The Real Dogs Of War
She wandered onto the Forward Operating Base (FOB) of Echo Company 334 in Laghman Province, Afghanistan in mid-February, her tawny fur caked with blood, ribs protruding from lack of nutrition, belly swollen with puppies. The blood came from a deep trench carved in her neck by the rope embedded there.
If you happen to be a dog, Afghanistan is not a good place to be. Life is spent scrounging for scant rations and avoiding harm at the hands of humans. Dogs are held in low regard there, frequently being tied outside homes on short, tight ropes that dig into the flesh. Many have their tails and ears chopped off.
Dogs aren't allowed indoors for religious reasons. Valued in yards as a primitive alarm system, they bark to warn of approaching strangers, possible Taliban infiltration. Many die from starvation or a bullet to the head, the preferred form of animal control there. Spay/neuter programs are non-existent. The lucky ones that are abandoned or escape captivity roam the streets in packs searching for food and shelter.
Such was the case of the emaciated lab/greyhound mix who took shelter under a hut at the Echo Company Medic Station to deliver her puppies. Delta, as she came to be called, was discovered by a medic who heard whimpering under the hut and was shocked to find the gaunt mother dog and seven newborn puppies.
After a decent meal and having the rope carefully extracted from her neck, Delta cleaned up nicely and settled in with her pups -- but even at the FOB, she wasn't safe.
A lieutenant wanted to shoot her, but was dissuaded by the medic who'd found the puppies. Given just 24 hours to move the dogs off base, the medic enlisted the help of Specialist Sheila Japczyk Schaffer, Army National Guard, 2nd Brigade of Iowa, to get them to a safer area.
Fearing euthanasia for the dogs, Spc. Schaffer also posted a frantic note on the Facebook page of Nowzad Dogs, a registered non-profit charity rescue organization for dogs in Afghanistan and Iraq. The response was quick. By mid-March, Delta and her pups found themselves in the back of a station wagon on a long day's journey to the rescue center in northern Afghanistan.
One pup remained with a medic at the base. The others at Nowzad were named Charley, Echo, Freedom, Bravo, Liberty and General. The pack became fondly known as Delta and Company. Delta will be coming home in July with Spc. Schaffer, daughter of Brenda and Mike Japczyk of Eureka Springs. The Japczyks will be adopting one of the Company.
Although Delta and Company are currently out of harm's way, there is no happy ending yet. It costs $4,000 per pup to bring them back to the states. That covers housing, feeding, shots, worming, spay/neuter, and general veterinary care from March through July when the tour of duty ends for the soldiers who are adopting them, as well as transportation fees, including sky-rocketing airfare to the US, and quarantine costs. That total is what's required to get a dog from Afghanistan to the U.S. -- Nowzad does not profit from it. Most of the workers there are volunteers.
All the dogs have a clean bill of health. They're ready to go home, but they will never make it to U.S. soil without the generosity of people who care. The soldiers can't afford the stiff fees. These brave men and women are risking their lives for our country. The least we can do is make sure they come home with their new best friends.
If you'd like to chip in to help bring Delta and Company home with their American soldiers, please do so at this link: http://nowzaddogs.chipin.com/delta-and-pups . You can also view Delta and Company at this site and read more about them. So far, enough money has been raised to bring home only one dog. Please open your heart and wallet to these dogs on behalf of the American soldiers.