Fate Leads to Help

kylieOn December 8th, I was scheduled to hop on an airplane from Corpus Christi, TX to fly to the Northeast for two weeks of military training, completing my two years in Naval flight training. I woke up early on Sunday, to an American Airlines automated message that my flight had been cancelled due to weather, and that I had been rescheduled for Monday. Unable to get a hold of a representative over the phone due to high call volume, I decided to visit the airport to see if there was anything that could be done to get me a flight to my training that day.

Standing in line for the airport representative, a man with a dog in a crate was visibly upset about the cancellations for the flights. I asked him about his dog, and he explained that he was leaving town, and needed to ship his dog to his next duty station. Turns out, he was in the Navy, and was being transferred to Southern California the next day by air, and was trying to ship his dog via air to where he was going. The freezing layer over Texas was preventing that from happening.

This brings up a good point in traveling with pets; travel in cargo via air, especially during extreme winter or summer conditions, can be extremely dangerous for your pets. There are many ground options available, and Dogs on Deployment is working to partner with transportation businesses and organizations in the future to give military members a database to arrange transport for their pets when necessary.

As luck would have it, I told him I would be traveling to San Diego during my own duty station transfer in the next couple of weeks, and offered that I would be happy to drive his dog with me. After all, she was very well crate trained and cute as could be! Not to mention, it’d be an honor to help out a fellow service member. I also found out that the pup, Kylie, had been a rescue from Kingsville, TX. Apparently, her original caretakers preferred to shoot her instead of feed her, and she was lucky to be found by this man who not only saved her life, but loved her. I told him about Dogs on Deployment, gave him my contact information and let him know to contact me if he needed her to be driven out.

The next day, I found out my training was cancelled, and after checking with my unit in Corpus Christi, was told I could leave that day to drive to San Diego! I called the dog’s “dad,” and let him know that I could drive Kylie, across country that day! So I picked her up, and we drove 2100 miles to both our new homes. Her dad picked her up to a happy reunion, and Kylie is now a happy California-resident.

It was meant to be that I went to the airport to meet this man and his dog. If you have an upcoming PCS move with room to travel with a rescue dog, I recommend it! It was a highly rewarding experience to be able to help that gentleman and Kylie! I wish them luck in their bright future together!

Why I foster…

By Alisa Johnson, President Dogs on Deployment

I’ve always been a dog-lover. I’ve had three dogs my whole life (short so far, I’m only 25… I mean 24…). My childhood dog, Tasha, was my best friend as a kid. She recently passed away and her passing broke my heart. As an adult, I got my first puppy JD, he’s my “soul puppy” and the inspiration behind all my animal and rescue work. Then I got Jersey, my little evil puppy from a rescue in Alabama. Then I have all my fosters…

JD with Shawn and I.

JD with Shawn and I.

My first three foster dogs were strays I found on the streets in my old neighborhood in San Diego. I’d find these skinny, scared or abused dogs on the street and knew if I did nothing, no one would do anything, and their futures would be uncertain, or possibly, non-existent. If I didn’t help them, who would?

I invested into these three dogs both time and money. I wasn’t connected to any rescue group, and as just another stray on the street, I couldn’t find anyone willing to help. On a college-budget working part-time at Petco, I had to save to get them all vetted and neutered/spayed. I spent a lot of time networking them to find them homes; this was all before I had such an amazing network in Dogs on Deployment. It took time, patience and love, an it paid off, because all three of them were adopted and are living with amazing owners.

I had the time, I had the drive, I had the little bit of extra money and I had the space to help those dogs. So I did. It was inconvenient at times. It was hard to let them go. But in the end, if I didn’t help, who would? No one. That was all the reason I needed to stop traffic, to jump out of my car, and pick up those stray dogs covered in fleas and bring them under my care.

I did the same for Dillard. He was a stray pitbull-shar pei mix I found abandoned in the mall parking lot in Corpus Christi, TX, where stray animals are a dime-a-dozen. I was in the middle of flight school, spending 12-hours a day flying, or studying for flying. I was living on my own, and had my two dogs with me in my house on base, which has a two-pet limit and bans pitbulls.

Dillard was adopted to a Marine and his wife.

Dillard was adopted to a Marine and his wife.

I could have left Dillard in that parking lot. I could have left him to face the busy traffic, and the nearby freeway, and the hordes of cars and people who would hurt him. But he rolled over onto his back with his tail between his legs as I approached him, and I couldn’t. I could not possibly leave him there with a clean conscience. So I put him in my car, and took him home.

I was scared to death he may attack my own dogs; dog fighting is prevalent in this area. But I took the chance to see what his initial behavior towards other dogs was; and it was good. After a long journey through several foster homes, failed adoptions and denials from rescue groups to help, perseverance paid off and Dillard was adopted to a military family in San Diego, CA.

He could have died on the streets of Corpus Christi as many other strays do. Instead he is a part loving family.

I have recently started to foster with a local rescue group, For the Love of Strays. Networking, vetting and adopting a dog on your own can be exhausting and many people don’t have the capability to do it. It was exhausting, and I admitted to myself I needed the help, but I didn’t want to stop fostering. After all, I have an open home (my two dogs are living with their “dad”) and a little extra time to spend on a dog’s life.

My fifth foster, Maggie, was recently adopted to a loving home in San Diego, CA as well (my dogs are popular in CA!). She was a difficult placement because she had some special requirements for a new home.

