Dogs: A (Military) Spouse’s Best Friend


After people found out we were moving overseas one of the first questions to pop up was if we were taking our dog. The answer to that question was a no-brainer for us, “Yes, of course!” While we don’t think of her as our child (that’s a different post for another day), we do consider her very much part of our family.

We picked Bella up from a shelter the week after we got married. It was love at first sight and even though I was initially overwhelmed with owning a puppy, it turned out to be the best decision. My husband deployed a mere two months after we tied the knot, so I was left—newly married—in a new town with minimal friends and a dog. It turns out that having her by my side was a blessing in disguise.

At the time I was freelancing from home, so the only physical connection I had with people was if I went to the store or the gym. I started a routine of taking Bella for a walk in the morning and at night, and I eventually started seeing and meeting more people from around our neighborhood. She loves going on walks, so she could release all her built up energy and it helped me get outside at least once a day instead of becoming a hermit inside my own home. It was a win/win situation and I looked forward to our daily walks.

We all know that nights are the worst during a deployment. Your house and surroundings seem to come alive in the shadows and take on a completely different vibe. When we adopted Bella we made a rule that she would not sleep on our bed. I was adamant about being strong and keeping my word, but after hearing noises that can only be described as horrifying, I quickly called her and begged her to take over my husband’s spot. She happily obliged and slept by my side the entire deployment.

This next part may sound silly, I became that person who had full conversations with her dog. (Don’t worry; she never talked back.) I was lonely and missed my partner, but having Bella there to talk to made things seem less lonely. Before you start thinking that all I did was stay home and have long, drawn out conversations with my dog, think again. I started making more friends and getting out more, but you can only linger at a friend’s house before you have to go back to your empty home.

Dogs may be “man’s best friend,” but Bella certainly became my companion during those months. So when we got orders for our OCONUS move we immediately took the proper steps (i.e. filling out lots of paperwork and making sure she didn’t get packed) so she could come with us.

The journey over here was fine for her. She successfully went on her first road trip where she wooed the staff at every pet-friendly hotel we stayed at, and then for the trip overseas she flew in the cargo area of the plane while we sat up top. Our house has an ample-sized yard for her to run and play in, and we regularly take her on walks. It turns out Italians love dogs, so I get to practice my Italian with them and Bella gets to meet other dogs and people who do nothing but love on her. I’ve even met several American friends because of the walks we take.

She’s been with us for two deployments and we’re about to embark on our third. While she’ll miss my husband — last time around she was noticeably sad and perked up whenever I said his name—I know she’ll perform her puppy duties admirably and continue to stay by my side. Granted, we don’t have any children, but right now I literally don’t know how I’d get through deployments without her.

What about you, do you have a pup that sticks with you through thick and thin?

About the Author

Jessica Lynn

Two years ago, Jessica Lynn married her Air Force husband and moved from her hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, to join him across the country in Georgia. If getting married and embarking on the life of an Air Force wife wasn't enough of an adventure, they recently traded in their Georgia peaches and for pasta and wine when her husband got orders to Northern Italy.

No longer a PCS virgin, Jessica is already gearing up for her second PCS in two years. When she's not twiddling her thumbs waiting for more answers about their upcoming move, you can find her learning Italian so she can have a conversation with her 90-year-old neighbor, traveling as much as time and money will allow, hanging out with her husband and puppy, and blogging about her OCONUS adventures at Jessica Lynn Writes.

  • There are no canine companions at our house, but I don’t know how I’d get through deployment without our cats.

    I agree that it’s perfectly (purr-fectly?) fine to talk to our four-legged friends. We’re only in trouble if they start answering in English. ;-)

    • jesstagirl

      Some days I truly wish my dog would answer back to me. It’s funny, but we really do get frustrated with each other sometimes and it would just make things easier if she could just tell me what the heck she’s whining about! (Love the play on words you used, by the way!)

  • Rquick

    We have 3 dogs and I love them! Nothing pisses me off like people who don’t take their pets oconus!! They really are members of your family not just furry stand-ins! Your dog sounds so sweet. I know mine will help alot with deployment lonlieness =) Great post!

  • Amy

    The people who don’t PCS with their pets at all amaze me.

    We had orders to the UK 2 years ago. I did everything necessary to get not only my kids but my dogs ready. I wasn’t about to leave our pups behind. We wound up having our orders change so it became a CONUS PCS instead. Still, the dogs are part of the family and would not be left behind!

  • Wish your link had worked: I’m curious about pet paperwork and restrictions. I’d love to read a follow up on advice for those moving abroad through TMO for the first time. :)

    • jesstagirl

      Thanks for letting us know—the link is fixed now! I started writing a post while we were PCSing with tips on how to bring your dogs overseas, but got overwhelmed with everything else. I’ll see if I can dig it up and get it posted! TMO doesn’t move them, though; they go with their owners or I know some people have sent their dogs separately on planes because of other circumstances.

  • Tips From The Homefront

    We, too, have had our dog from the start of our marriage. She has gone to Japan and back and will follow us no matter where we end up next. She is my (and our children) constant companion in a world full of change.

  • Pattie

    We brought our dog with us to Alaska, and just five months later she died of liver failure.
    One of the hardest things about losing my dog so soon after PCSing is that she won’t be here to get me through DH’s next deployment like she was during the last one.

    • I am so, so sorry for your loss. Losing a pet is never easy.

    • jesstagirl

      Aw, I’m so sorry to hear about your dog. Do you have plans to get another pup to help you through the deployment?

  • hrk

    I’m so glad to see you wrote about this! My mother of all people thinks that having a dog will only confine me to the house when my husband is away, but I don’t think she realizes that the hardest time throughout the day is at night and that I would feel so much safer having a dog at my side.

    My husband wants to get a dog as well and we’ll hopefully get one after our next move. However, he says the dog isn’t allowed to sleep in our bed when he is away (but what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him!).

    • jesstagirl

      In addition to washing the sheets right before he comes home, I usually put a blanket up on the bed for my dog to sleep on. When she does sleep with me she’s always on top of the covers! Hope you’re able to get a dog in your life soon :)

  • SemperSteen

    I’m so glad you wrote about this, enough cannot be said about the comfort a pet provides during deployment. My husband’s deployed now and our dog and cat make things so much more bearable, especially at night. Our big bed feels a little less empty when I go to sleep to the sound of our dog snoring and wake up in the morning with two fuzzballs snuggled up to me. And having an energetic dog makes it impossible to shut myself indoors all day. Dogs are very intuitive to human emotions and ours seems to always know when I just need someone to cuddle with. I can’t imagine going through a deployment without our furbabies.

  • Lori

    Yes a dog is the best friend but if you work and have kids it a hand full it better when your kids are growen up and you need something to do . Kids keep you busy enough dogs make it crazy but nice when need the bed buddy when the husband is gone, you have the dog it good they do not fight with you it best friend you never had. My husband did get a dog for me and I loved it . and my daughter went to college and left me with her dog so I have 2 of them they are just like kids. but with out the fights. my husband has had 2 tours in the hot zone. and now. He out of the Active but still reserve. I time will be up in Nov of this comming year. My now is truck driver and the dogs are the best thing for me. we are not renewing after 13 year time for us to have your time had army time now it our time kids have grown time have are fun traveling.