Ryan and Missy: Home is With You 

– By Dan England –


Ryan Salmons can’t say he was ever lonely in Syria. The U.S. Army doesn’t really allow it. But Syria never felt anything like home until he met Missy. 

Missy was a dog. Salmons loved them, unabashedly, partly because he grew up with them, and partly because dogs are so great.

Missy had her issues. She is a mutt who scrapped her way to survival on the streets of Syria until the Army brought her and a brother inside. They were just six weeks old. Salmons met her a few months later when he arrived in Syria.

They named her “Misfire,” for a bum hip. She would cower and jump whenever Salmons moved a muscle her way. But she was a dog. Salmons wanted a dog badly. 

“I mean, it’s totally different,” Salmons says of a dog’s company. “I’m pretty sure anyone on deployment would give their right arm to have a dog.” 

Salmons didn’t give his right arm. What he did give her was time, and treats, and what Missy needed most: infinite patience.

In time, Missy’s fear faded. She would chew bones, push a ball around and, occasionally, send a toy flying 50 feet. As she discovered the puppy inside her, the hip problems disappeared, and she romped around like a kangaroo. She was goofy, the way a puppy is supposed to act.

In time, she not only accepted Salmons’ pets; she also began to ask for them, resting her head on his knee whenever he sat down and melting her sweet eyes into his. She started to follow him everywhere. 

“She was one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever known,” Salmons says. 

At night, when he went into his room, she would follow, jumping on his bed or claiming a blanket. Salmons had his dog. 

When Salmons got the news that he would be leaving to Kuwait, he didn’t want to leave Missy behind. He jumped on the Internet to find a way to bring her with him. He found SPCA International.

SPCA International has reunited more than 1,200 dogs and, yes, cats, with service members who befriended them while deployed. The organization started in 2008 after a solider befriended a dog in Iraq. Today it reunites pets with U.S. soldiers anywhere there’s a military base in more than 30 countries, says Lori Kalef, Director of Programs at SPCA International. 

SPCA International relies on partners and the kindness of military officers in places that are too dangerous to send a team, such as Syria. SPCA, therefore, was willing to help, but only if Salmons could get her to Kuwait.

Salmons had some allies in the Army to bring Missy home. A female solider had grown attached to Missy’s brother, Rocket. Salmons admits, a bit sheepishly, that they pushed their officers for permission.

“I was pretty close to getting in trouble,” Salmons says. 

SPCA International does whatever it can outside of sending in a team to bad spots once it gets to know the solider through a lengthy application and knows the solider is serious about keeping the dog or cat.

“We never say no,” Kalef says. “If you were to read one of the applications from the service members, you would never ever want to turn them away.”

It’s not just a sweet thing to do. Having a pet can be a huge help to soldiers making the difficult readjustment to civilian life, Kalef says. 

“It’s so meaningful to their mental health,” she says. 

Salmons eventually got that permission, and he and his team member worked to build a kennel sturdy enough so Rocket and Missy could ride a Chinook helicopter back to Iraq, where an SPCA International hub could care for them while they finished out their time. They found a frame from a water tank and used a paracord to tie it together. It was janky, but it worked. They rode with their dogs to Iraq. 

Salmons returned to Evans in October. He bought a duplex there a couple years ago to be close to his parents, who live in Windsor. 

On Dec. 21, after spending months apart, he and Missy were reunited in a parking lot in Thornton. Missy recognized him right away.

“She was so happy to see me,” Salmons says. “But I was pretty stoked too.” 

Missy had to adjust to civilian life as well, barking at Salmon’s TV and figuring out how snow worked. But she was still herself; SPCA had obviously taken good care of her. She romped around his Evans duplex, tossed toys in all directions and got plenty of belly rubs from Salmons. 

He’s now in the National Guard and hopes to go back to school to become an airplane mechanic. Civilian life will give him more time with Missy. 

Salmons, 23, had more of a bachelor pad than a home for the holidays, a place without Christmas lights or even a tree. None of that mattered just a couple days before Dec. 25. 

“Missy was the best Christmas present ever,” Salmons says. 



Dan England is NOCO Style’s assistant editor, and a freelance journalist based in Greeley.