My sixth foster is Shadow. She’s now looking for her forever home. If she did not have my home, who knows where she would end up. Shelters everywhere are full, and forced to euthanize perfectly adoptable dogs and cats for no other reason than lack of space. Rescues are lacking foster homes; if there are no foster homes for the animals to go to, they can’t enter the rescue.

Shadow is a 1 year old Lab-mix for adoption in the Gulf Coast area.

Shadow is a 1 year old Lab-mix for adoption in the Gulf Coast area. Read below for adoption information on Shadow!

So why do I foster? Because if not me, then who? If you have the time, space and commitment to foster an animal – dog, cat, bird, rabbit, horse or any other – do it. Whether it is a military pet found through Dogs on Deployment, or a homeless dog through your local rescue, FOSTERING SAVES LIVES. Foster on your own (ensure any stray you find, you sufficiently attempt to locate the original owners), or foster for an organization, Dogs on Deployment or local rescue. Foster short term, or foster long term. Every day an animal spends in your home is an extra chance at a long life. If you can, why would you not give them this?

I am not in a locale or position to provide long-term fostering for a military-pet through Dogs on Deployment, but when I move back home to San Diego at the end of the year, our home will be open to a compatible pet through our own network, while also remaining open to several San Diego rescues as an emergency home.

Can’t foster? Then please consider supporting foster-organizations in any other way you can – share pets in need on Facebook/Twitter, donate, promote adoption, etc. Every bit of education and outreach you do, helps that group.

Want to adopt Shadow?

Want to adopt Shadow?

Meet Shadow! Shadow is a 1 year old, spayed female, lab-mix, medium sized (50lb) dog looking for her forever home through For The Love Of Strays! She is an active, funny and very sweet cuddle-bug. Her adoption fee is $130 which covers her spay, vaccinations and microchip. She is currently in my foster care, so any questions on her, or meet and greets in Corpus Christi, TX, email me at alisa@dogsondeployment.org. She may be easily adopted in the Gulf Coast region. Read more about Shadow below.

Shadow came into the rescue group last October. She was a stray who followed a dog-loving lady home, sat on her door step, and would not leave! Hence, her name Shadow. She is very trusting of people, and thus, she needs a home which won’t abuse that trust. 

Shadow is a couch potato when she’s lying around the house, but is very active when its time to play. She absolutely loves to be outdoors, at the beach, and to RUN! She may be part Greyhound – she’s the fastest dog I’ve seen! She would do great in an active household that hikes, runs, goes to the beach, enjoys boating or that travels often. She is perfect in the car, does great on the leash (when using a harness) and is friendly meeting new people. 

Shadow is OK with all people, but seems to REALLY love men. She would do great in a home where she is the only dog; she loves being the sole source of attention! She is OK with other dogs in a calm environment, but some dogs she just does not like. She is OK with cats with careful introduction. She has not been around many young children, but would do fine with older children. 

When she plays, she likes to wrestle or play catch with toys. She loves squeaky toys! She prefers to sleep in the bed, cuddle up next to her human, or on the couch… but she listens VERY well and will get off the furniture with a gentle “Off” command. She knows basic commands and is very attentive to her human’s voice. She is very smart and with some training, has potential to learn many tricks. She is a very easy-going dog and wants to be with her human all the time. She is a true “shadow.” 

I see Shadow’s perfect home being a young couple or single person that lives a very active lifestyle and wants a well-behaved dog to accompany them on trips, activities and even work. She is a very fit dog and would benefit from daily runs along the beach to get her energy out.

What to do with pets when getting divorced

Me and Shamrock at a Hawaii pet event.

Me and Shamrock at a Hawaii pet event.

By Theresa Donnelly

It is estimated that nearly 50 percent of all U.S. marriages end in divorce and that it’s usually before the eight year mark that most marriages fall apart. With dog ownership at about 39 percent and cat ownership at 33 percent, there are many families faced with deciding what to do with the animals when the relationship ends.

I never anticipated I would be a part of this statistic, even down to the eight year rule (I hit eight years of marriage last March). I love my three Boxer dogs dearly and having no children, they were my fur kids. They inspired me to begin showing my dogs in conformation activities, volunteer with my purebred Boxer dog club, start a local pet resource for military families, and to advocate on behalf of military pet owners.

Fortunately, my job as an active duty naval officer enabled me to provide for them financially, so my husband took them back to his hometown of Tiverton, R.I. Because of my constant deployments at my next duty station in San Diego, we decided that it was in the best interest of the dogs that he would get fulltime custody.

But the sadness hasn’t gone away, and there’s an emptiness that remains within me. There are multiple pictures around the house of the dogs, and my personal Facebook page is filled with cute postings about them. Their lingering doggy smell brings back the sweet memories of them bouncing around the home (Boxers love to jump), playing with their toys and giving me lots of unconditional affection. I comfort myself knowing that once my deployment ends this February, I will foster dogs for the local Boxer rescue or the San Diego Humane Society.

I know not everyone has the option I did to give custody of the dogs to my husband, so I wanted to share some suggestions on what to do should anyone face a divorce with pets, especially those like myself with long absences from the home because of their career.

In most states, pets are considered property. According to this divorce attorney, judges do take many factors into consideration when determining the disposition of the pet, such as who was the primary caregiver and who owned the pet prior to the marriage. If there are children involved, it’s likely the pets will stay with them.

