During wars, many soldiers informally adopt dogs or cats, and these new relationships can be life-saving both literally and emotionally. Yet when the soldiers return home, they must say good-bye to these friends. When they leave their pets behind, soldiers have great fear for their animals’ safety.
Former British soldier Louise Hastie and the Afghans with whom she works are reuniting soldiers with the animals that befriended them during the war. Hastie is in charge of the Nowzad Animal Shelter in Kabul.
The shelter began as a result of the efforts of Royal Marine Sergeant Pen Farthing who became the friend and guardian of a dog he named Nowzad. The dog’s name comes from the town of Now Zad in Helmand Province, and he was originally a fighting dog. When Farthing broke up an organized dogfight near his compound, he met the dog and just couldn’t resist caring for him. Soon others became his friends, too, and he cared for them all. Farthing tells his story in the book One Dog at a Time: Saving the Strays of Afghanistan.
Due to the war and high poverty levels, the needs of animals in this country have understandably not been met, and Hastie hopes to change that. Sending animals to former soldiers is one option, but the costs are a challenge. Transporting a single animal to the United States costs $4000, and though the soldiers often contribute, charitable donations are also a big part of the process.
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Farthing was able to bring just three of the many dogs he loved to Great Britain to be with him. So far, the shelter has transported 400 dogs and cats abroad to be with the soldiers who became their guardians, and has taken in and cared for thousands more. The shelter provides medical treatment of various kinds, including vaccinations and spay/neuter surgeries in an effort to fight the problem of animal overpopulation long term.
It’s an uphill battle to save animals in a country where financial limitations are so extreme and cultural views of dogs are not uniformly positive. Every dog saved is one who would have suffered otherwise, and every soldier who is reunited with a best friend is far better off as well.