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Flight Attendant’s Best Friend

Molli Oliver works to reunite U.S. servicemen with their former canine companions

Author Rachel Ayres


When Los Angeles–based flight attendant Molli Oliver signed up to work a military charter flight back in April, she didn’t expect it to change her life.

You’ll typically find Oliver on the Los Angeles to Sydney flight, walking up and down the aisles, a smile on her face as she chats with and takes care of United passengers on the 14-hour flight. But, when she heard about this particular charter, which was flying U.S. Marines and their military working dogs overseas for deployment, she knew she wanted to be part of it.

During the flight, she struck up a conversation with Marine Sgt. Andrew Mulherron. Their conversation quickly turned to dogs—Oliver is passionate about rescuing dogs from shelters and has a 16-year-old shepherd named Smokie. Sgt. Mulherron told her about Boone, the black Labrador retriever he’d been deployed with in Afghanistan in 2010. 

Boone was a military working dog trained to detect explosives. Sgt. Mulherron and Boone worked as a team in Afghanistan searching for roadside bombs. After their service, the dogs are retired from the military, and, in some cases, the dogs’ former handlers are able to adopt them.

“Andrew told me hadn’t seen Boone since 2010, and he’d been trying to track him down,” Oliver explains. “We all love our dogs, but there’s that extra bond between a Marine and his dog. The dogs are with them in battle, and they form powerful connections, just like they do with their fellow Marines.” 

After hearing Sgt. Mulherron’s story, Oliver didn’t hesitate. “I told him I’d get his dog,” she says. “I didn’t know exactly how, but I knew I could make it happen.”

Oliver recently started rescuing dogs from shelters in Los Angeles and shipping them to new homes across the country using United’s PetSafe program, and she became very familiar with the process.

“It was so serendipitous,” Oliver says. “Of all the other flight attendants on that flight, he started chatting with me!”

In between her regular trips to Sydney, Oliver set to work coordinating with the military to get Boone, and she arranged to pick him up in Missouri and take him back to San Francisco, where Sgt. Mulherron’s parents would keep the dog until he returned from deployment in October. She even bought an extra seat so Boone would be comfortable on the flight and wouldn’t be in the way of other passengers.

“It was important for me to travel on my airline,” Oliver says. “I love what I do, and I just love getting to know our customers. If I didn’t, I probably never would have met Sgt. Mulherron.”

Through this journey, Oliver became close with the Mulherron family, and she was there when Sgt. Mulherron and Boone reunited in October.

“Andrew hadn’t seen Boone in five years, but Boone immediately recognized him—the tail started wagging, and Andrew was just beaming,” Oliver recalls, getting a little choked up telling the story. “It was wonderful to see him come home from his fourth deployment and be reunited with his dog.”

During her work to reunite Boone with Sgt. Mulherron, Oliver discovered another retired search dog, Gordo, and set to work coordinating his reunion with his former handler, Army Sgt. Seth Rodenberger. In August, she was able to walk Gordo off a United flight in Los Angeles straight into Sgt. Rodenberger’s waiting arms.

“I just have to do it,” Oliver says. “It’s how I can say thank you to those who serve our country.”

Oliver is creating a nonprofit called MUMS DOGS—Molli’s Uniting Military Service Dogs—to help bring more retired military working dogs together with their former handlers. 

“Just knowing that I’m able to reunite them with their battle buddies is enough for me,” she says. “Their bond with their dogs is forever.”

15 Responses to “Flight Attendant’s Best Friend”

  1. Odette Essary Says:
    January 11th, 2016 at 11:09 am

    Now this is a real "feel good" story. We just can't thank our military services enough and what Ms. Oliver is going is amazingly kind and generous.

  2. Waldeen Ozawa-Hay Says:
    January 11th, 2016 at 11:23 am

    What a wonderful, wonderful way to help in paying back our service members…and "their buddies in war." Just awesome…would love to know how to help!!!

  3. Ted Barnett Says:
    January 11th, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    Go Doc Oliver nice work!!

  4. Tim Wilson Says:
    January 11th, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    Great photo of both of you, I love this story.  Thank you for starting the organization and reuniting so many dogs with their military counterparts. 

  5. Steve Nyser Says:
    January 11th, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    This is the best story of the year. If you need help please reach out, I would love to help.

    I was also thinking if the owner is not available I am sure lots of people would love to take these dogs, they could be good for police work.


  6. Stacey Walsted Says:
    January 11th, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    Thanks for the tears on a Monday!    Excellent work you are doing and what a blessing for these men and woman who come back a little lost…. to get their buddies!   Amazing!  Thank you!!

  7. Florence Brown Says:
    January 11th, 2016 at 4:45 pm

    AWESOME WORK, Ms Oliver!  Thank you so much for your love of animals AND COUNTRY!

  8. Melody Montgomery Says:
    January 11th, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    You are amazing Molli, but we already knew that!

    Best Regard, OGGCS




  9. Rebecca Frazier LAXCS Global Services Says:
    January 11th, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    Moli (Doc) Oliver is one of United's finest flight attendants/purser. If you ever meet her you

    will never forget her! Her warm friendly helpful and professional manner welcomes you. So, this

    spirit of helping to reunite  Sgt. Mulherron and his "best" friend would be a challenge that Doc

    would welcome! She is SIMPLY THE BEST!!!! Truly one of United's SHINING STARS!!


  10. Barbara Allen Says:
    January 11th, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    I had the pleasure of working with Molli on this trip and was able to witness her love for dogs and her passion to help them. I remember talking with her while at the gym on the layover about what she had learned while on our flight, the Soldier being separted from his service dog. I knew she was determined to bring them back together. I would just like to say Molli I admire not only your passion but your determination and efforts made to bring this to a reality. I think all of us hope to make a positive impact to others and Molli you have certainly achieved this. Hats off to you and with deep respect, Barbara Allen.

  11. Paula Haywood Says:
    January 12th, 2016 at 9:57 am

    Great job Molli.

  12. David Brevik Says:
    January 12th, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    Molli Oliver has always been “part of the solution”. I remember working with her many times when based at LAX throughout the 1990’s- and am not at all surprised by this story. Leaders “do” and she does lead! Well done Molli!

  13. Susan Fujioka Says:
    January 13th, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    If you have extra time, please consider doing what Molli did for Sgt. Mulherron and others. The military will not ship dogs to the US as the cost is approximately 4,000. 00 per trip and in many cases they are 'destroyed'. Should you ever find an agency or group needing help to transport a pet across state lines, first make sure they have all their health docs and volunteer!

    I transported Hurricane Katrina pets back to families that had been relocated during the storm and there is nothing more rewarding then to see a family reunited with their pet. One woman flew out of her wheelchair to hug her dog while sobbing on the floor, when I walked out with her dog in PHX as she had to leave him on the roof in New Orleans.

     Others I transported can be seen on the show Pitbulls and Parolees.

    The transfer is relatively easy once everything is coordinated on both ends. It saves a lot of money for the  organization to have the pet 'escorted' versus going via manifested cargo. 

    Also, if you are a pilot with a private plane there is an organization called Pilots N Paws who need your help.


  14. Deborah Mitrenga Says:
    January 23rd, 2016 at 11:56 pm

    This is such a beautiful and heartwarming story!  Molli, it was such a pleasure meeting you on that one flight where we discovered we had a connection.  I wish there were more people like you in this world doing amazing things.  You truly make this world a better place.   Deb

  15. Laura Huffman Says:
    March 31st, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    The world needs more Molli Olivers. What a dedicated, first class lady! Looking forward to seeing you again soon in Saint Robert, Missouri!

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