Here is all three of my pets. They will be missed dearly, but are in a great home with a huge yard and lots of love!

Here is all three of my pets. They will be missed dearly, but are in a great home with a huge yard and lots of love!

If you’re facing a family separation, please explore every possible option before dropping the animal off at a shelter. When we took on pet ownership, we knew this was a responsibility for life regardless of our personal decisions about the relationship. There may be family or close friends that can help if you just ask them. I’ve learned as I’ve become older and wiser to always ask for what I need, and then be accepting if the answer is no because at least I’ve tried to seek a solution.

Second, if family and friends are not an option, please contact us at Dogs on Deployment. We’ve helped place more than 225 military pets with foster families while the service member goes on deployment or short term school travel. With a Facebook network of more than 30,000 fans and 4,000 registered boarders, we are growing by the day, further increasing the chance that a good family will come forward to help in this time of need.

Lastly if no other option exists, please do a responsible rehoming. This article here from Hawaii Military Pets lists some tips on what to do to ensure a safe home for your beloved animal. And if you’re lucky, perhaps the new family can send you pictures from time to time, or you can arrange a visit.

Divorce is never easy and what to do with the pets complicates an already stressful situation. But, hopefully there’s a way to come to an amicable agreement on the outcome of the animals. Their safety and forever care will always remain a priority for me, regardless of how the marriage turned out. The good that can come out of this is that it’s demonstrated the sense of responsibility I have to them no matter what curveball life throws. I hope others can come to a peaceful solution that is safe for the animal and will give the separating couple some comfort during such a difficult time.


Helping Veterans and their Pets: Information for Veteran Assistance Programs

By Alisa Johnson


Lady and Copper's photo shared across social media sites to try to find a suitable foster home.

A veteran’s dogs whom we worked to help find placement.

Shortly after Dogs on Deployment started gaining steam in recruiting volunteers and military members began hearing about our program for the first time, so did the Veterans’ Affair (VA) Department in Virginia Beach, VA. The first veteran we helped was homeless, car-less, but not dog-less. With two Jack Russell Terriers that meant the world to him, he was unable to enroll in the VA Department’s homeless domicile and job rehabilitation program and care for them. He had to find a place for his dogs to live in order for him to receive help. Without Dogs on Deployment’s, and other organizations, businesses and individuals’ help, he would have had to either give up his dogs, or remain homeless. Thanks to countless supporters, he was able to find temporary care for his dogs so that he could enroll in the VA’s program; getting food, shelter and a chance to start again.

Since then, Dogs on Deployment has helped several other veterans facing the same or similar situation. We are usually contacted by the VA case worker who has one question: How do we proceed to help this veteran? The below information serves as a guideline how a veteran and their pets can be assisted through our program.

Find out the veteran’s situation. Every situation, person and pet is unique, and it is important to understand the veteran’s relationship to their pets, and then determine what the future holds for that veteran in order to give good advice in moving forward.

Can they provide long term care for their pets? Is rehoming a better option? While it may be obvious that a pet owner loves their pets, they may not be in the position to give long term care for their pets. Prolonged homelessness, mental stability, financial future, illness and other life factors contribute to whether or not a person is, or will be, in the best position to give long term care for a pet. If enrollment in the VA or treatment for a condition is anticipated to take an extended period, or a full recovery is not anticipated, permanently rehoming a pet may be a fair consideration. Though hard, there are many rescue groups that would be willing to help a veteran find a permanent and loving home for their pet. Dogs on Deployment will even post a courtesy listing on our Facebook page to help facilitate an adoption. For many, adopting a veteran’s pet would be an honor.


A veteran and his cat. ©Pets for Patriots, Inc.; all rights reserved.

A veteran and his cat.
©Pets for Patriots, Inc.; all rights reserved.

Is short-term fostering a feasible alternative? If a veteran is expected to make a fully recovery in a reasonable amount of time, fostering may be a great alternative to permanently rehoming a pet, as this would give the veteran the ability to receive needed treatment, time to concentrate on recovery, while ensuring peace of mind that their pet is in safe keeping for the time being.  Veterans may rely on their friends, family or other relations to ask for aid in helping care for their pets during their treatment. If no one is available, organizations like Dogs on Deployment exist to provide a network of volunteer foster homes prepared to take on a veteran’s pet.

Understand what Dogs on Deployment does. Dogs on Deployment is a networking site; we do not arrange boarding between Pet Owners and DoD Boarders. It is the responsibility of the Pet Owner to contact DoD Boarders in their area and choose one that will be the right fit for their pet. This may be difficult for a veteran who may not have access to or experience with computers or the internet. Because of this, a veteran may need a representative to assist in creating an account and contacting possible homes. Any one whom the veteran gives permission to may act on their behalf; the VA social worker, a friend, family member or even a volunteer. The acting-pet owner may create an account and relay any possible homes to the veteran for discussion of possibilities. There is no guarantee that every Pet Owner will find a DoD Boarder through our network, but using our site proactively will increase the chances of finding the right DoD Boarder.

How to make an account on behalf of a veteran. In order to make an account on behalf of a veteran, visit www.dogsondeployment.org and click on “I Am a Military Member Needing Help.” The registration form requires basic information regarding the veteran’s personal information, pets’ information and service information. Dogs on Deployment requires a form of ID and a DD-214 Honorable Discharge form. Ensure that all information is accurate and provide an email address and/or phone that can readily be accessed by either the acting-pet owner or the veteran.  Give an honest best guess for how long boarding may be required and try to anticipate a lengthy boarding period if one may occur. Uploading a photo of the pet will increase chances of finding a suitable DoD Boarder as the photos are shared on our Facebook page.

