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And Holly Makes Three!

January 31, 2013

Iraq veteran and hero dog rescuer Steven Johnston and his family add a new Mutt-i-gree® to their global pack

It’s hard to imagine living in one of the most dangerous places in the world, where each day is a fight for survival. But that’s the reality facing all of our brave soldiers serving in combat zones around the globe.

For Steven Johnston, a yearlong tour of duty became an opportunity not only to defend his country, but to defend some innocent canines that were living under brutal conditions.

While stationed in Iraq in August 2009, Steven, a special agent for the Diplomatic Security Service, developed a very special connection with Oso, a tiny homeless pup that he found wandering the streets of Baghdad. But Oso—whose name came from the fact that the soldiers thought he was “oh so cute”—wasn’t the only dog that Steven took under his protection.

With the help of his fellow soldiers, Steven cared for Misty May, a pregnant stray dog who had the good fortune to cross paths with the animal-loving servicemen. Despite enormous obstacles, they hid Oso and Misty May in bombed-out buildings and other safe havens, moving them to new locations when their current hiding place became unsafe. Once Misty May gave birth, the soldiers continued to provide shelter and food to the new mother, along with Oso and the pups, whom they named Freckles, Sox and Max.

But when his tour was up, Steven knew the dogs were in grave danger if they were left behind. “Stray dogs are routinely slaughtered by gunshots, poisoning and drowning,” he says.

Enlisting the aid of an organization called Operation Baghdad Pups, along with the help of his wife Penny at home in Connecticut, Steven made sure Oso and the pups were transported safely to the U.S.

Although he was saddened by the fact that he could not find Misty May when the time came to fly the dogs home, he’s comforted knowing that her babies, along with her pal Oso, are now living the dream of every dog: to be adopted into a home with a family who loves them.

Oso became part of the Johnston family, joining Steven, Penny, and their children Steve and Mia—along with Sophie, their resident Mutt-i-gree, who was adopted from North Shore Animal League America. Freckles and Sox were adopted by a Connecticut family, while Max is safe and loved with his new family in Virginia.

For his selfless dedication to rescuing these innocent dogs, Animal League America presented Steven with our Hero Award at our DogCatemy Mutt-i-grees® Rescue Awards Gala, held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York on December 17, 2012.

But the award wasn’t the only thing Steven and Penny took home that night. At the beginning of the gala, the couple posed for a photo on the Red Carpet with one of Animal League America’s dogs who was up for adoption, and (you guessed it) they fell in love with her!

Today, the Johnston household is now home to three rescued dogs: Sophie, Oso and new arrival Holly, the puppy from the gala!

“Our Mutt-i-grees all have such easygoing personalities,” says Penny, a passionate advocate of adopting and rescuing animals. “They’re so social and well-trained.”

Sophie, Oso and Holly “are all loving each other,” says Steven. “It’s funny to see big Oso’s maternal/paternal instincts show. He loves Holly! Our kids can’t get enough of the new puppy.”

North Shore Animal League America wants to thank the entire Johnston family for their dedication to the rescue of innocent Mutt-i-grees, the animals from shelter or rescue groups. In our book, the Johnstons are all heroes!

Are you ready to save a life and add a new pet to your family? Visit to search for pets anywhere in the country!