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Puppy Rescue Mission: Bringing War Dogs Home

By Linda Cole

Military rules are clear when it comes to troops in a war zone and pets. They are not supposed to keep or care for pets at all. Thankfully, this rule is bent when men and women in the armed forces overseas adopt homeless pets. Puppy Rescue Mission is an organization that's helping to bring these war zone pets home.

On the Puppy Rescue Mission’s Facebook page, a poster shows a soldier crouching down and petting a kitten. The poster reads: “It is man's sympathy with all creatures that first makes him truly a man.” I thought about the poster – the image and the words, and how true it is for anyone who loves animals. Soldiers have always befriended pets in foreign lands where they were stationed. Rescued dogs have tagged along on patrols, and have been credited with saving the lives of soldiers. Anna Cannan created the nonprofit Puppy Rescue Mission after her fiancĂ© Chris befriended a group of dogs living at the outpost where he was stationed while serving in Afghanistan.

A few weeks before Chris arrived at the outpost to begin his tour of duty, a suicide bomber had snuck into the outpost during the night. Three stray dogs living at the camp rushed to defend the outpost and attacked the bomber. The dogs stopped what could have been a devastating attack when they kept the suicide bomber away from where the soldiers were sleeping. Unfortunately, one of the dogs was killed and the other two were injured but recovered. When Chris arrived, he and his fellow soldiers embraced the dogs, including a litter of puppies belonging to one of the injured dogs. Chris knew he would eventually return home, and he and Anna began to brainstorm how they could rescue some of these brave dogs and send them back to the States for adoption. Anna began a Facebook page to try and raise the $3,000 per dog it would cost at the time they began their mission to rescue Afghanistan dogs needing homes. You can read their entire story on the Puppy Rescue Mission website.

Shipping a dog or cat to the States from a war zone is expensive. An adult dog can run as high as $4,000 and a cat is around $2,000. Each soldier pays his share and then the Puppy Rescue Mission sets up a fundraising campaign for the rest of the money. The costs include transportation to a safe area. The more remote and dangerous location the soldier is in, the more expensive a pet is to transport. Medical exams, spay/neuter and vaccinations are necessary before a pet can be shipped home. There's boarding before and during the trip and usually unplanned flight layovers. A lift home requires lots of coordination and planning. The Puppy Rescue Mission also works with other military organizations that help bring dogs and cats back to the States.

It doesn't matter where an animal loving soldier is when they find a stray pet in need of a home. After a bond has developed between a dog and soldier, leaving their newfound best friend behind is unthinkable. Just like our pets, the strays give comfort as well as protection to the soldiers they've grown attached to. Any pet, no matter which country they live in, should have a chance to find a home with a family that loves them.         

Over the years, stray dogs adopted by our troops have served valiantly by a soldier's side in battles. Some dogs were killed in action and received medals for their bravery. Some were credited with saving the lives of the soldiers by sensing the enemy before an ambush could take place. Sadly, many of these dogs have to be left behind when the soldiers come home. The Puppy Rescue Mission is on a quest to raise enough money to bring as many of these stray pets back to the States as they can. Most of them are adopted by the soldier they befriended in a far away land. They gave comfort to soldiers who took them in, and it only seems right to reward them for their bravery by helping them find what all pets deserve: a loving home.

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