Our volunteer of the month, Jennifer Michaels-Kelly, is more than just a helping hand for our organization. The Washington D.C. Coordinator has dedicated so much time and love to helping others, that she was also named “Volunteer of the Year,” last year.
She got started with Dogs on Deployment (DoD) after meeting other volunteers from her husband’s work. She says, “I volunteered for an event and it was just really successful.” She adds, “Then, I had a lot of ideas and I wanted to get involved.” After that, she was hooked!
It didn’t take long for Michaels-Kelly to be invited on as a local coordinator. She was thrilled, truly believing in the mission of DoD.
“It’s so important to get the word out there, and help these people so that they can have full lives with their pets,” said Michaels-Kelly.
Michaels-Kelly is an extraordinary volunteer because she truly enjoys what she is doing, and understands our soldiers’ unique needs. She came from a military family with furry friends of their own.
“Coming from a military family, and [having] a crazy mother who loved animals and made sure that they could come with us everywhere we went — it was kind of like my worlds colliding between the military and the animals,” says Michaels-Kelly.
Spreading the word about DoD is most important to Michaels-Kelly. She says she is always trying to make sure people know about the organization.
“It really is a great way of being able to help your troops, in a way that you wouldn’t think of. I get such enjoyment out of it. I feel guilty sometimes because I get people thanking me and telling me what a great job I’m doing,” said Michaels-Kelly.
Michaels-Kelly’s dogs, Marley and Doobster (and don’t forget her cat!), are all part of the reason she loves volunteering so much.
“My dogs are my children,” said Michaels-Kelly. “If somebody told me that I’m going to fight for my country, but when I get home I wouldn’t be able to see my children, well, I had some trouble with that.”
Whether it be a blizzard keeping you in the house, a tornado forcing you to seek shelter, a fire displacing your family, or a hurricane demanding that you to evacuate, disasters require preparation. We all have plans for what we need to do to help our families, but do those plans include pets?
If not, they should. It turns out that it’s not too difficult to add your pet to your family’s disaster preparedness plan. It’s as easy as 1-2-3:
A Readiness Kit
The day you get your pet can be the day you start preparing for any disaster because the first decision you make is how to ID your pet . ID options include a tag with an address and phone number and/or getting a microchip implanted, or other options. The most important thing is to make sure that your pet’s ID is current.
Another necessary step is making sure your pet is up-to-date on his/her shot records and flee/tick prevention. Most shelters will not allow pets into their facilities, if they are not up-to-date, on their shots. If a flood destroys your home, and you need to board your pet, the last thing you need to worry about is being turned away from a reputable shelter because your dog isn’t up to date on his Bordetella (kennel cough) shot.
A final, important preparedness step is to get a sticker for your home that alerts fire, police, and search & rescue personnel that you have a pet. The ASPCA will send them to you, for free. Once evacuated from the dangerous situation, if it’s safe, and if time allows, you should write, “EVACUATED” across the sticker, so rescue personnel know that the animals are safely recovered.
Having a readiness kit is crucial to ensuring that your pet is equipped to survive outside of its normal environment, at least for a short period of time. While each pet will have individual needs to make him/her comfortable, there are a few items that should be on everyone’s list:
Photo of Your Pet: It’s important to have a current photo of your pet, should you get separated.
Food/ Treats: have food that suits your pet’s dietary needs, and have enough for about ten days. Remember to update this as their nutritional needs change.
Water: Again, as with food, have enough for about ten days
Bowls: Something people tend to forget is bowls for food and water. It’s wonderful to stock food and water, but without a container for your animal to eat from, these items become, essentially, useless.
Collar/Leash: In an emergency situation, and in unfamiliar surroundings, even the most well-trained dog, or calm kitty gets nervous. Make sure you can control your animal with a strong leash and with a collar.
Comfort Items: If your pet is partial to a specific blanket, a toy, or even a kennel, keep it with, or near, your emergency supplies. The scent of these items may help calm a nervous animal.
