Category Archives: Military Pet of the Year and DoD Masoct

Dogs on Deployment Cheers Belle T634

 

Military Pet of the Year 2016 Recipient Marches On

Every dog has his or her day, and in our case, every dog has its year!

Dogs on Deployment cheers on as Military Pet of The Year 2016 Recipient Belle T634 and proud owners, Sam and Jessica Wettstein, step aside to make way for the soon to be announced winner of the MPOTY 2017 contest.

It has been a banner year for the beloved Belle, our current Dogs on Deployment MPOTY 2016 and mascot. She is shown here with Sgt. Sam Wettstein.

 

Well Wishes and Questions with Sam and Jessica Wettstein, Belle’s Family

Dogs on Deployment bids a fond farewell to Military Pet of The Year 2016 Recipient Belle T634, and her proud owners, Sam and Jessica Wettstein. Sam serves as Sgt., USMC. Belle originally served as a military work dog for her handler, Sgt. Wettstein. The duo trained together for a year and served together in the USMC for seven months overseas.

Sam and Jessica Wettstein shared their thoughts on what life was like after Belle was named MPOTY 2016.

 

DOGS ON DEPLOYMENT: 

What was your favorite thing about Belle being named MPOTY 2016?

“We loved the opportunities Dogs on Deployment gave us to share Belle and Sam’s story. Even though she is now retired, Belle had a new purpose and was still able to help others by sharing her story.

We also loved being welcomed into a new family — the Dogs on Deployment family. We made friends all over the country that we now have for life!

Belle would like to add that one of her favorite things was all the gifts she received from her sponsors! There were treats, paintings, a new custom bed, new collars, a cuddle clone, and so much more. The outpouring of love was overwhelming and Belle wants us to say thank you on her behalf!”

 

DOGS ON DEPLOYMENT: 

During Belle’s reign as MPOTY 2016, you all had a chance to travel, acting as “Good Will Ambassadors” for DoD. Were there any surprises?

“We traveled the United States, making it a point to tell everyone about the mission of Dogs on Deployment. It surprised us greatly that many people still hadn’t heard about this amazing program.

We enjoyed educating others on the important “No Dog Left Behind” DoD philosophy, and demonstrating how that relates to military family pets, and our family — specifically, we spoke on the unification of retired working dogs and their handlers.

On one trip to Colorado, Jessica was shopping in Denver and she happened upon a “Dog Is Good” display in a local pet boutique. Sure enough, there front and center, was the specially designed shirt inspired by Belle! You should have seen the surprise on her face and the excitement getting to share the story about it with the storeowners and shoppers!”

 

DOGS ON DEPLOYMENT: 

The Military Pet of the Year program enables Dogs on Deployment to raise awareness for responsible pet ownership.  What did you learn and share about responsible pet ownership?

“It’s disheartening to learn how many pets are re-homed every year due to military deployments, training and moves. Dogs on Deployment is an amazing non-profit, but is only effective if others know about it and utilize it! So, it’s about getting the word out there.

Belle loved utilizing social media to share her day to day life, but she also used her platform to raise awareness that no matter what, no dog (or pet) should be left behind!

Having such a large platform to raise awareness about Mission K9 Rescue was such a blessing. Their assistance in reuniting Belle and Sam after their combined service in Iraq, has forever changed our lives. Since Belle gained some attention serving as MPOTY 2016, Sam was presented with the opportunity to volunteer and train service dogs with Labs for Liberty. This led to his work creating a program at his university, uniting Labs for Liberty and the University, and even a featured article in the Alumni Magazine. One small title of MPOTY has had such a large domino effect on our family, changing our lives for the better, and hopefully impacting others as well.”

 

DOGS ON DEPLOYMENT: 

Were there any particular people / events that stood out, and why?

“Yes – one event that stood out to us was attending the Hero Dog Awards ceremony in Beverly Hills this past summer. We can’t express enough what an amazing opportunity that was to have been nominated in the top three of the military dog category out of all the nominees across the country. Even though Belle didn’t win, it was so much fun to gather with all our DoD friends at the event, to meet such other incredible dogs, hear others stories, and to share ours.

