Pets

When Duty Calls, What Happens to Man’s Best Friend?

Dogs on Deployment finds a loving, temporary home for America’s military pets.

by Tonya Nash, Air Force spouse

The clock was ticking. Alisa Seiber-Johnson and her husband, Shawn, needed help fast.

Alisa, a second lieutenant in the Marines, had orders to Quantico, Va., for six months of training. And Shawn, a lieutenant in the Navy, was deploying during those same months. They desperately needed to find someone to take care of J.D., their miniature Australian shepherd.

They checked out kennel options in Virginia, but each one was the same: Nice, but very expensive. Luckily, a family member ended up volunteering to take care of J.D. during those months last summer and fall, while the couple served their country.

Their problem was solved. But Alisa and Shawn had discovered that many military members are stuck in this same situation. Many people struggle to find care for their pets when they have to leave for military duty. One person they spoke with had no choice but to take his pet to a shelter.

That was all Alisa needed to hear. “We didn’t want to see people having to give up their pets,” she tells Military Spouse.

REACHING OUT TO HELP

The Johnsons started brainstorming and came up with an idea to develop a website that lists the pets of military members in need of boarding. People interested in supporting the troops by boarding their pets would fill out an application. The military member and boarder would meet to determine boarding compatibility. A checklist and template for terms of agreement between the pet owner and boarder would be provided.

Alisa and Shawn went full speed ahead: They designed a website, filed for non-profit status and incorporated the organization. They also created a Facebook page to garner support.

The name of the new non-profit? Dogs on Deployment-or DoD* for short. Though the focus is on dogs, any pet is welcome to be listed on the website.

The expense of starting a nonprofit was surprising to Alisa, but her passion for the work made things easier. “I’m doing something good and helping people,” she says.

Over 130 people nationwide have signed up to become boarders with Dogs on Deployment. After just six months, appropriate boarding was found in seven states for 19 dogs and 1 cat. Support for the nonprofit has even reached as far as Europe!


PET LOVERS

Lt. j.g. Kati Janssen found out about Dogs on Deployment through Facebook. She needed a boarder for her dog Hank, a southern blackmouth cur. She reviewed the boarder listing and contacted Kristin Thompson, a military spouse in her area.

Kristin felt compelled to volunteer as a boarder because she was in a similar situation almost two years ago. Her husband, Eric Thompson, had orders overseas and they couldn’t take their dogs. Luckily, the orders were switched, but the thought of giving up their dogs was upsetting. “I’ve lived with my two dogs longer than I have with my husband,” Kristin says. “They’ve been my deployment buddies through it all.”

Janssen scheduled a meeting with the Thompson family to determine boarding compatibility for Hank. The Thompsons’ two weimaraners, Rennen and Elsa, got along great with Hank. In fact, Rennen and Hank became partners in crime. And the Thompsons’ children, Ellery and Cooper, loved helping out with their new canine friend.

“Dogs on Deployment is a great avenue for people in the military. We are glad that we were able to give her that peace of mind while she was gone,” says Kristin.

Janssen had such a positive experience that she plans on using Dogs on Deployment again for her next deployment. Hank loved it, too: “He was well taken care of,” she says, “It was like a vacation for him.” H

Want to support the mission of Dogs on Deployment?

• Sign up at www.dogsondeployment.com to become a boarder.

• Donate to the cause or purchase a Dogs on Deployment T-shirt.

• Like the Dogs on Deployment Facebook page and help spread the word!

*Dogs on Deployment (DoD) is not endorsed by the Department of Defense and is a separate entity.

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