Medical Supplies- Shot records, medications and grooming supplies should be packed with the emergency kit, not scattered around the house.
If you do not live in an area where you have family near, or your area does not have any pet friendly emergency shelters, then you need a plan for where your pet will go, in an emergency. Having your Readiness Kit stocked ensures that no matter where your pet has to go, they will be comfortable, but finding a place ahead of time, ensures they will be safe.
A good plan includes a network of friends, family, neighbors and boarding facilities, both local and in surrounding communities (in case your local facilities are affected by whatever emergency has you fleeing your home). Having a ready list of places to turn to prevents last minute scrambling, and a potential disaster for your pet.
Most importantly, never leave your pet alone to fend for itself in a disaster situation. Contrary to what some might believe, that the animal’s survival instincts will help it along, these animals often end up requiring rescue, and are often injured, sick and scared. Plan ahead and keep your animal safe and cared for, with you, or with a caretaker.
In general, it is important to prepare you and your family in case of a disaster; your pet is part of your family too. Prepare for their care, the same way you prepare for your own.
Some great resources for preparing your pet include:
The moment my husband and I saw Max’s adorable face staring at us from his cage at the Humane Society, we knew he was the one. Falling in love with him was easy; figuring out how to keep him safe and ensuring his return to us, should he ever run away or be stolen, was more challenging. There are several options to protect your pet, should these unthinkable situations occur.
Upon getting Max from the human society, we instantly got him collar ID tags. It is engraved with his name, our name, our address, and our phone number. These are the easiest ways to ID a dog because a dog’s collar is the first place anyone looks, when they find a stray.
There are many drawbacks to ID tags on a collar.They are easily lost, or torn off by a frisky, adventurous dog. They also wear out easily, making them unreadable; Max’s chewing has marred his ID tags with teeth marks, for example. While there are new, high-tech ID tags with USB drives attached to them, they are not all that common; you can’t always rely on the general public to know what to do with such a new piece of technology.
Microchips are a tamper-proof way to ensure that your pet can be reunited with you. However, a microchip should not replace your pet’s rabies or generic ID tag.
Microchips are implanted into your pet with a needle and are generally placed between the shoulder blades. It is like getting a regular vaccine, so your pet does not need anesthesia; however, many pet owners choose to have them implanted during spay and neuter procedures, as the needle is larger than many vaccines. Talk to your vet about insertion, as some veterinarians recommend microchipping in conjunction with rabies vaccinations.
The microchip has a unique number assigned to it. The length of this number depends on where the microchip is implanted. For example, if the pet is given an ISO (International Organization for Standardization)microchip, he will have a longer code, one that is readable both backwards and forwards. Currently, North America does not follow the ISO standards; so, unless otherwise specified, most microchips implanted in North America are non-ISO standard microchips. However, if you are traveling to another continent, or with a military member with overseas orders, it is a good idea to microchip with an ISO standard microchip.
When a runaway pet is found and brought to a vet or a shelter, standard procedure involves the doctor scanning the shoulder area with a handheld device, looking for a chip. The scan is not harmful to your pet; the scanner looks much like a barcode reader you might see at the supermarket.
A microchip is only effective though, if it is registered with a database, much like a license. There are many well-known microchip database companies:
HomeAgain’s annual fee of $17.95 registers your pet in their database of over 6.5 million pets. This includes all brands of microchips, and covers airfare of up to $500 to return your lost pet if they are found over 500 miles away from home. They also have a downloadable app that you can download to send notification to other members in the area regarding missing pets, kind of like an Amber Alert for your pet. They also have a 24/7 emergency advice line, and they offer pet insurance.
The company offers both pet insurance and a place to register microchip ID numbers. To register your pet there is a fee; they offer either a yearly fee, or a lifetime fee, and fees differ depending on whether you are registering a cat or a dog. They have a 24-hour emergency advice line, as well as an alert system that notifies local shelters if you report your pet missing. Like HomeAgain, they register any brand of microchip; but they also offer their own specific type of microchip.
