2016 Military Pet of the Year and DoD Mascot

Article by Susan Nitka, DoD Writer & Editor, Military Tails Blog

Leonidas, or Leo for short, pictured above, happily attended to his Military Pet of the Year (MPOTY) 2015 duties while in the spotlight this past year. Surely, you must have seen him wagging, waving and smiling for the “puparazzi.”

It has been a banner year for our beloved Leonidas, the current mascot for Dogs on Deployment.

Going forward, did you know that your dog could be the next mascot? That’s right! Our annual Military Pet of the Year (MPOTY) competition has begun! During the annual MPOTY event, we invite all military members to proudly show off their pets, and their families. Then, together as a community, we will choose a new mascot dog to represent our mission.

Plus, the winner of MPOTY will receive some PAWSOME prizes from our sponsors, including being featured on DoD’s 2016 T-shirt design, have their pup’s face featured on Lazy Dog Cookie’s, gift cards from Tractor Supply Co, 1-year pet insurance plan with Pets Best Insurance, and more!

A Few Words About the Current MPOTY 2015 Recipient and Proud Owner

Pictured above is current mascot, Leonidas and his proud owner, Tim Johannsen. The Army soldier rescued this incredible dog from Afghanistan, where the two first met. With perseverance and patience, Leo ultimately arrived in the United States and was welcomed into his forever home with Tim and his wife, Kaydee.

Pictured above is current mascot, Leonidas and his proud owner, Tim Johannsen. The Army soldier rescued this incredible dog from Afghanistan, where the two first met. With perseverance and patience, Leo ultimately arrived in the United States and was welcomed into his forever home with Tim and his wife, Kaydee.


We chatted recently with Tim and Kaydee Johannsen (as well as Leonidas), who filled us in on what it has meant to have Leonidas be the 2015 MPOTY.

DOGS ON DEPLOYMENT: What about being the 2015 MPOTY was your favorite thing? 

THE JOHANNSEN FAMILY: “Our favorite thing about being the 2015 MPOTY was not only being a part of something big but it was also being a part of a new, amazing family. Dogs on Deployment is big, maybe not in numbers, but what they do is big! Dogs On Deployment cares about its Country’s military members and treats them like one big family. Just helping one makes a difference and they help thousands. So when you consider that difference, we are so proud to have been a part of it!”

DOGS ON DEPLOYMENT: How did the Military Pet of the Year program allow you to raise awareness for responsible pet ownership? 

THE JOHANNSEN FAMILY: “Throughout 2015, Tim, Leo’s Daddy, was gone for more than nine months of the year for short deployment, trainings, PCS. No matter what, Leo was kept safe and always there for his Daddy when Tim returned home. We hope by sharing our lives with others they see that giving away your pet during a difficult time is NOT always the answer, especially with Dogs On Deployment around!

Also, we shared our day to day about Leonidas’ health (Addison’s Disease and ACL surgery) with everyone. Although Leo was protected under pet insurance, the insurance does not cover his Addison’s and did not cover the surgery. We hope as well that by sharing out personal health issues with others that it encourages them to think outside the box when their dog becomes ill or injured. They don’t have to give up their family member. And we loved that with the ACL surgery we got to do a plug on Dogs On Deployment amazing Pet Chit program!

Our main mission was educating others about the animals that our military members find while overseas. The presence of just one dog can save a soldier’s life while deployed, whether on an emotional or physical level, so we hope that we were also able to show how important an organization like the Puppy Rescue Mission (PRM) is to our military members overseas. Dogs On Deployment and PRM make the best combination of non-for-profits to donate to, with Dogs On Deployment protecting on the home front, and PRM protecting overseas for our US Military Members and their furry ones!”

DOGS ON DEPLOYMENT: What advice would you have for 2016’s mascot? 

THE JOHANNSEN FAMILY: “Our advice for the 2016 mascot would be to be prepared to witness kindness all around you. Seeing and being involved in everything Dogs on Deployment does will really fill your heart! Also be prepared to take lots of selfies and photos to post, since the ladies absolutely love pictures of the mascot!”

DOGS ON DEPLOYMENT: What about MPOTY was most meaningful to you?

THE JOHANNSEN FAMILY: “MPOTY allows for a new theme for Dogs on Defense to focus on each year. Although Leonidas would LOVE to be the mascot forever, Leo values awareness for all causes and is very excited to see who the next mascot will be! MPOTY is not just about the mascot; it’s about connecting with fans and educating them on responsible pet ownership and what Dogs on Deployment does. For us, sharing our knowledge is the most meaningful thing. ”

The Application and 2016 Contest Entry Process

Your application must include:

  • Documentation proving military status
  • Basic information
  • A photo to be used for the contest, and
  • 500 written words on why your dog should be chosen as Dogs on Deployment’s 2016 Military Pet of the Year and Mascot.  This essay will be used as a caption for your dog’s photo during voting.

Examples of topics for your essay are:

  • How did you get the dog in the first place?
  • What are some difficulties you’ve had caring for the dog along with your service commitments?
  • Any illness/accidents your dog has overcome?
  • How do you exhibit being a responsible pet owner in the military, etc.?

Your entry will be reviewed by the Dogs on Deployment Board to ensure compliance with the contest entry requirements listed below. Any entry not meeting these requirements will be disqualified from the competition. Entries may be made beginning January 16th at 7 am EST, and may be submitted until January 31st at 7 pm EST, at which time the contest is closed to any and all submissions.

Voting begins February 6th at 7 am EST, and closes on February 16th at 7 pm EST. During this time, each person is allowed one vote within a 24-hour period.  The Dogs on Deployment Board will then pick the winner from the top three finalists receiving the highest amounts of popular votes. The winner is announced on March 1st at 12 pm EST.

MPOTY Contest Entry Requirements and Code Overview

Entry and Photo Requirements

  • Dogs only
  • May be any adult breed dog (over 1-year-old)
  • Dog must be spayed or neutered unless involved with responsible dog showing or breeding
  • Dog must be owned by an active duty or reservist military member or honorably discharged veteran
  • Dog must be a family pet whose owner meets our “Code of a Military Pet Owner” (see below)
  • Photo must be high resolution; prefer no phone photos, +200dpi, larger than 1200px x 1200px print quality
  • Portrait or candid style photo of military owned dog
  • No more than two dogs may be shown in the photo for a single entry
  • No humans allowed in photo
  • Professional photographs preferred
  • Photo must be original to owner
  • Photo permissions must be given to Dogs on Deployment for reuse
  • Contestants may not pay for votes, or use online pay-advertising to promote voting
  • Winners must be willing to be photographed in uniform with your dog for Dogs on Deployment imagery
  • Winners must be willing to maintain a Facebook page for Dogs on Deployment’s 2016 Military Pet of the Year and Mascot for one year
  • Winners must be willing to attend local events and speak on behalf of Dogs on Deployment to potential media contacts

Code of a Military Pet Owner

I’m a US Military Member and pet owner. I promise to always have a plan for them. I promise never to abandon them. I promise to keep them healthy and vaccinated. I promise to spay or neuter them. * I promise to train and socialize them. I promise to love them as unconditionally as they love me. I promise to be a good pet owner while serving my country. I promise this.

Good Luck one and all!


Leave a Reply