We all know how it feels to find the perfect canine companions; it’s at that moment that we swear that we will never let anything happen to them. With Army Veteran, Pam Koehen, that was certainly the case; but, when a degenerative bone disease forced her out of the military in 2005, it also forced her to break that promise to her five dogs.
In August, Pam’s condition landed her in a VA hospital. Without Pam to look after them, her dogs ended up in the pound when a relative reported them as strays to the Riverside County Officials. Pam was devastated to learn the news. But when she was released from the hospital, Pam was able to track her dogs down.
Ironically though, the pound wouldn’t release them to her immediately, because they were considered strays. That’s when Pam contacted Dogs on Deployment, in hopes that our organization could help reunite her with her beloved animals.
This is where the story gets complicated. While Pam was in the hospital, Labradors and Friends, a 501(c) 3 animal rescue group focused on rescuing Labs, Lab-mixes and “friends” from kill-shelters in California and across the southwest, was alerted to three of her dogs being held at the shelter, as they met the requirements of the group.
They immediately rescued the pups and safely placed them in foster families to await adoption, having had no idea that Pam was looking for her dogs, and that they were not, indeed, strays.
“We had no idea about Pam and her situation. Once we pulled them, that’s when we heard from Dogs on Deployment,” said Lauren Dube, of Labradors and Friends.
Between Dogs on Deployment and Labradors and Friends, Pam’s dogs were placed in safe care, in foster homes and facilities spanning from Los Angeles to San Diego. Even Dogs on Deployment Founders, Alisa and Shawn Johnson stepped up to help Pam. When Alisa heard that three of Pam’s dogs were being kept at a veterinarian clinic in El Cajon, near where the founders live, she visited three of the five.
“They were doing OK, but being in a kennel until Pam could take them back to her home was unfair to them. They were dying for love,” says Alisa, President and Co-Founder of Dogs on Deployment. While she couldn’t take all three of them, she was able to take home one that day.
As soon as Labradors and Friends found out about Pam and her dogs, they teamed up with us to make sure that the dogs remained safe and cared for, until Pam was able to get settled. Dogs on Deployment, and Labradors and Friends made sure to set up Pam’s new home with donated pet supplies, furnishings, and household goods, to get her off to a good start. It was truly a story where the community came together to help a veteran in need.
Though it took a lot of legwork, phone calls and driving, we were excited to announce on October 19th that Pam and her dogs were happily reunited. Pam says, “There’s no way I could repay that. I’ve never been happier in all my life.” Pam was reunited with five, healthy, happy dogs, thanks to the volunteers and donors that helped care for her family while she was unable to.
*Special thanks to the SB Sun, and The Daily Bulletin for photos and extra reporting on this story.
See Pam’s reunion below!