Avid has a specific microchip that they offer called the Avid Friend Chip. To use an Avid Friend chip, you you can use the search option on their site to find a vet that carries their chip. They also have a registration fee, either annual or lifetime enrollment. It does not specify if you can register a non-Avid brand microchip, on their site. However, they require you to do a paper form to verify your pet’s ID number and to pay the registration fee.
Tattoos work similarly to microchips, as they are a unique number, assigned to your animal. However, they are not internal like a chip; they are externally applied, usually to puppies. They are often done by the breeder, usually inside of the ear, on the stomach or on the inner thigh.
The drawback to tattoos is that, like on humans, tattoos fade. Additionally, because they are not as common, they are unexpected, and not always noticed as a source of identification, especially if they are in a location that may be covered with new fur growth.
Pet Tracker is a GPS unit that attaches to your pet’s collar and sends a signal to a pre-determined area that you have assigned for your pet. It tracks, on a map, where your pet is, in this area, and if your pet leaves it. It even tracks your pet’s activities throughout the day. It is waterproof, but runs off of a battery that you have to charge every 30 days. Pet Tracker (tagg) is the primary company offering this service.
With all the options we have available to provide identification for our pet it is very important to do your research to find out which one fits you, your pet, and your lifestyle. We all love our pets like they are part of the family, so why not use some of the great technology we have to be prepared for the worst?
Deployments are part of military life; just ask Kery and her husband Lee. It’s just part of standard procedure for this Navy family. Lee was not worried about leaving the beloved family dog, Mija, a nine-year-old shepherd mix behind, because his wife, Kery, was going to be there to take care of her.
Then, life got complicated, as life often does, when deployments occur. With a brand new baby, and some health problems, Kery had to go stay with her parents for the duration of Lee’s deployment. Unfortunately, Kery’s parents couldn’t take in Mija.
Thankfully, Donna Magee had seen Dogs on Deployment do a televised reunion, and as a volunteer foster for her humane society, she saw an opportunity to get involved with DoD at the local level. On the website, Donna saw Kery and Lee’s post looking for a boarder, and it was a perfect match.
With two other small dogs already ruling the roost, Mija fit right into Donna’s dog-loving home. And, Mija’s special needs were perfectly met: “I’m blessed that I’m allowed to bring her to my office with me. When my daughter is in school, Mija comes to work with me, so as not to be left alone,” Donna says of Mija’s separation anxiety.
Still, Donna’s aid to Kery and Lee didn’t stop with giving Mija a safe place to stay during his deployment. Donna noticed that Mija didn’t seem to be feeling well, and took her to the vet.
“Mija was boarded over the 4th of July weekend,” Donna explains of noticing Mija’s condition. “When we brought her home, she was not eating well, becoming irritable, sleeping a lot, and not wanting to be touched.” In a short span of time, Mija had lost over ten pounds, and had pronounced lumps in her neck.
At the vet, Mija was diagnosed with Stage IV-V Lymphoma, meaning that she had cancer present in all her lymph nodes. Additionally, she had an enlarged spleen and kidneys.
Mija’s chemotherapy treatments are projected to cost upwards of $5,000, a cost that Kery and Lee are unable to afford. Lee recently lost his mother, and the thought of losing his beloved dog, while still deployed, was too difficult to imagine.
“My husband’s heart was heavy, as he could not bear another loss of someone so precious to him, especially in such a short period of time — and while he was still deployed,” Kery says of her husband.
When Dogs on Deployment heard of this, through Donna, fundraising began without hesitation, on Mija’s behalf. A $1,500 donation was made, almost immediately.
“I burst into tears when I heard the news!” Kery exclaimed, upon hearing that the cost of treatment was already being defrayed. “And, you are continuing to fundraise on her behalf!”
