He hesitated just a bit as he rounded a corner inside Dulles International Airport and spotted the flock of television cameras and cooing journalists awaiting him. Then, with posture erect like a soldier’s, he trotted straight toward the action — he was used to bomb blasts and gunfire, after all, so this was nothing.
Post-escape from Baghdad and fresh off a 13-hour flight from Kuwait, Charlie the border collie mix actually seemed to be smiling for the crowd.
Five months after the SPCA International received a plea from American soldiers hoping to transfer their beloved Iraqi stray to U.S. terrain, the 9-month-old mutt became the first beneficiary of the animal advocacy organization’s effort to rescue pets from the war zones where they provide solace to service members. Charlie eventually will live in Phoenix with one of his caretaker soldiers.
It being Valentine’s Day, the SPCA dished out the emotional hyperbole. Charlie’s bond with his caretakers, the organization said, “is the ultimate love story between a man and his dog.”
US Soldiers that have befriended stray cats and dogs while on duty in the Middle East will start to be able to bring those “adopted” animals home.
The SPCA International program is called “Operation Baghdad Pups” and the program will assist in arranging the transportation of the animals who have been brought into the unit as mascots and companion animals to the brave men and women. This is a carefully planned mission says Terri Crisp, Animal Resource and Rescue Consultant, SPCA for Operation Baghdad Pups. Baghdad Pups will be able to bring home approximately 35 to 50 dogs each year.
However there are strict limits set in place. An example is that no dog would be going to a US home that have young children. The reason behind the limits is to reduce the chance of impulse adoption by US Soldiers who are just adopting the dog prior to leaving just to get the animal out of the Middle East. This could potentially overload local shelters here in the US, which is already overloaded. So, SPCA International actually allows dogs that have been with the unit or in the care of the unit for at least 2 months and animal is shipped out 2 months ahead of the Soldier.
In Middle East countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, animals like dogs and cats are not treated as pets, they are not socialized with humans and usually live in packs or colonies. Most dog packs are around 35 dogs per pack and survival is the number one concern for the dogs.
Read more about The Unclean Children of God.
In Iraq and the Middle East, the dogs and cats befriended by US Soldiers were adopted into the unit as pups and kittens. If left on their own, survival probably would be minimal and that is after probably neglect, abuse and starvation.
There is one hurdle that SPCA International is working around, the Government Order 1-A or (GO-1A) prohibits the keeping of animals. This order however has not dampened the activities of Baghdad Pups. This is not an attempt to fix the stray population in these countries but a way to help get these morale boosters here to the states so they can continue to be a part of these soldiers’ lives.
Costs are around 4,000 dollars per animal and that is dependent on the animal’s size and the US destination. The animals that will be coming back ahead of the US Military personnel will be fostered at a special dog camp. The dogs may also need house breaking and other adjustment training to living in a home.
The SPCA International will also be helping cover the costs of animals that belong to active military personnel when they are transferred. Also foster homes are being set for personnel who can not care for their animals for an extended period.