Contacting and choosing a DoD Boarder. Dogs on Deployment has outlined a detailed guide on how to find and choose a suitable DoD Boarder. Once a DoD Boarder has agree to consider a pet, the veteran should ensure that a contract is completed between them and the DoD Boarder. It is recommended the DoD Boarder be given the ability to contact the VA to make inquires about the veteran, should communication between the veteran and the DoD Boarder cease for any reason. Should the DoD Boarder be unable to provide care for the pet for any reason during boarding, an emergency plan should be made in case such an occasion arise. It is important to find a DoD Boarder that understands the veteran’s situation and is able to be flexible should the need for boarding be extended for any reason.


A veteran whom Dogs on Deployment pledged $300 to help with his dog's emergency medical treatment.

A veteran whom Dogs on Deployment pledged $300 to help with his dog’s emergency medical treatment. ©Pets for Patriots, Inc.; all rights reserved.

Emergency funds and placement. Should a veteran be absolutely unable to care for their pet, or unable to find an immediate DoD Boarder as needed, Dogs on Deployment provides a Pet Chit Financial Assistance Program to assist. Dogs on Deployment can provide financial aid up to $500 for help with pet care. This money, which is funded solely by donations, can be used towards boarding costs, if a DoD Boarder cannot be found, or even for help with basic pet care: food, veterinarian expenses, vaccinations, transportation or other necessary supplies.

With care and patience, a veteran can be given the special opportunity to not only receive needed treatment or assistance, but also be able to keep their beloved pets. Pets can be essential to helping a person heal physically, mentally and emotionally. Some of these veterans loose everything, and with a little help we can give them the chance to keep something very precious.



Maggie, My Fifth Foster

maggiefloweradTwo months ago, due to a change in living situations, my husband and I flipped flopped which person had what pets. Before, he had the parrot and I had the dogs. Now, he has the dogs while I have the parrots. This has opened up a space in my home for a dog, and while I am not looking to permanently adopt a dog, I have the space and attention to give to a foster dog. I have fostered four other rescues in the past, all who were adopted to great forever homes. The sense of accomplishment you get from fostering and getting a dog adopted is amazing. Of course you get attached to the foster, but knowing you can find them a forever home, to open up your house again to another dog in need, is worth all the time in the world! Since there are no pets on Dogs on Deployment I can currently care for, I volunteered to foster For The Love of Strays, a local non-profit rescue group in Corpus Christi, TX. They gave me Maggie.

Maggie, a shepherd/chow/fluffy dog mix, was rescued off the streets of Corpus Christi, TX in the fall of 2012. She had three ~12 week old puppies she was caring for. The toll of feeding her puppies was extreme; she was emaciated and balding due to severe malnutrition. But she kept her pups alive, and soon after they were rescued and vetted, all her puppies were adopted.

She was a good mom and must have been so happy her puppies were all lovingly adopted.

Maggie when she first came into foster care, very skinny and with little hair! Her under-bite gives her charm!

However, she wasn’t so lucky. It took time for her fur to grow back in, to gain weight, and be healthy enough to be spayed. She had to learn to trust people. It is suspected she was severely abused by a man in her previous life, as she is terrified of men at first. She has learned to warm up to a certain few, but is most comfortable and trusting of women.

She was with a very nice lady in foster care through For The Love of Strays for about six months, but her past foster home could not take her on walks, which she loves to do. Now, she’s in foster care with me, and I’m going to work with her to find her the best home possible.

Maggie went to the dog park for the first time yesterday, and though nervous, she enjoyed being outside and was interested in meeting all the other dogs. She loves to be scratched behind the ears and under her chin (where she has an adorable under-bite). She’s affectionate, but also enjoys her own space. She loves the hose and kiddie pools; I’ll take video soon to share. She is also a great mom, and loves small children. She shows no interest in my parrots and is reportedly aloof towards cats. What a catch! Maggie is such a sweet heart, and she deserves a great home with patience willing to gain her trust and affection; once you have it, you’ll have her loyalty for life!

Maggie showing off her smile hoping you'll be the one to adopt her!

Maggie showing off her smile hoping you’ll be the one to adopt her!

If interested in adopting Maggie, please fill out an adoption application with For the Love of Strays! Please email alisa@dogsondeployment.org for any questions on Maggie’s personality or to inquire if your home would be a good fit for her. She would do best in a female-only home, or home with a man willing to be patient while gaining her trust. She would also love to be in a home with children. A semi-active family who enjoys walks would be great.

Hopefully, you can be the one to give Maggie her
forever home!


Separation Anxiety, of the Human Form

By Alisa Johnson

In the dog-world, we always talk about “separation anxiety” referring to the dog. When the human leaves the house, the dog experiences separation anxiety. They may make an accident in the house, or chew up a piece of furniture, or dig insistently, or sit by the door and pout; all things that my Australian Shepherd, JD, has done. He gets terrible separation anxiety when I leave him, and the longer I’m gone, the worse it is. When I went to Officer Candidate School, Marine Corps’ boot camp for officers, I was gone for six weeks, and during that time JD didn’t eat, and behaved lethargic and sad. Whether I return from dinner, or from six weeks being apart, he greets me the same: a full throttled run, with a jump and spin, followed by frantic breathing, pathetic whining and kisses from a smiling face. My dog has separation anxiety, but maybe that’s because he is a reflection of me.

