When the Ladner family agreed to foster a dog, they didn't know they'd get Vito.
“Well like everybody's, ‘Wow he's big,’ you know, but he's also very sweet, very loving," said Lean Ladner.
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Vito is a cane corso Italian mastiff -- all 140 pounds of him. He belongs to the Navy's Kevin Tessier who is in the Middle East.
Tessier didn't know the Ladners until they signed up for a program called Dogs on Deployment, an internet site that matches soldiers pets with foster families who open their home for as long as six months to a year.
It gives those serving our country a much needed option.
“Especially with single sailors, whether they're deploying or moving overseas, whatever the case may be, they're forced to give their dogs up,” Ladner said. “You see so many of them going to shelters or just given away to family and friends."
Vito came with all of his dog food and an kennel to sleep in. But on the first day at the Ladner house in Pass Christian, Miss., he staked his sleeping spot.
“He just jumped on my twin-sized bed,” Brooke Ladner said, “and he just looked at me and I was like, ‘Come on, Vito,’ and he just laid there.”
If it seems like Vito is just another member of the Ladner family, there's good reason for that. It isn’t his first visit with the family.
Tessier is now on his second deployment and Vito is on his second stay with the Ladners. WhenTessier came back the first time, Vito was there at 2 a.m. -- with signs and all waiting patiently
“His dad gets off the bus and he says, ‘Vito, come,’ and he just broke away from Brooke's leash, just running for his daddy and welcomed him, just licking him, attacking him and loving him. So it’s amazing the bond they have even when they're apart for that amount of time,” said Lean Ladner said.
In Metairie, Kyler Keegan and his fiancée already have a house full with two dogs and a cat, but they recently saw an emotional Dogs on Deployment reunion on the ‘Queen Latifah Show’ and said this was something they could do to help. So they volunteered.
"Everybody wins in this situation. Service member doesn't have to worry about putting his dog in shelter. Dog doesn't have to be in shelter -- or even worse given up. We get the company,” Kyler Keegan said.
They're still waiting for their dog, but Keegan certainly knows what it means for the service member a half-a-world away, because for six months last year, as a member of the 159th Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard, he was that guy.
Keegan knows that when you're there you don't want to have to worry about what's happening here.
"Being over there,” Keegan said, “it’s just the more things that you don't have to worry about, the better you can focus on the mission or your job.”
In Mississippi, Vito will wait for yet another reunion with Kevin in June and the Ladners will wait for another animal, or if need be, for Vito to come back to his home away from home again.