Dogs on Deployment: Keeping Military Families Together

This charity works to ensure that military members who get deployed don’t have to give up their pets permanently.

Marine Lance Cpl. Jonathan Contreras reunites with his dog, Diego, after 7 months in Afghanistan.
Marine Lance Cpl. Jonathan Contreras reunites with his dog, Diego, after 7 months in Afghanistan. By: DoD

When Army Capt. Jess Jempson received her deployment orders, she started worrying immediately. Her deployment would last a year, and she couldn’t bear the thought of giving up her dog, Emma.

Then she found Dogs on Deployment (DoD).

Through the charity, Jempson found a boarder, Sylvia, who even created a Facebook page to update her on Emma’s antics.

After Jempson’s deployment ended, she reunited with her dog, a happy occasion that took place on The Queen Latifah Show in 2013:

DoD’s Beginnings

Military deployments are stressful for soldiers. The idea of relinquishing their pets permanently to a shelter or rescue only increases this stress.

When Alisa and Shawn Johnson got their deployment orders for different locations, they realized they didn’t have a plan for their dog. Although they found someone to watch their pet just in time, the couple knew that other soldiers might not be so fortunate, so they created Dogs on Deployment in 2011 to help keep military families together.

How It Works

Active-duty military members register on the charity’s website and list information about their pets and their deployment dates. Website members (both military and civilian) can browse the listings of pets in need based on location.

If you’re interested in boarding a pet, you can connect to the military member through the website and plan a date to meet and greet the animal, an especially helpful feature if you have your own pets at home. After making a match, military members can deploy knowing their pet is safe and will be waiting for them when they return.

Dawn in Maryland boarded a pet earlier this year and immediately wanted to help again:

“We just finished our first ‘assignment’ as boarders, and we loved it. We ended up having the dogs a little longer than planned but didn’t mind a bit…. I can’t wait to see them again…. We’ve signed up for another assignment already. We’re very thankful that we can help serve our country in this small way.”

Molly was helped thanks to Dogs on Deployment.
Molly was helped thanks to Dogs on Deployment.

Financial Assistance

Dogs on Deployment has a “pet chit” program that disperses funds to pay for veterinary expenses such as spay/neuter surgeries and cancer treatments, or to help with pet relocation.

Soldiers and honorably discharged veterans can apply for these grants. Upon approval the funds are sent directly to the veterinary office or clinic.

So far, DoD has distributed $115,573 to help keep military families’ pets happy and healthy.

Why I Chose Them

I used to visit my local animal shelter at least once a week, but after moving more than an hour away, I couldn’t visit as often. I searched for another volunteer opportunity and found Dogs on Deployment.

Since the beginning of this year, I have been volunteering as the DoD New Orleans coordinator, and it has been a tremendously rewarding experience. Whether distributing fliers or attending pet and military events to talk with soldiers about how we can help, I find comfort in knowing that I can help keep military pets out of shelters and in good homes — where they belong.

It makes a huge difference for the soldiers, too. Roann didn’t know what to do when he was transferred earlier this year:

“I had never heard of DoD until last fall when I moved across the country with a military PCS…. I needed a place for my dog, Truman, to be near me as I was closing on a house. The family that fostered my dog was amazing and very supportive. The whole experience gave me huge peace of mind, and I’m forever grateful for DoD for the support for military members with this program. The foster family and I are still friends and continue to grow as doggy boarding pals.”

Dogs on Deployment receives a donation with every purchase of these dog treats.
Dogs on Deployment receives a donation with every purchase of these dog treats.

Not Just for Dogs

At DoD, boarding and financial assistance is available for dogs, cats, birds, snakes (really — snakes) and just about any other animal. Volunteer boarders come from all walks of pet life, from dog handlers to people with reptile or exotic animal experience.

How You Can Help

Here are 5 ways you can get involved, even if you can’t board a pet:

1. Donate

Donations are accepted on DoD’s website. The funds are used to cover small operating expenses (no salaries), and the rest goes back out to military members.

2. Volunteer

Register on the website and offer to help. Whether you decide to man a booth at a pet event or become a volunteer coordinator in your area, there’s always something fun to do.

3. Shop

The Lazy Dog Cookie Company partnered with Dogs on Deployment to offer Operation Drool Overload treats, which are a big hit with dogs — and every purchase helps out Dogs on Deployment.

Dogs on Deployment is also listed on Amazon Smile, which gives back to charities every time you shop.

4. Walk

Download Walk for a Dog’s Wooftrax app or the ResQwalk app to your phone and log in when you walk your dog to earn money for charity.

5. Share

Sadly, military pets are still being surrendered to shelters, often because their family did not know about DoD. I got a call earlier this year about a dog surrendered to the Louisiana SPCA by a military member. The man was deploying soon, and by the time he learned about Dogs on Deployment, he didn’t have enough time to make arrangements. Luckily, the dog was pulled by a rescue and got a second chance.

Some animals are not that fortunate, so simply telling someone about the charity or sharing its Facebook posts for pets in need goes a long way.

And, of course, sharing this article would be a great start.

Kristine Lacoste

View posts by Kristine Lacoste
Kristine Lacoste, editor in chief of Petful, has been researching dog and cat breeds for nearly a decade and has observed the animals up close at dog shows in both the United States and the United Kingdom. She is the author of the book One Unforgettable Journey, which was nominated for a Maxwell Award from the Dog Writers Association of America, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. In addition, she was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. Kristine has researched and written about pet behaviors and care for many years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, another bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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