JD posing for Dogs on Deployment photos when we first founded… only he decided to jump into the lake first.

I call JD my “soul puppy,” and I’m not kidding when I say so. I love this dog. A kind of love that towers over all other beings, and I joke with my husband if I had to choose JD or him in a burning building, I’d always run for JD first (after all, he lacks opposable thumbs and the ability to open doors). Even though, as a “mom” (me, to pets only), you can’t pick favorites, I do, and its JD. Bar-none. I love my dog like you can’t imagine. It hurts my heart writing about how much I love him because he’s not here for me to give him loves. Because I am suffering from “dog separation anxiety.”

I can count the times I’ve been away from JD. First, when he was 10 weeks old, we were separated for a few weeks while my husband, who kept him, moved from Florida to me, in California. Then, when I went to OCS for six weeks. Again, in 2011, while I went to six months of Marine Corps training. But he lived with family 45 minutes from me, and I saw him every weekend. And now.

In the middle of my flight training, I relocated my dogs from Texas, where I’m stationed, to my husband, who is stationed in California. We did this for numerous reasons, practical reasons: I don’t have the necessary time for them in flight training, I need to concentrate on my studies, they hate the Texas heat and back home, they have a huge yard and house to play in and make their own (they as in JD and our second “child,” Jersey).

While practically this move made complete sense, emotionally, it tears me up. I may not see JD for five months. The last time I saw JD, looking at me with sad eyes because he saw me with my suitcase, may be the last time I see him until I move back home. Does he understand I’ll be back for him? Does he know I love him?

JD's personality shines through his expressions.

JD’s personality shines through his expressions.

Dogs, with their insatiable desire to please you, their unconditional and enduring love for you, their absolute awe and excitement just to be near you, is never tiring. They would love you for an eternity, even two eternities, if they could. There is no end to their love for their human, for their “mom.” Yet, they are not able to transcend eternities. And while our life time is limited to 100 years, they are sadly limited to a seventh of that. 15 years, if you’re lucky. 15 years. That’s it. And so spending five months away is grueling.

I find myself falling asleep at night with my legs bent to make the crook where JD would sleep. I wake in the morning and reach to touch his fur, but he’s not there. This saddens me. A piece of me is not there. Our dogs provide us comfort, loyalty and love. Without them there, its less comfortable, a little more lonely and you feel a little less loved.

I deal with this anxiety by looking at pictures of him on my phone. Even going to far as to send pictures of his smiling face instead of emoticon smiles *. And yes, I realize that’s crazy. I even looking at free ads on Craigslist looking for a dog that I could foster and find an actual loving home for (dog people understand free listings on Craigslist is not a good idea), and signing up to foster at a local rescue group. I don’t want another dog, I don’t want to replace JD, that is impossible. I just want some companionship, to feel needed.

Tasha posing pretty next to her puppy photo.

Tasha posing pretty next to her puppy photo.

Recently, I lost my childhood dog, Tasha. She was a red Queensland Heeler my mom got from a ranch in Arizona when I was 11 years old. When she was a puppy, her floppy ears wouldn’t stand up, so my mom taped them straight. She woke me on a weekend morning, saying, “Alisa! Look at Tasha’s ears!” And though I protested with the complaints of a preteen, when I opened my eyes and saw my floppy eared puppy with tape on her head, I couldn’t help but to smile. This is my favorite memory of Tasha; her pleasure in prancing around with tape on her ears, not even trying to remove it, because we were laughing. They eventually stood up on their own as she got older. I grew up, she grew into a dog. She accompanied me on my daily runs when I was on the cross country team in high school. She loved visiting the school, because she would always bring back a stolen soccer ball. She loved our family, and was loyal to us beyond measure, even standing up to a dog twice her size when my mom was threatened. I went to college, she stopped being able to jump into the back of the car. The last time I saw her she would still bark at the garden hose and try to attack it, even though she could barely see it. Everytime I went home, she acted like that little puppy again, happy to have tape on her head. She loved me with complete dedication, even if we hadn’t seen or talked to each other in years. And then one day, she let my mom know she was ready, and she fell asleep on our living room forever.

And so dog separation anxiety stems from this: separation from an animal that brings nothing but utter joy to your life, who is only in existence for a finite amount of time, requires every minute, every single second to count. Because one day, you’ll be stroking you’re old dog’s fur, reminiscing on the long hikes, camping trips, cross country moves, rivers crossed, and realize the next journey your dog takes will be without you. And then one day, you’ll have to exist without him; without that unconditional love from your “soul puppy.”

 Appreciate every second with that dog who rules your life, whom you reach down and pet every morning you wake up. Because one day they won’t be there, and its unfair, that such an amazing companion is in our lives for only 15 years.

JD cuddles with me on the couch, his favorite spot to be.

JD cuddles with me on the couch, his favorite spot to be.

Building a DoD Street Team

Shannon, our first "DoD Street Team" member, promoting Dogs on Deployment at a VCA Pet Hospital in San Antonio, TX.

Shannon, our first “DoD Street Team” member, promoting Dogs on Deployment at a VCA Pet Hospital in San Antonio, TX.

