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Stories about the brave women, men, and dogs that serve our country are healthy reminders of the sacrifices some individual make for others.
And there are other brave pups who put themselves in the line of fire to save our soldiers, or who give the gift of love and companionship to our war torn heroes.
Known as stray dogs of war, these pups may not have the training, but they have the love and courage to emotionally, and sometimes physically, save our soldiers. Through this, they form intense and loyal bonds with hoomans. They become like family. Sadly though, it is incredibly difficult to keep these newfound families together once a soldier returns home.
In 2006, former Royal Marine sergeant Pen Farthing’s life completely changed when he broke up a dogfight in Afghanistan. One of the pups, now named Nowzad (pictured below), followed him home.
Farthing tells CNN:
“As the troop sergeant, I was there to motivate the guys and get them fired up again to go out and do the job. But no one was doing that for me. My time with this dog was a way of de-stressing, collecting my thoughts and popping my head back in the game.”
When Farthing’s deployment was over, it appeared his time with Nowzad was, too. Adopting pups from overseas is a long, difficult and expensive process and Farthing couldn’t find many resources to help him.
“There is no greater connection between man and dog than in the midst of war.”
As of 2014, the U.K. based Nowzad has kept well over 700 soldiers, from 8 different countries, and their rescue animals together.
Nowzad is not the only organization working to help soldiers bring their wartime companions home. Puppy Rescue Mission, whose tagline is “Soldiers saving puppies. Puppies saving soldiers,” raises funds to offset the incredibly high cost of bringing an animal back to the United States. According to their website, it can cost up to $4,000 to bring a stray adult dog into the States.
Despite the immense cost, the humans at Puppy Rescue Mission believe their work is a vital step in honoring our soldiers:
“[We believe] that these beloved companions have, not only physically saved our soldiers from harm, but also filled an emotional need for a sense of home and normalcy in a hostile and dangerous environment.”
The organization’s founder, Anna Cannon, and her husband Chris have a pawsonal investment in saving stray war dogs. Several of them saved Chris’s fellow soldiers from a suicide bomber.
Anna told Forbes:
“A few weeks prior to Chris’s arrival at his combat outpost, a suicide bomber entered the post in the middle of the night. The dogs on the post immediately started barking and took off in pursuit of the bomber. One of the dogs, Rufus, grabbed the bomber’s leg while two other dogs, Target and Sasha, alerted the troops. The suicide bomber blew himself up never making it into the living quarters of the soldiers. An instant, unbreakable bond formed between the soldiers and the dogs as the dogs provided a sense of normalcy for the soldiers at Chris’s post that rarely exists in a country like Afghanistan.”
Once Chris arrived, he too bonded with the dogs and wanted to bring them back to the States. Anna started Puppy Rescue Mission as a simple fundraiser on Facebook, and it’s now blossomed into a life-saving non-profit that keeps soldiers and their companion animals together.
Additionally, the SPCA International launched Operation Baghdad Pups in 2008. Originally focused on U.S. soldiers deployed in Iraq, the program now works to protect the bonds between U.S. soldiers and their rescue pups all over the world.