GULFPORT, Miss. – A sailor returning from a tour overseas has two special reunions in one day.
The Ladner family signed up for the Dogs on Deployment program and volunteered to foster Vito, a 160 pounds Cane Corso Italian Mastiff.
While Vito’s owner, Kevin Tessier, served in the U.S. Navy overseas.
Forget his kennel, Vito preferred Brook Ladner’s bed and their house became a home away from home.
Now, his deployment is over and Kevin is back home.
It took a little bit of time to register Kevin’s voice and face but not long.
“I had him when he was three weeks old. I was bottle feeding him. We just had a connection; I look at him like a son and he looks at me like his dad,” said Kevin Tessier.
Finding someone willing to foster a 160 pound dog is not easy and Kevin didn’t know the Ladners before they agreed to watch over Vito.
“She’s pretty much a savior. If it wasn’t for her, I probably wouldn’t have Vito right now,” said Tessier.
Their service allowed Kevin to do his job overseas without a concern about Vito’s care.
“For me to be able to leave and be over there for four, five, six or seven months and not have a worry in the world and be able to focus on the mission, it’s a great feeling,” he said.
“It’s our small part that we do to help our soldiers. When single sailors leave, they sometimes don’t know what to do with their animals. And with people like us, they know that they are safe and sound until they come home and reclaim them,” said Leah Ladner.
There was another reunion inside the airport, between Kevin and his 3-year-old daughter Ellie.
Ellie was hiding behind a column in baggage.
“People I love the most are here and waiting for me, can’t put it into any sort of words at all,” said Tessier.
Sometimes in life, you don’t have to.