career.

"I'm looking forward to the volunteer opportunities at my next base, and hopefully I can start [a new] Pet Guardian Angels there and foster that kind of community I was lucky to have here."