Donna adds that friends have helped by purchasing chicken and rice to supplement Mija’s diet when she is feeling too ill to eat her regular food. “She’s put on a few pounds, but she’s still a little too thin,” she says.
While helping military families, and their pets is part of everyday life for Dogs on Deployment, Kery says, “Words cannot express the sincere gratitude our family has for the help your organization has given to our family, and to Mija. We truly appreciate this more than anything. A million ‘thank you’s’ would never be enough! The work that you do is so commendable, amazing, and so selfless. Your organization has touched our lives in a way that we could never repay! Thank you for your kindness and what you do for us and for our fellow military families and their dogs.”
Thanks to the generous support from donations, Mija is on her way to recovery. If you are interested in continuing to support Mija, please visit the Donations Section of our website, and select “Save Mija” from the pull down menu.
After half a year serving overseas, U.S. Air Force First Sergeant Tiffany Robinson is home safe and reunited with her two dogs.
“I thought they were gonna forget me, but they didn’t,” said Robinson
Six months ago, Robinson found out she was being deployed to Africa.
“You took the oath to serve, protect and defend the country,” said Robinson. “So, you have to deploy. There’s no other option.”
Robinson said she was excited to go, but had one big concern.
“I was just kinda at my wits end and I was like ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do with my dogs, I want someone who can care for them, who can love them’,” said Robinson.
A friend told Robinson about Dogs on Deployment, a national non profit organization that connects service members with families who are willing to care for pets while their owners are deployed.
“It’s so important just because no military member wants to have to give up their pets to do their job,” said Darrah, Dogs on Deployment volunteer.
Through the program, Robinson was connected with Darrah, a military wife living in Ladson. Darrah said she knows first hand about the stresses that come with deployment.
“I know how hard it is,” said Darrah. “For me, this was an easy, simple thing to do to help out.”
At no cost to Robinson, Darrah and her family took in Rocco and Rogue while she was away. Darrah said they receive no money from the program. They pay for food and care while hosting the pets.
“Its all kindness of the heart,” said Darrah.
That kindness is something that Robinson is overcome with gratitude for. Robinson said coming home from deployment is an adjustment and it’s much easier to do with her two dogs that she lovingly calls her “kids.”
“It’s priceless, there are no words,” said Robinson. “They’re like my family here, since I don’t have any family in Charleston.”
Both families said the hardest part of the reunion was having to separate Rocco and Rogue from Darrah’s dogs. They’ve all gotten very attached to each other. But Robinson said she’ll be back to visit soon.
Dogs on Deployment was founded in 2011 and so far nearly 500 pets have been taken care through the program.
You can find more information about dogs on deployment on their website.
By GENE PATTERSON, 6 News Anchor/Reporter (ABC Wate)
KODAK (WATE) – We often think of military families who are separated from their loved ones when they deploy.
It turns out – there is a group out there that can help.
Air Force Major Kevin Cook was helped by the non-profit known as “Dogs on Deployment.”
It was a special night on Tuesday at the Tennessee Smokies Stadium for Major Cook, the Asheville, North Carolina native who was reunited with his pets, Ruby and Indigo after a 5 month absence.
The dogs have been cared for during the Major’s overseas deployment by Katie Brown. She made sure Major Cook kept in touch with his dogs.
“We were able to send him photos, Facebook him and also send him some videos,” said Katie Brown, Knoxville Coordinator for Dogs on Deployment.
Dogs on Deployment is a national non-profit that uses volunteers to care for the pets of military men and women who have commitments elsewhere in the world.
“If you’re one who wants to help your troops and love your dogs we actually bring that together. You can help board those pets for your troops,” said Brown.
Dogs on Deployment was founded in 2011 by pet owners Alisa and Shawn Johnson, who realized the need for foster care when both were deployed. To date more than 450 dogs have found temporary homes through Dogs on Deployment.