Dogs on Deployment relies solely on our supporters to help us get our mission out to the public. We do not use monetary donations for advertisement. Instead, we ask for a little of your time and effort to join the DoD Street Team.

Veterinarian clinics, shelters, rescues, pet groomers, boarding facilities, pet shops and more all have a direct impact on their local pet community. By spreading our name and mission to your regional pet community, you may help us find potential foster homes and even company sponsors! Military bases have veterinarian clinics, gyms, family centers and support organizations which can all directly impact the military community if they are made aware of our organization. The potential to save pets and keep families together is heightened when community support organizations are made aware of Dogs on Deployment.

Through exposure and outreach, we can improve the military pet community! But we need your help. This is the purpose of the DoD Street Team; giving the responsibility of promoting our organization to the local community to our supporters.

Joining is easy:

Shannon telling the Animal Defense League of Texas about Dogs on Deployment.

Shannon telling the Animal Defense League of Texas about Dogs on Deployment.

Our t-shirts not only look great, but help us raise money through their purchases and awareness whenever you wear yours out in public. We ask our street team members order one of our t-shirts or sweatshirts (depending on the weather!) Use coupon code STREET to save 15% off your purchase. We offer a free printable flyer on our website, but supporters can also order professionally printed flyers through our site.

Our inaugural DoD Street Team, Shannon, who is a Marine-wife and “mom” to a 5 year old Boston Terrier, gave us the idea. On vacation to San Antonio, TX, she dedicated one afternoon of her trip to helping spread the word of Dogs on Deployment. She wore her DoD t-shirt, and took a stack of DoD flyers to give to local veterinarian clinics around where she was staying. She took a picture in front of each business to show us her support! We loved the idea so much, we’re sharing her actions in hopes others will do the same!

Shannon wearing her DoD t-shirt, showing one of our DoD flyers and telling the Veterinarian Treatment Facility of San Anotonio about Dogs on Deployment.

Shannon wearing her DoD t-shirt, showing one of our DoD flyers and telling the Veterinarian Treatment Facility at Lackland Air Force Base about Dogs on Deployment.

For each place you visit, take a photo in front of the company’s or organization’s signage wearing your DoD t-shirt and holding a DoD flyer. In order to say thank you to our DoD Street Team members, we’ll track each photo you send for the following “thank you” gifts:

  • DoD Stack of Flyers (100) – share with us 5 photos
  • DoD Bumper Sticker – share with us 10 photos
  • DoD Tote – share with us 20 photos
  • DoD Custom Street Team t-shirt – share with us 40 photos

We hope you’ll have fun with this idea and feel free to use your creativity to help us in anyway you can. The sky is boundless for the ways   that we can help raise awareness for Dogs on Deployment!

Please note that these guidelines are subject to change.

Daniel and Anna’s Story

Anna recovering at home, sporting a cast.

Anna recovering at home, sporting a cast.

Daniel, an Army soldier, deployed and left his beloved short-haired pointer, Anna, in the care of his mother. During his deployment, Anna was involved in an accident where a stray gold ball hit and shattered her leg. She was immediately taken in to the Stuart Veterinary Clinic in Stuart, IA who treated and performed surgery to fix her leg. The bill was over $800 and left the family unable to pay for her entire treatment. The clinic graciously allowed the family to defer payment. Daniel reached out to Dogs on Deployment for financial assistance through our Pet Chit Financial Assistance Program. Our foundation assisted in the remaining payment. Anna is making a full recovery with Daniel’s mom until he is able to return from deployment.

Adoption and Relinquishment of Military Owned Pets

by Alisa Johnson, President Dogs on Deployment

In the past decade, the call to arms of our military service members has increased. Operational tempo has caused men and women of the Armed Services to have to constantly deploy, sometimes unexpectedly, and sometimes much longer than initially anticipated. Even in the growing peacetime environment, military members are increasingly being used in the global environment. This has a substantial impact on the families of those service members; even those with four legs who are usually under recognized.

Military members who own pets (cats, dogs, or other) face unique challenges in being responsible pet owners while also being able to serve their country any way needed at a moment’s notice. Their service can come into conflict with their ability to care for their pets. In the past, this has unfortunately led to many pets being surrendered to animal shelters for lack of better options.

That’s changing.

Alisa and Shawn Johnson, founders of Dogs on Deployment, with their dogs.

Alisa and Shawn Johnson, founders of Dogs on Deployment, with their dogs.

In 2011, my husband and I founded Dogs on Deployment (www.dogsondeployment.org) to provide support to the military-pet community. As a dual military husband and wife, who currently own two miniature Australian Shepherds and two Caique parrots, we have been in situations where we were unable to give care to our pets due to deployments and training cycles. We were lucky to have family who were able to “dog and parrot sit” for us, but recognized that many military members do not have that luxury. Thus, we founded the largest network of volunteer “DoD Boarders,” or foster homes, who are willing to care for a military-owned pet during the owner’s service commitments. Dogs on Deployment promotes responsible, lifelong pet ownership for those who serve.

Despite Dogs on Deployment’s best efforts to reach all military personnel, there will always be those that do not know our organization exists. Thus, they may end up needlessly turning their pet into a shelter due to a service commitment.

The first thing that needs to be understood is the different service commitments which can jeopardize a military pet owner’s ability to care for their pet.

