I will be in need of a doctor....."
I was honored to be asked to help a dog in such special circumstance. I was excited to know that the soldier was comforted during his time at war by a dog. I was saddened to hear of another circumstance in which shooting a dog is considered acceptable.
Aaron was stationed at a small post 81km outside of Kabul, Afghanistan, known to the troops as Red Hill. Stray dogs and cats are drawn to army posts for one reason only, the compassion of a soldier. Not every soldier is compassionate to the animals that stray onto base. In fact, I am certain there are some that are not only not compassionate, but those that are just plain mean. Why should it be any different than the general population?
The Army's General Order 1-B of 2006, prohibits the "adopting as pets or mascots, caring for, or feeding any type of domestic or wild animal." I understand why such a rule can be important for the safety of our troops and for the animals, but I can also see where some soldiers, just as in the general population, may interpret "not caring for" an animal as an excuse or license to be unkind or abusive.
In Afghanistan culture, dogs and cats are not considered pets. They are considered unclean and impure. It is believed that angels do not enter a house which contains a dog. As a result, animals are not cared for, but often treated as offensive and distasteful creatures to be kept away from family and property. From the Puppy Rescue Mission Website, "it’s as if the animals know the difference between the heart of an American versus that of an Afghan ... dogs growl at the Afghan soldiers but show nothing but love towards American soldiers."
These animals find a soldier who will give them a scrap a food, a warm place to sleep, or just a scratch behind the ear, and their life is phenomenally better. Both of their lives are phenomenally better. These animals will continue to care for these soldiers, and they will work their way through a battery of boot kicks and thrown rocks to do so. These animals will be loyal to their soldiers and do their best to protect them of harm. In return, the soldiers receive love, comfort, consolation, and a reminder of home. Pets can calm a stressed soldier, and offer solace to a lonely heart.
Proof of a base camp pet's loyalty lies in the tale of Target, Rufus, and Sasha: http://vetrescue.blogspot.com/2010/11/target-military-hero-in-canine-clothing.html
Or the tale of Nubs the Dog:
But what happens when the troops leave? Will the animals attempt to follow? Will the animals stay behind and linger to only eventually perish after the care they received has walked away? Will they become a hostile feral dog pack? Will soldiers be so heartbroken leaving them behind that they cannot perform their military function? When the troops are ordered to eliminate the pets, what becomes of their loyalty and pride in their chosen service? Perhaps these are some of the reasons for the general order.
Below are some comments from soldiers in response to an article entitled "Bases going to the dogs - and cats"
"I had the horrible task of removing all pet dogs from Camp Eagle, RVN in March of 1972, when the 101st ABN ' went home'. It was because, the US Army pets might, and probably would, become hostile packs attacking the local Vietnamese. Our own 'hootch dog' Butch, was the first dog we had to load up into the back of the 3/4 ton truck. You probably cannot imagine both the hostility and tears of GI's as we went through Camp eagle from Bn to Bn. We loaded the dogs and took them to Phu Bai to the US veterinarian (who) was too euthanize all of them. It was and never will be a mission that I was proud of."
"We had to do essentially the same thing some years ago in Djibouti - tough mission, and one I never want to go through again. I'm with you...... "
Another comment on the same article:
"when my son returned from Afghanistan, his impatience and stress showed until he started petting his rescued dogs. Literally you could see the strain disappear from his face."
Aaron, the soldier whose Mother had sent me the email, has seen dogs come and go on base, but there was something about the dog that soon became known as Oreo.
He wrote a letter to "Puppy Rescue Mission".
"I am writing to you because I have been told that my lil girl Oreo has a limited amount of time here with us on my COP. I have taken care of her, gotten her shots mailed from home. She had a pretty good set-up. I knew there was going to come a day when I would have to leave and go home and thought I had time to try and take her with. Yesterday, I was ordered to remove her food bowls, blanket and stop feeding her. She is sad, but didn't go away. She is still outside my tent. I have been told that it is just a matter of time before they will be "putting down" the remaining dogs that are around here.
I don't quite know what to do? I snuck her food and have been giving my friends food to give her. They ordered me, not them, after all.
Oreo is 8 months old +/-. I would have to say. I paid my driver $100 to run her up there and will continue to send you money for her care and to get her fund going. I have had a fellow Sgt take pictures and I will get them to you ASAP. I am sure that I can get the ball rolling with help from the other soldiers here as well as my facebook network. I also look forward to continuing to work to help this cause even after we get Oreo to her forever home.
Thanks a ton, let me know if there is anything else that I can do in the meantime!
She should arrive (at the shelter) in the next couple of hours...I miss her already but it is such a relief to know she is safe."
Aaron's $100 got Oreo safely from the base camp to a shelter in Kabul. While in the shelter, Aaron sent in his contribution to the Puppy Rescue Mission for Oreo's trip. Puppy Rescue Mission raised funds for her as well. In two days, $2800 was raised to transport Oreo safely to the United States.
Oreo was transported from Kabul, Afghanistan to Pakistan. In Pakistan, she boarded a plane for New York, a flight that would last approximately fourteen hours.
Oreo was now on US soil, but far from her new home. Another $430 paid by Aaron, and Oreo flew from New York, to Detroit for a brief layover, and then on to Des Moines, Iowa.
Oreo is adjusting to life in the US, and is now being cared for by Aaron's mother and brother.
When asked about the expense involved with bringing Oreo home, Aaron remarked, "I just paid it, nothing to spend money on here, that's for sure... important thing is she is safe. I just couldn't let anything happen to her"
There is another controversial aspect to this type of rescue. Should we be bringing animals from other countries into our country, where our own dogs and cats are disposed of in US shelters to the extent of over 3 million per year?
When our soldiers, the people we trust to defend us, the people who sacrifice time with their family to protect those they do not know, have bonded with an animal during what is likely the most difficult time in their life, providing them a way to bring that source of comfort home is a way to give that soldier the respect he or she deserves. Discounting that bond, dismissing that love created during peace or war, would be a disservice to both soldier and dog.
Oreo is the first mission dog to come to Iowa. She will not be the last.
I was fortunate enough to meet Oreo. I was fortunate enough to provide her with her veterinary care. I was most fortunate to have been able to hold her.
I completely understand why Aaron loves her. While I believe all dogs have the ability to love and be loyal, not every dog has that "Je ne sais quoi" that Oreo has. Her eyes look into your soul, and when you talk, you know she not only listens, but understands. She melts into your lap when you get close to her. You can almost feel the love come out of her when you hold her. She exudes trust and unconditional love, which is amazing considering the life dogs have in Afghanistan.
I met Oreo for moments, and will love her for life. I am certain her soldier, Aaron, felt the same way when they first met. Aaron, I pray for your safe return home. Your new member of the family awaits you with a heart made of solid gold, just like yours.
I just hope your brother is willing to hand her over!
This group began when a few stray dogs saved the lives of dozens of sleeping soldiers from a suicide bomber. You can read this story here: http://vetrescue.blogspot.com/2010/11/target-military-hero-in-canine-clothing.html . The soldiers wanted to bring the dogs back to the US with them. One of the soldiers' wives initiated a fundraising campaign on facebook. This campaign for a few dogs and a few soldiers, became a project dedicated to many dogs and cats and their respective and respected soldiers.
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