Around F.C.

Doggy Diplomats of the Foreign Service Make Big Impact

For former Falls Church resident Loren Braunohler, having a dog in the family is an important piece of certainty in their transient life. Braunohler’s husband, Walter, is a Foreign Service Officer in the State Department, which involves moving overseas from post-to-post every two to three years with their four children and cream colored golden retriever, Kosmo.

Kosmo with the Braunohler children in Kyiv. (Photo: Loren Braunohler)

“Even though we’re in the Foreign Service and it’s a certain type of lifestyle, I did not want to sacrifice certain things, like the kids having a pet,” Loren said. She left the Foreign Service in 2011 to become a stay-at-home-mom, but has lived in Thailand, Poland and Ukraine for Walter’s positions. 

Currently, the Braunohlers are posted in Newport, R.I., where Walter is teaching at the Naval War College. The family adopted Kosmo in 2016 as a puppy while posted in Krakow, Poland. 

Walter was the Counselor for Public Diplomacy at the US Embassy in Ukraine before the family was evacuated. Loren said the rapid succession of moves for the family was traumatic for the kids. 

“There were four years where we moved every year,” Loren said. “Kosmo is this constant that the kids can count on and he provides them therapy in that way.”

Kosmo is a trained therapy dog with the People Animals Love (PALs) organization based in the DMV. He has visited schools, hospitals, senior homes and sick and disabled individuals in DC, Virginia, Maryland, Kyiv and Rhode Island.

Kosmo was the therapy dog at the Kyiv International School. (Photo: Loren Braunohler)

While the Braunohlers were posted in Kyiv with their four kids, the Russian invasion began to seem imminent. Kosmo was the therapy dog at the Kyiv International School, where many diplomats’ children were in attendance. 

“Kosmo was going into the school right up until we evacuated,” Loren said. “Being able to pet him provided a lot of therapy for the students at that very stressful time.”

Three weeks before the invasion, the State Department issued evacuation orders for all families at the US Embassy. They were given less than one week to pack up, say goodbye to their friends, colleagues and teachers and figure out how to get Kosmo back to the US. Eventually, the State Department sent a chartered flight for families with pets back to the United States. 

Even standard Foreign Service moves with pets are challenging. Elisabeth Escobar, a Falls Church resident and wife to Deputy Assistant Secretary Gabe Escobar, said the State Department largely leaves pet logistics up to owners. 

The Escobars, who spent over twenty years in the State Department “childless, pet-less and plant-less” adopted their two dogs while posted in La Paz, Bolivia, in 2016. 

“We weren’t planning on getting a dog, but my friend who is a dog rescuer in La Paz texted me a picture of Cookie while I was [vacationing] in New York City and without even asking Gabe I said, ‘yes’,” Elisabeth said. 

Daisy looks dotingly at Escobar. (Photo: Catherine Kane)

In La Paz, the Escobars’ embassy accommodations were a house, not an apartment, for the first time, a major factor in their decision to take in Cookie, a small, white retriever mix. Then again, a year later, Elisabeth got sent a picture from the same dog rescuer of a small white dog with curly hair. 

As soon as they welcomed Daisy into their home, she felt herself falling in love. 

“Daisy is needy, anxious, devoted and faithful. Cookie is a street dog, she could go rogue at any moment, but she’s very cuddly,” Elisabeth said. 

Since leaving La Paz, Cookie and Daisy have lived in Falls Church twice, where they encountered squirrels for the first time, and accompanied their parents to a two-year post in Belgrade, Serbia. 

The Braunohlers will live in Jamestown, R.I., a small island across from Newport, for the next two years. Kosmo got certified as a therapy dog in Rhode Island to continue working in schools. 

“The kids had to say goodbye to everyone very quickly and then the war started. To have Kosmo to lean on, to lay down on, to cry on — it was wonderful to have for our family,” Loren said.