Throughout 2016, we worked with many outstanding volunteers, including DoD -founders, Shawn and Alicia Johnson. To finally put faces to names was something we never thought was possible! Belle loved being loved by everyone, and immensely enjoyed her photo shoot for “Dog is Good” for her Belle-inspired shirt.

Most especially, Belle enjoyed dancing the night away with daddy, Sam at the Hero Dog Awards, dressed in her red-carpet attire!”

 

Belle left her fatigues behind. She effortlessly handled the pupp – arazzi with grace and dignity as MPOTY 2016 for Dogs on Deployment.

 

DOGS ON DEPLOYMENT: 

What advice would you have for the upcoming MPOTY 2017 mascot? 

“Dive right in and enjoy every moment of this experience! It can be slightly scary putting your whole story out there for everyone to see and hear, but know that it’s for a great cause. Share as much good will and news as you can on your social media, and take every opportunity to spread the word about Dogs on Deployment!

We couldn’t have asked for a more amazing year, and are grateful to now have so many wonderful friends!”

 

Help Military Members and Their Pets

Dogs on Deployment is a national non-profit which provides a network for military members to search for volunteers willing to board their pets during their service commitments.

DoD aims to promote responsible, lifelong pet ownership within the military-pet community. One way we spotlight this goal is by hosting our annual Military Pet of the Year competition where our winner will be the Dogs on Deployment Mascot for one year, signifying their military owner’s commitment to a healthy, engaged lifestyle with their pet.

2017 DOD MILITARY PET OF THE YEAR CONTEST BEGINS

Military Members and Their Dogs, We Salute You!

Dogs on Deployment is a national non-profit which provides a network for military members to search for volunteers willing to board their pets during their service commitments.

At Dogs on Deployment, we aim to promote responsible, lifelong pet ownership within the military-pet community. One way we spotlight this goal is by hosting our annual Military Pet of the Year competition where our winner will be the Dogs on Deployment Mascot for one year, signifying their military owner’s commitment to a healthy, engaged lifestyle with their pet.

Military Pet Owners, Here is Your Chance

Attention military pet owners – your dog could be the next “Military Pet of the Year” mascot! The Dogs on Deployment annual Military Pet of the Year (MPOTY) competition has begun. During the annual MPOTY event, military members are invited to proudly show off their pets along with the rest of their families.

Does your dog have what it takes to be named the 2017 Military Pet of the Year?

Check out the contest timeline below!

Contest Timeline:

SUBMIT YOUR ENTRY:

1/15 at 7:00 am through 1/29 at 7:00 pm

VOTING IS OPEN:

2/5 at 7:00 am through 2/19 at 7:00 pm

JUDGING PERIOD:

2/20 at 7:00 am through 2/28 at 7:00 pm

WINNERS ANNOUNCED:

3/1 at 12:00 pm

(All times are EST.)

The MPOTY 2017 Application and Contest Entry Process

Your application must include:

  • Documentation proving military status
  • Basic information
  • A photo to be used for the contest, and
  • 500 written words on why your dog should be chosen as Dogs on Deployment’s 2016 Military Pet of the Year and Mascot.  This essay will be used as a caption for your dog’s photo during voting.

Examples of topics for your essay are:

  • How did you get the dog in the first place?
  • What are some difficulties you’ve had caring for the dog along with your service commitments?
  • Any illness/accidents your dog has overcome?
  • How do you exhibit being a responsible pet owner in the military, etc.?

 

Your entry will be reviewed by the Dogs on Deployment Board to ensure compliance with the contest entry requirements listed below. Any entry not meeting these requirements will be disqualified from the competition. Submit your entries beginning January 15th at 7 am EST; they may be submitted until January 29st at 7 pm EST, at which time the contest is closed to any and all submissions.

Voting begins February 5th at 7 am EST, and closes on February 19th at 7 pm EST. During this time, each person is allowed one vote within a 24-hour period.

