Afghanistan is no place for dogs. Shunned as unclean in the regional interpretation of Islam, they live a precarious existence as strays and often are shot for target practice, used for fighting and otherwise abused when not being avoided.
For those who manage to make their way onto an American or British army base, life takes a turn for the better. While the practice is officially discouraged, soldiers often befriend stray dogs, feeding them from their own plates and showing them the first kindness they've known.
And dogs return the favor. About a year ago, a suicide bomber entered a military outpost bent on killing American soldiers. Rufus, the alpha male of the outpost pack, latched onto his leg while two females-Target, who was pregnant; and Sasha, who was nursing pups-went on the attack and alerted the troops. As a result, the startled bomber blew himself up prematurely. While a few soldiers were injured, none were killed. Sasha died of her injuries; Target and Rufus were injured but nursed back to health.
Spc. Chris Chiasson, deployed to Afghanistan in December of last year, heard the story and got to know the dogs. Learning that they faced an uncertain fate when the soldiers moved on, he told Anna Cannan, his fiancée back in Maine, "We've got to get these dogs out."
Cannan wasn't sure how this could be accomplished, but she agreed to try. So she went on Facebook to tell the story and ask for help, and Puppy Rescue Mission (PRM) was born. Cannan contacted Nowzad Dogs , a UK organization that had brought home a few soldiers' dogs, and was advised that the necessary vet care and air transport ran $3,000 per animal. Since then she's started working with the Kabul-based Afghan Stray Animal League and has been able to reduce the cost to $2,500.
From the Facebook page, the campaign to bring war hero dogs to America went viral. By June, it had raised $21,000-enough to bring the "Lucky Seven," including Rufus, Target and the surviving puppies, to the United States. In the months since, about two dozen soldiers' dogs have been air lifted from Afghanistan.
Not all dogs are in locations where rescue is possible, but to date, PRM has not had to say no to any U.S. serviceperson who asked for help. Military personnel who have identified a dog they'd like to get to the U.S. are invited to contact Cannan at email@example.com, with PUPPY RESCUE in the subject line. For more urgent rescues, contact the Afghan Stray Animal League at firstname.lastname@example.org , or call the manager directly in Kabul: 0700 230 482. Donations are tax-deductible.