Afghanistan, for the most part, is not a good place to be a dog. Besides the normal hazards of a war-torn country, the local culture, especially in poorer regions, regards dogs as vermin. They're likely to be stoned, used for fighting or shot, depending on the mood of the human they encounter.
For dogs who find their way to U.S. military bases, however, life often takes a turn for the better, though official policy frowns on this. As we described last year, after three such dogs foiled a suicide bomber at the cost of one of their own lives, a soldier, knowing the dogs faced almost certain death when his unit moved on, began discussing with his fiancée in the U.S. how they might be brought stateside and saved.
The Puppy Rescue Mission was born, and since last year, this all-volunteer, Internet-based 501(c)3 outfit has brought home about 200 dogs and a few cats from Afghanistan as their soldiers have requested, collecting funds via thousands of small contributions on their Facebook page and coordinating the complicated logistics of getting the critters to safety and home. As founder Anna Cannan says, "These companions make our soldiers' lives better. Their unconditional love is critical to the morale of our troops. And as demonstrated by the attack on the suicide bomber, these dogs protect our soldiers from harm. No soldier should ever be faced with the decision of leaving their beloved animal behind."
Not every ending is happy. Sometimes dogs succumb to disease or violence before they can be saved, despite the best efforts; sometimes it seems as if every dog who reaches the States (or, in the case of Lordas, one of the more difficult rescues, his soldier's home in Lithuania) is a miracle. But the miracles are now in the hundreds, new requests pour in daily, the work goes on, and for dogs like Miss Miley, now at home in California, it's pretty great.
photos: Miss Miley, in Afghanistan and in California, The Puppy Rescue Mission