Wednesday, February 21, 2024

‘Matchmaking service’ helps pets of deployed military members find foster homes in Hampton Roads

Dogs on Deployment has been recognized by Gov. Ralph Northam's office for its community service. (Courtesy photo/Dogs of Deployment)
Dogs on Deployment has been recognized by Gov. Ralph Northam’s office for its community service. (Courtesy photo/Dogs of Deployment)

Dogs on Deployment is a program that ensures military and national guard members don’t have to surrender their pets when they get deployed.

Running with 150 volunteers at the Hampton Roads chapter, Dogs on Deployment is a nonprofit pet-fostering program that works almost like a dating site, said Myra Smith, Hampton Roads coordinator for Dogs on Deployment.

She said all a military member has to do is make a profile on their website and they are matched with a boarder for their pet.

The program will take any and all pets — the boarders will stipulate in their profile what kinds of pets they’ll take.

Smith said she’s seen all kinds of pets: hamsters, snakes, cats, dogs, birds, etc.

The military member will then meet with the prospective boarder twice, once in public and then again in the home where the pet will be staying.

While the program has only been around since 2011 and the Hampton Roads chapter since 2014, there have already been 1,285 pets fostered, Smith said.

Marine Lance Cpl. Jon Contreas is reunited with his dog, Diego, after his deployment to Afghanistan. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Dogs on Deployment)
Marine Lance Cpl. Jon Contreas is reunited with his dog, Diego, after his deployment to Afghanistan. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Dogs on Deployment)

The project was started in June 2011 by husband and wife Shawn and Alisa Johnson, who serve in the Navy and Marine Corps respectively, according to Dogs on Deployment’s website.

The couple were deployed at the same time and were unable to find a place to send their pets while they were away.

If a military member cannot find family or friends to watch their pets while deployed, they often will surrender their pets to a shelter, Smith said.

Smith said the purpose of the program is to get the word out and show military members that they don’t have to surrender their pets and that there is another option for keeping their furry friends safe while they’re away.

RELATED STORY: It’s a matchmaking service like no other, and Gov. Northam agrees

Another feature it offers is a financial assistance program for E6 military members and below.

The money goes to neutering, spaying, surgery, travel quarantine costs and any other necessary expenses for a pet.

Smith said the money is raised through sponsored partners like PetSmart and Purina and through fundraising events.

So far, Dogs on Deployment has awarded $565,000 to military members to help cover pet costs nationwide, Smith said.

To learn more about the program click here.

This story was published in partnership with our sister publication, HNNDaily. 

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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