A joyful reunion: Navy Sailor welcomes dog she rescued in the Middle East to her new home in Jacksonville

FLEMING ISLAND, Fla. – A U.S. Navy Sailor reunited with her beloved dog that she rescued while on deployment in the Middle East.

U.S. Navy Sailor Joy welcomed Koda to her new home Tuesday thanks to the organization Paws of War.

Joy has served 12 years in the military, and during her fourth deployment, she came across some puppies that seemed vulnerable because there was no mother in sight, according to Paws of War.

One evening, Joy found Koda tired and collapsed from the heat, and she did not hesitate to help her recover. Days later, they found all the puppies had been killed — except for Koda, Paws of War said.

“My heart broke for her because she was all alone, and obviously very scared,” she said.

That’s when Joy knew she had to protect Koda at all costs.

“She was scared at first, and ran and hid. But, I was able to coax her out of hiding by giving her some water and some chicken that I had for lunch that day,” Joy said.

“I actually picked the name Koda because it means ‘ally’ or ‘friend’ -- it can also mean ‘little bear’ and she’s all three of those things (laughs).”

According to Paws of War, when Joy got orders to head back to the Jacksonville area, she felt uneasy about leaving Koda behind.

Joy asked Paws of War for help. Paws of War is an organization that brings back dogs and cats rescued by troops serving overseas to safety in the U.S. And that’s exactly what Paws of War did for Joy.

The organization worked hard to help get Koda back to the U.S., where she will live with Joy.

When Koda saw Joy for the first time Tuesday since being in the Middle East, she ran towards her with a wagging tail, then continued to playfully bite Joy and rub against her legs.

“She really ended up being a big support for me too while I was there,” Joy said.

To learn more about Paws of War visit https://pawsofwar.org/ and to watch the raw interview with Joy describing her love for Koda, click the video player below.

About the Author:

Marcela joined News4JAX in 2023. She grew up in Mexico and eventually moved to California to pursue her dream of becoming a journalist. Now, she is a proud San Diego State University alumna who has many years of experience in TV and digital journalism.