Organization pairs military pets with temporary homes
By Brendan Quealy
Alisa Johnson is one of those people who believes her dogs can see into [her] soul. So it was heartbreaking when she and her husband, Shawn, received orders from the U.S. Marine Corps to relocate to a base in Quantico, Virginia, where dogs and other pets were not allowed. “We didn’t really have an option to keep the dogs,” says Johnson, whose Aussie Shepherds JD and Elliot (yes, they are named after the two characters from the television show Scrubs) ended up having to stay with a very distant friend of a distant relative in San Diego.
Johnson could not imagine she was the only armed forces member to have ever faced this problem, and that is why she created “Dogs on Deployment” (DoD). The goal of DoD is to provide a database for military members to find families and other individuals who are willing to take care of their pet while they are deployed overseas or stationed somewhere animals are not allowed. The hope is that this database will eliminate any need for the men and women of the armed forces to relinquish their pets to already overcrowded shelters. “I would say that getting started and finding support has been the easiest part,” says Johnson. “When you put troops together with pets, people want to get the word out and people want to find homes for these pets.”
Although just launched in July of 2011, Dogs on Deployment already has 130 boarders across the country. Johnson is currently networking with other non-profits to find homes for dogs left behind while brave men and women serve our country.
“It can be tough when you are on deployment because you don’t know the day-to-day life of your pet anymore,” says Johnson. “You’re putting a lot of trust into your DoD boarder to take care of them.”
That is why Johnson set up a Facebook page for her boarders to post videos and photos of the dogs they are looking after. Soldiers can check on their pets via these posts, which also help to ease the sadness caused by separation. “As an officer in the military’s Marine Corps, we aim to look out for our own troops, and being able to help them personally has been so rewarding,” says Johnson.
Johnson hopes to have DoD-approved boarders located near all military bases in the United States—ideally within 50 miles.
“We want to become the first resource for military members to turn to when they need long term boarding for their pets,” says Johnson. Johnson also has aspirations of going beyond serving as a resource for potential foster homes. She hopes to get DoD involved in the community through social media outreach and educate the public about what a needed resource this service is. Of course, these goals require a lot of hard work and dedication, but Johnson is up to the challenge. “This is a labor of love,” says Johnson. “I am on active duty and it is solely me who runs the website. It is a lot of extra work, but it is worth it. The reward for helping someone know that their pet is safe is amazing.”
Johnson says the best way to help Dogs on Deployment is to become a registered DoD Boarder, make a donation, or simply spread the word and let other people know about this service.
To submit an application online to become a registered DoD Boarder or to find out more information about the program, please visit DogsOnDeployment.com