After deployment, a reunion with her canine
Lilly jumped from her spot on the rug. A truck rolled past the front door. Her auburn ears perked up.
"She knows something is up," said Paul Lumadue, who had been acting as the dog's foster parent in Chesapeake since June.
It had been a long six months for the 4-year-old plott hound mix. In March, her owner, Petty Officer 1st Class Courtney Lobo, was sent to training in Maryland from her base in Hawaii. She had Lilly stay with friends, thinking it was a temporary arrangement. But before she returned in May, she got orders to go to Norfolk in July. She packed up her house in Hawaii and put her things into storage. The friends she stayed with in her remaining months there couldn't have pets, and she didn't want to give Lilly up.
She remembered a program called Dogs on Deployment that helps service members with pets while they are away. The nationwide program, which started in 2011, has 13 animals "deployed" in Virginia -- five of which are in Virginia Beach. People volunteer to take care of the animals free of charge for as long as service members need.
Lobo created a profile for her and Lilly. Two weeks went by without any solid leads. She thought about the $1,000 she would have to spend to board the dog.
"I didn't know what we were going to do," she said.
Finally, Gale Lumadue emailed her in early June, asking when she could send the dog to Chesapeake. Lobo was ecstatic, but Lilly was not.
The dog had been staying with other friends during the transition, so Lobo would have "honeymoon periods" with her, then have to leave again. They spent six hours together before Lilly boarded the plane to Virginia.
"She was not happy," Lobo said.
Once Lilly arrived and was picked up up from Norfolk International Airport, her tone changed. She met the Lumadues' pit bull, Traveler, that day. They sniffed each other, then playfully chased each other around the backyard. The dogs grew close as Gale Lumadue updated Lobo with pictures of Lilly through the summer.
On Saturday, Traveler sat in his crate and whined softly as Lilly stood alert by the door. Through the glass, she saw Lobo and her daughter Tristyn. She gave two barks, and Paul Lumadue let her out. She bolted toward the pair.
"It's like our family is complete again," Lobo said.
Later, she praised how smooth the experience was; she said she wishes the Navy would promote this nonprofit so others would have an option other than giving up their animals when deployment comes.
The two families plan to meet for play dates so the dogs can continue their friendship. But at first, Lilly just wanted to go wherever Lobo was going.
She put a harness on Lilly before they left and decided to test her excitement.
"You have to stay here," she told the dog.
Lilly fell to the ground.
"You want to go bye-bye?" she said, laughing.
Lilly jumped in the air, her tail wagging.