The Dogs on Deployment Board of Trustees will then pick the winner from the top three finalists receiving the highest amounts of popular votes. The winner is announced on March 1st at 12 pm EST.

 

MPOTY Contest Entry Requirements and Code Overview

Entry and Photo Requirements

  • Dogs only
  • May be any adult breed dog (over 1-year-old)
  • Dog must be spayed or neutered unless involved with responsible dog showing or breeding
  • Dog must be owned by an active duty or reservist military member or honorably discharged veteran
  • Dog must be a family pet whose owner meets our “Code of a Military Pet Owner” (see below)
  • Photo must be high resolution; prefer no phone photos, +200dpi, larger than 1200px x 1200px print quality
  • Portrait or candid style photo of military owned dog
  • No more than two dogs may be shown in the photo for a single entry
  • No humans allowed in photo
  • Professional photographs preferred
  • Photo must be original to owner
  • Photo permissions must be given to Dogs on Deployment for reuse
  • Contestants may not pay for votes, or use online pay-advertising to promote voting
  • Winners must be willing to be photographed in uniform with your dog for Dogs on Deployment imagery
  • Winners must be willing to maintain a Facebook page for Dogs on Deployment’s 2016 Military Pet of the Year and Mascot for one year
  • Winners must be willing to attend local events and speak on behalf of Dogs on Deployment to potential media contacts

Code of a Military Pet Owner

I’m a US Military Member and pet owner. I promise to always have a plan for them. I promise never to abandon them. I promise to keep them healthy and vaccinated. I promise to spay or neuter them. * I promise to train and socialize them. I promise to love them as unconditionally as they love me. I promise to be a good pet owner while serving my country. I promise this.

Good Luck one and all!

 

Here She Is: Introducing Belle T634, 2016 Military Pet of the Year Contest Winner and DoD Mascot

It is with great happiness and pride that Dogs on Deployment announces its winner of the 2016 Military Pet of the Year (MPOTY) Contest, and DoD Mascot, Belle T634!

Belle T634 - Photo by Jessica Wettstein (15)
Belle is a beautiful, five-year-old Labrador Retriever.   Photo Courtesy of Jessica Wettstein      

 

 

 

No Ordinary Circumstances, One Extraordinary Dog

Belle was recently retired from the United States Marine Corps after four years of honorable service and one combat deployment to Afghanistan, where she served as an IDD (IED Detection Dog), commonly referred to as MWD (Military Working Dog), and honorably earned the rank of Staff Sergeant. She and her handler, Sgt. Sam Wettstein, United States Marine Corps, trained together for a year and served together for seven months overseas, assisting in the location and identification of improvised explosive devices, or bombs, in Afghanistan.

Belle was trained to forge ahead of her fellow marines and smell out bombs before they detonated; Sam was trained to sense and understand her reactions. Day in and day out, it was grueling for Sam and his fellow Marines as they worked and lived together in combat. Belle brought a sense of comfort and ease with her presence, boosting morale among the unit. “She helped a lot. It helped me to focus on Belle and her well-being,” recalls Sgt. Wettstein. One day was particularly physically and emotionally draining on them both, and after he and Belle returned to camp, Sam passed out on his cot. As the night grew darker, the temperature dropped to seven degrees and Belle crawled into his sleeping bag to keep them both warm. They awoke to find the dog’s water had frozen over in her water bowl. But the duo had managed to stay warm through the night because they had each other. The strong sense of trust and bond between them was undeniable, and they became inseparable.

Sgt. Sam Wettstein, with Belle T634. Photo Courtesy of Jessica Wettstein

Parting and then Reuniting, Thanks to Mission K9 Rescue

Coming home from Afghanistan and having to be separated was very tough on both of them. Finding out that Belle had been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), however, and that she was unable to work with other handlers opened up an opportunity for Sam to adopt Belle. He submitted numerous applications and called dozens of people in hopes of finding someone to help the battle buddies reunite. Fortunately, Mission K9 Rescue stepped in to answer the call, and began the process of reuniting the two veterans. Belle T634 was retired from the USMC after four years of honorable service.

