INWOOD, W.Va. — Being reunited with a loved one is a moment in time that could last forever.
After being deployed for nearly three months, that moment finally happened for Katherine Neal on Tuesday when her dog Miko showered her with kisses and slobber.
While Neal has been in the Navy for almost two years, her recent deployment left her struggling to find someone to care for her four-legged friend. For the past few months, Neal was stationed in Florida for relief during hurricane season.
Prior to her departure, Neal stumbled upon Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit organization that provides foster care to domesticated animals for military personnel. That’s where she met foster mom Laura Aulisio.
Aulisio said she volunteered to be a foster owner because of her own experiences of losing a cousin in Afghanistan almost five years ago.
“They give up their whole lives to go wherever for us at any given moment,” Aulisio said. “If the least we can do is take care of their pets while they’re away, then great.”
Aulisio’s cousin, Braise Oleski, served in the military and gave his life for his country when he was just 23 years old. After Oleski died, his dog Camper went on to live with his parents.
“Camper meant everything to him. He loved that dog,” Aulisio said.
Neal was also no stranger to know what it means to have a four-legged companion around.
“She’s my stress relief. After getting yelled at all day, it’s just nice to come home to something that appreciates me,” Neal said.
Throughout Miko’s stay with the Aulisio family, Neal received updates and pictures through social media. From veterinarian appointments to finding herself into the treats, the updates kept Neal’s spirits uplifted while she was away.
“People say, ‘well, why do military people have pets?’ Well, why shouldn’t they?” Aulisio said. “When people go away on vacation, people have to board their dogs.”
In her role as a foster mom for Miko, Aulisio said she is most thankful for the impact it will have on her children by giving back to those that serve. A mom of two, Aulisio said providing a place for Miko to stay has been an easy experience.
Since its foundation in 2011, Dogs on Deployment has placed more than 533 dogs in foster homes across the United States. Volunteers like Aulisio provide time and a place to stay, while the owners put up the money for vet care, food and other needs.
For Neal, if she is deployed again, she said she won’t hesitate to give Aulisio a call.
“I’m so glad she was available to take her,” Neal said.