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Dogs on Deployment takes care of pets while their owners are serving overseas

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Wifi is a 4-year-old pit bull who loves belly rubs and attention. Her owner, who currently serves in the U.S. Air Force, has been deployed since last year – and she was able to quickly find a temporary home, thanks to Dogs on Deployment.

“[Her owner] was concerned that he wasn’t going to be able to find someone to watch her in the quick turnaround, but when we met her, we completely fell in love with her, and now we have her for a few months,” said Carla Mead, who is now a three-time boarder and a Los Angeles coordinator for Dogs on Deployment. For Mead and her husband Jon, this was the perfect way to support military service members while fulfilling dreams of fostering and caring for animals.

Dogs on Deployment is a volunteer-based nonprofit that helps military members find a temporary home for their pets while they are away. Since it started in 2011, more than 1,100 pets (despite the name, the service is not restricted to dogs) have been taken care of. Founders Shawn and Alisa Johnson, who served in the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corp respectively, saw the need firsthand and eventually set out to find a more practical solution for military members.

(Photo by Terran Bayer/Westway Studio)

Now, the organization boasts more than 25,000 volunteers registered across the country. Boarders can sign up for a length of time they are comfortable with, since trainings and deployments can be anywhere from a few weeks to a year. The service members are still financially responsible for their pets, since all of the boarders are volunteers.

“I’m impressed with how honest all of the people are on it,” Jon Mead said, noting that honest communication is key to successful boarding experience. “[Service members] are always incredibly upfront and honest about exactly what their dog is like, what’s gonna work, what won’t.”

Even if you can’t board a pet, there are ways people can help financially. Dogs on Deployment has also provided more than $450,000 of financial assistance to military members and their pets through its Pet Chit program.

“I think the biggest reward for me personally is just being able to be of service to our service members,” said Carla. For every dog she boards, she sets up a hashtag for him or her, so that the owners overseas can see photos of the dog from time to time. For Wifi, she set up the hashtag “#Wifiiswonderful”.

“A lot of people ask me whether it's hard to give up the dog,” said Jon. “But it's different from fostering, because you know all this time that they have a loving family to go back to.”

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