Mission K9 Rescue works “To Rescue, Reunite, Re-Home, Rehabilitate and Repair any retired working dog that has served mankind in some capacity.” Mission K9 Rescue understands that indescribable bond between those four-legged heroes and their handlers. “Not only do our military members experience PTSD, but many of our MWDs do as well. Most often their handlers are the ones that know them best,” notes a spokesperson for the group.

Not all dogs are as lucky as Belle and get to come home to a loving family. It is rumored that Military Working Dogs’ futures are uncertain after their contracts expire. Going forward, Belle will work with Dogs on Deployment to support other IDDs and MWDs, campaigning for the safe return of all heroes, canine or human, and the reunion between handler and canine.

As the 2016 Military Pet of the Year and DoD Mascot, Belle will work with Dogs on Deployment to help advocate for other MWDs.‪ Here, she enjoys family time with the Wettstein family, including Sgt. Wettstein and his wife, Jessica. Photo Courtesy of Jessica Wettstein

 

In addition, Belle T634 will enter to win the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards, http://herodogawards.org/ where Dogs on Deployment is listed as a charity partner under the Military Dog category. Belle asks that starting March 23rd at 12pm PST, you cast your vote in support of her, and Dogs on Deployment. The winning dog will receive $5,000 for their charity partner!

Sgt. Sam Wettstein, USMC, and Wife, Jessica Talk About Belle Winning the 2016 Military Pet of the Year (MPOTY) Contest and Serving as a DoD Mascot

We asked this terrific family a few things about their feelings now and this new, amazing opportunity for Belle. Here’s what they graciously shared with us.

The Wettstein Family feels very grateful to have won the distinction of DoD Military Pet of the Year and Mascot. “This is such a great opportunity for Belle to share her story and to gain attention for Dogs on Deployment and all the amazing things they do for our military members and their pets, as well as to educate others about Military Working Dogs and their bond with their handlers. We are also very excited to win! We nervously awaited to see who had won the MPOTY competition, and actually found out when friends and family started calling to congratulate Belle. Our dog is looking forward to being showered with all the amazing and thoughtful gifts donated from sponsors across the country.”

Dogs on Deployment wondered why they think Belle won the competition. Jessica says, “I think Belle won because she has the ability to charm her way into anyone’s heart through her sweet demeanor, and because of her bravery and selflessness, demonstrated through her service to this country. She is such a beautiful lab with a story to tell and share, and a mission she and we – her fur parents – feel strongly about. It’s truly a blessing that she was able to be reunited with her former handler (Sam), and that we were able to adopt her into our family. But sadly, there are many military dogs out there just like her who get lost in the red tape and grey areas, and who aren’t able to be reunited with their handlers. These dogs aren’t just tools, they are battle buddies who share an inseparable, indescribable bond with their handlers.”

Belle T634, enjoying retirement. Photo Courtesy of Jessica Wettstein

 

There’s lots to look forward to now with Belle as the MPOTY 2016 and DoD Mascot. “We look forward to the wonderful opportunities that this next year holds,” said the Wettsteins. We are so excited to be a part of the Dogs on Deployment family and share Belle’s story, and to hopefully help MWDs and CWDs like her be reunited with their handlers. “

Sgt. Wettstein and wife, Jessica, along with Belle in her new role, can promote important causes now.

They told us, “back in 2014 Belle T634 was retired from the USMC after four years of honorable service, and that was when we were able to adopt her and reunite her with me Sam. This was only possible thanks to Mission K9 Rescue. They are such an amazing non-profit that works “To Rescue, Reunite, Re-Home, Rehabilitate and Repair any retired working dog that has served mankind in some capacity.” Mission K9 Rescue personally went and picked Belle up in North Carolina, then flew with her in the cabin across the United States (to comfort her PTSD in moving vehicles) where they personally handed her leash to Sam. They are so educated and passionate about these working dogs and make huge differences in the lives of many four-legged heroes every day. We are delighted to have a platform to be able to share the important news of this organization, and to hopefully help educate others about it!”