By Debbie Gregory.
Molli Oliver has worked more than 40 years as a flight attendant. The 5-foot-2 United Airlines employee has worked many military charters in the past, serving both military K9 handlers and their Military Working Dogs (MWDs.)
Oliver is on a mission of her own: working to reunite retired MWDs with their former handlers.
It all started when she struck up a conversation with a soldier, who was still brokenhearted five years after parting ways with his military canine.
She asked him, “Well, where is the dog? I’ll get him for you.”
The 65 year old Los Angeles resident combines her deep bond with the military and her love for dogs. She has absorbed the costs associated with these reunions.
She was deeply touched by Sgt. Andrew Mulherron’s story as she flew with Marines heading for deployment overseas in April 2015. Mulherron was the first handler for another black lab, Boone, starting in 2009. Boone was a decorated MWD, receiving a medal for detecting 11 confirmed explosive devices in Afghanistan.
Mulherron settled in California and Boone went to another handler. Oliver tracked down Boone and was able to secure permission to fly him to California.
On October 22, 2015, Mulherron was reunited with Boone in 29 Palms, CA.
Another success story, Oliver’s fifth, is Taylor, a yellow lab who served her country in Afghanistan, with her handler, Sgt. Tom Hansen. Oliver flew to St. Louis to pick up Taylor, then to Boise to meet Sgt. Hansen.
Over the course of a dog’s working life, the animal typically goes through several handlers. When the dog is retired, the final handler usually gets first dibs. Other times, a past handler has made it clear he or she wants to adopt. If multiple handlers want the dog, the commander chooses “based on the best interest of the dog,” according to Doug Miller, working dog manager for the Department of Defense.
Oliver has created a nonprofit called MUMS DOGS (Molli’s Uniting Military Service Dogs) to help bring more retired military working dogs together with their former handlers.