  • Permanent Change of Station (PCS) is a military commanded move where a military member, and potentially their dependents, is ordered to move from one duty station to a next. These moves may be an internal move within the 50 US States, or a move to an international country. Typically, a PCS has no restriction on the ability for pets to accompany a military member, with the exception of some jobs which are unaccompanied (no dependents or pets allowed). Travel and health requirements for pets are not usually covered by the US Government and is at the expense of the owner. Pets may travel by air or by ground/personal vehicle, depending on the service member’s travel orders. PCS moves may prompt a pet being relinquished due to a variety of reasons. Owners may be on unaccompanied orders and unable to take their pets with them. Owners may be moving to a county or country where the breed or type of pet they own is banned. Owners may be unable to afford the cost to ship their pet, especially overseas (though there are organizations that provide financial assistance). Owners may be required to live in base housing at their next duty station and may be over the maximum pet limit or own a banned animal. Lastly, and a most unfortunate truth, is some owners do not want the hassle of moving a pet with them.
  • Deployments are military ordered trips to overseas ports, bases, ships or operating areas in support of the US’ foreign policy. Deployments typically last 6-12 months, but may be shorter or longer, and are subject to change at any time. Because of this unreliability of scheduling, which is an accepted risk of military service, pet ownership may be difficult in a constantly changing environment, especially for service members who do not have a family support system. Military members may relinquish their pets before a deployment because of a plan that fell through, lack of options or lack of education. Occasionally, we hear of military pets that are surrendered by the caregiver entrusted by the military member when the owner is deployed.
  • Training is a constant priority and requirement for all branches of the Armed Services and may range from a weekend trip to over a year. Though training is typically planned with foreknowledge of the service commitment, last minute changes to either the training mission or personal situations may cause an owner to surrender a pet.
  • Founded, Alisa Johnson, in formation at Officer Candidate School. Her husband watched her dog during training.

    Founder, Alisa Johnson, in formation at Officer Candidate School. Her husband watched her dog during training.

    Boot Camp is an initiation for all branches of services to enlist in the Armed Forces. Officer Candidate School is the equivalent for an officer to commission. When new members of the Armed Forces join, they may believe that their future career in the military may conflict with their long term ability to be pet owners, thus they may relinquish their pets before leaving.

It is important to recognize the difference in those owners that care deeply for their pets and truly do not know of other options, and those owners that are seeking an easy way to rid themselves of an inconvenience. Reflecting the general population, most military members are responsible and loving pet owners, but there still exist those that do not view their pet as a permanent family member. This is not to say all military members are bad pet owners. No matter what the attitude of the pet owner, shelter staff should always offer options other than relinquishment. Having a thorough knowledge of military-pet support organizations, such as Dogs on Deployment, can help military members make an educated decision in the future of their pet. This knowledge should also be passed on to any military family before an adoption by the shelter is made.

A military member greets her dog Tressel after returning home from a two-month deployment.

A military member greets her dog Tressel after returning home from a two-month deployment.

Ensuring a pet is never needlessly surrendered starts at the source of the adoption. We hope that shelters, if manpower permits, will spend a bit extra time with military families considering adopting a pet. Ensuring that all adopters realize a pet is a forever commitment is important, but especially in the military community where a constantly changing living situation may cause pet ownership to be challenging. Considering asking the military member the following questions to start:

  • How long have you been in the military? A newly joined service member will often spend the first year or more moving around in training commands. This may not be conducive to pet ownership right away.
  • When do you next deploy? If a known deployment is coming up soon, now may not be the right time to adopt. However, if they are in a “shore tour,” or “B-Billet” where they are not deployable for a year or longer, now might be a good time to adopt.
  • Are you financially able to care for a pet? While all military members are paid a guaranteed salary, this does not necessarily mean they will be able to care for a pet financially, especially in the case of an emergency or overseas move. Family expenses, debt or other financial obligations may take priority over pet care, and thus adoption may need to be put on hold until they are more financially stable.
  • Where are you currently living? Most military members are able to live in housing of their choosing. However, some may be required to live in the barracks, where pets are strictly forbidden, or on base housing, which usually has strict pet policies. No matter where they are living, ensuring that the potential adopter is aware of their current pet policy will ensure they don’t make a mistake by adopting a pet which is outside their policy. If there is a chance that they may be stationed overseas, they need to be aware of the expense and responsibility of bringing their pet if able, and must be willing to do it.
  • Are you considering adopting a bully breed? While Dogs on Deployment loves and promotes bully breeds, sometimes bully breed ownership can be extremely difficult to impossible while serving in the military. Bully breeds are not allowed on most bases, are often unable to be transported via air and are banned in many geographic locations where a military member might end up. If owning a bully breed may be conflicting to their future life in the military, they may want to consider adopting a breed which does not have these problems.
  • What is your support system like? Military members may be moved far away from their family and support system. Married military members may have a spouse for support, while unmarried military members may have no one. It is important that a military member is aware of the support system they have available should they ever need to rely on a friend or family member to care for their pet in their absence. If a support system does not exist, Dogs on Deployment is there to fill in, but should not be used as a primary plan
  • Do you understand that adopting a pet is a lifetime commitment? This is a given to anyone adopting a pet. The difference for military members is that anytime a military member turns in a pet due to a military commitment, they are degrading the image of all military pet owners. Military members provide the moral standard for the American public, and as such, have an obligation to do what’s right. If a military member believes that they can turn their pet back into a shelter when it is no longer convenient to have, they should not be allowed to own pets; whether in the service or not.