Major Cook said the group was exactly what he needed.
“There’s just not a lot of support network for dogs in the military,” said Major Cook.
Through Dogs on Deployment, Cook had one less thing to worry about during his overseas stay. And the occasional message and photos he says broke the boredom.
“It’s a great program I can’t say enough about them. There for a long time that service wasn’t there, and I couldn’t believe it when I looked online and there was something out there for this. It’s a wonderful program and hope it continues to grow and will do what I can to support it,” said Major Cook.
Dogs chew. Anyone who has ever had a dog knows this simple fact of canine nature; and, if youâ€™re lucky, you ended up with a dog that knows to only chew toys. Still, when dogs behave, and only chew their toys, sometimes something goes wrong. Strings, and seemingly innocent bits of fluff and fabric can make their way into your dogâ€™s gut. Most of the time, they pass, unnoticed, until they are found decorating the yard. Sometimes though, these bits of string can loop themselves in knots around your dogâ€™s stomach and intestines, causing life-threatening blockages.
It was just this type of scary situation that sent Giacomo and Rhiannon rushing to the emergency vet with their dog, a year and a half year old Lab named Devil. Heâ€™d stopped eating and drinking for several days, and was persistently vomiting, all sure signs of an intestinal blockage. The images were unclear, but the vet felt sure that it was probably a string. The vet recommended operating immediately, and the concerned pet parents thought that it seemed a logical course of action, as a tiny string, almost impossible to see on an X-ray made perfect sense for Devil, a dog prone to tear apart his stuffed toys. Without hesitating, they paid the mandatory, up-front, expensive surgery fee.
“Devil is basically our child. We bothÂ love him so much that we would do anything for him,â€ Rhiannon says, about agreeing to the costly operation. â€œWhen he had to have emergency surgery, we had no choice but to say yes because itâ€™s what the vet said would help him and we just wanted him better.”
Unfortunately, it didnâ€™t help Devil. After the $3600 surgery, which maxed out their credit cards, Devil was miserable, in more pain than before, and very dehydrated. Worst of all, the surgeon didnâ€™t find a string; the vet concluded that whatever was upsetting Devilâ€™s stomach must have simply passed on its own
Maxing out their cards was a financial burden to the couple, and they were only able to make the $75 minimum payment each month, which barely made a dent in the amount they owed. When it seemed like theyâ€™d never be able to recover their finances, a friend suggested they contact Dogs on Deployment and request assistance through the Pet Chit program.
The Dogs on Deployment Pet Chit program provides financial assistance to military members E-6, and below. It can be used to assist in basic veterinary care, including spay and neuter surgeries, pre-deployment health-care, travel and PCS related expenses, emergency care, and more. Giacomo and Rhiannon applied for a Pet Chit and contacted Alisa Johnson, president of Dogs on Deployment, who, through fundraising, Â raised $1300, applied directly to their vet bill.
â€œDogs on Deployment took a huge weight off of our shoulders helping to pay some of the bill,â€ Rhiannon says of the contribution, â€œIâ€™m forever grateful to them for caring as much about Devil as we do.â€
Alisa Johnson, president of Dogs on Deployment, adds â€œwe are so happy to be able to help Rhiannon and Giacomo.”
Now, Devil is back to his healthy, happy self.
Rhiannon says, â€œI would have done it all again because our dog is seriously our baby,â€ but â€œI wish we had known about what you guys do beforeâ€¦from the bottom of our hearts, thank you for this helpâ€¦Between getting donations for owners and finding temporary fosters, what you guys do is amazing. Thank you so much.â€
Sgt Juan Valdez, a Marine combat-veteran and owner of Midas, a PTS Service Dog, and Dogs on Deployment’s 2014 Military Pet of the Year and DoD Mascot, has his first public appearance with Fox 25 Boston News where he talks about his experiences, the help Midas gives and how Dogs on Deployment is making a difference.