If these questions are carefully considered by the military member before adoption occurs, there should be a correlating decrease in the number pets relinquished by military members to shelters. Adoption processes can help better evaluate potential homes by asking these difficult questions and getting a sense for their long term goals as a pet owner. Before accepting an adoption, adoption agencies can go the extra step to provide information on military-pet assistance programs, such as Dogs on Deployment. If a military member is not in a position to permanently adopt a pet, inform them on fostering; keeping a pet for a short term period, while also saving that pet’s life, may be appealing and give them the experience of pet ownership for a temporary period.

Even by taking these precautions, pets may still end up in shelters; at worst, a kill shelter. The general public does not usually know that a pet which is surrendered by the owner will be the first to be euthanized over strays. Shelter staff can have a great impact of the future of the pet with the following considerations:

  • Was the owner hoping to find other options? An owner who loves their pet and believes there to be no other option than to surrender with an upcoming deployment is the best intake a shelter can hope for. The solution is simple; refer the owner to Dogs on Deployment or similar group. With luck, the owner will have enough time to take their dog home and try to find a foster home.
  • Are they leaving tomorrow but still have hope? If an owner has procrastinated, constantly hoping to find a temporary home for their pet, but each plan fell through, and they are leaving tomorrow, refer them to Dogs on Deployment, and if possible, offer them a temporary stay in the shelter or in a foster home. Create a release form for the owner to sign which will entail that the owner will work to find a foster home for their pet, and if one can be found, that foster home can pick the pet up from the shelter to keep until the owner’s return. This has been successfully done through Dogs on Deployment before; an owner turned their dog into a shelter with hope to find someone through our network. The shelter kept the dog for a week until a foster home was found and was able to pick the dog up for the remainder of the deployment. This arrangement allowed the dog to live in the care of a foster home until the owner returned with the help of the shelter staff.
  • Are they only interested in permanently rehoming their pet? If a military owner is only interested in permanently rehoming their pet, they have that right to do so, but they should ensure they do so humanely and smartly. Shelters should be honest with pet owners over the likelihood of their pet making it out alive. Some owners have no idea that by surrendering their pet to their local shelter, they are literally putting their pet’s life in danger. If the owner has the time, offering them advice on other ways of rehoming their pet might make for a better outcome for the longevity of their pet.

Despite all efforts, did they still relinquish their pet? If an owner does not wish to find a foster home or attempt to find a better permanent home, that pet may be surrendered to a shelter. If this happens, it is most unfortunate. Promoting the adoption of a military surrendered pet by using an owner’s military service has both negative and positive consequences. Common captions of military surrendered pets on social media site include, “Owner was deployed and had no other option,” or “The past owner is defending our freedom, let’s help save their dog.” While these captions will spike interest in the public, they are also detrimental to the image and public opinion of military pet owners as they leave an open forum for speculation and criticism.

This dog was surrendered to Animal Control due to a deployment. He was fortunate to have been adopted through postive social media sharing.

This dog was surrendered to Animal Control due to a deployment. He was fortunate to have been adopted through postive social media sharing.

Since there are options for pet care, but it requires prior planning, responsibility and research on the owner’s part, saying an owner had no other option can spike extreme resentment and criticism towards military members. All animals, no matter how they end up in a shelter, are equally deserving of finding a new home. By using careful and honest captioning, shelters can notify potential adopters or rescues of the reason a pet was surrendered, while also maintaining the overall dignity of the majority of pet owners who serve in the military.

The best thing shelters can do is emphasize responsible pet ownership for potential military adopters and offer better solutions if a military member is considering surrendering their pet due to an upcoming service commitment. Majority of pet owners in the military are responsible, good people. We cannot stop bad pet owners from making bad decisions, but we can stop good owners from making regretful mistakes.

Leshay and Jack’s Story

Leshay was a very young sailor with a young pitbull named Jack whom he adopted from the local animal shelter. When he got orders to move to a city which banned bully breeds, he thought that the shelter could help watch Jack until he found acceptable arrangements for Jack. Unfortunately, the shelter could only hold Jack for a couple of days, after which, he would be euthanized. The shelter and Leshay called Dogs on Deployment to try to find a place for Jack to go during Leshay’s move. After posting a plea on Dogs on Deployment’s Facebook page, a volunteer agreed to help Leshay pull Jack from the shelter so his life would not be in danger, and keep Jack until Leshay could make arrangements.

Jack with his original DoD Boarder, who gave her best effort to help him, but couldn't because of his breed.

Jack with his original DoD Boarder, who gave her best effort to help him, but couldn’t because of his breed.

This became a shortened arrangement after the landlord of the volunteer found out Jack’s breed was a pitbull terrier. They gave them immediate notice to remove Jack, or their lease would be terminated. Without the ability to object, Leshay took the bus to pick up Jack from the boarder. At a loss, he called Dogs on Deployment for advice what to do next. He had no car, no stable living arrangements and no place to take Jack.

We decided to immediately contact our friends at Like Home Boarding, an affordable boarding facility which specializes in long term military pet care. Dogs on Deployment again turned to our social pages to find a volunteer who picked Leshay and Jack up, drove them 2 hours to Like Home Boarding, then brought Leshay to his temporary resident after a good-bye with Jack. Dogs on Deployment covered the first month of boarding, thanks to our donors. Jack is waiting the day he can be reunited with Leshay and has been enjoying the company of other military and rescued pets.