By Lori Kalef, Program Manager
I would never describe what I do for a living as work; it is a way of life. Animal welfare and rescue is not a 9 to 5 job, you never end your day, and you never begin. It just rolls from one to the next and if you’re like us, you wouldn’t have it any other way. There have been many days I have left a dinner party to speak to someone in Iraq or arranged an emergency pick up at 2am in Qatar from the phone that I keep beside my pillow. When an animal befriended by a U.S. service member deployed overseas is in need, that animal becomes our own and we do everything in our power to make sure that cat or dog arrives home safely.
Finding ways to transport these patriot pets to the United States is challenging enough, but often we must first transport them to a safe location in their current country where we have no staff or volunteers. That can be no easy feat! We often face hurdles that you only read about on the news: security checkpoints, animals being hidden from higher ranked officials, bombings and shootings, and the list goes on. One thing is for sure, the troops and U.S. contractors whose lives have been changed by their beloved four-legged battle buddies will stop at nothing to save their companions. Like-mindedness evokes a strong will; and where there is a will, there is a way.
I am often reminded of an email we received not too long ago from a veteran who described the relationship she had with a stray dog while deployed in Iraq more than a decade ago before our program existed. This Soldier rescued an innocent puppy from the hands of locals that were beating him to death. In return for saving his life, he saved hers from the terror that was escalating with each day in 2004 Iraq. But she wasn’t allowed to keep him even though he became completely dependent on her. She knew he would die if left to fend for himself so she pled her case in front of the regimental commander and promised to pay every penny to take her beloved savior home. She knew it would cost thousands, but she didn’t care. Thinking about leaving him behind kept her awake every night. What would become of her sweet, beautiful pup? Even though the General seemed moved by her plight, it just couldn't be done. She was devastated. When she wrote to us recently, she said she can still feel the physical pain she experienced when she looked into her dog’s eyes for the last time.
There are many stories like this one. In fact, at this very moment we are working to rescue over 40 dogs and cats befriended by service members deployed in Iraq, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait and Djibouti who all need our help. We are thrilled that so many brave, selfless service members are reaching out to us for help saving their furry friends. We are grateful that we are able to keep finding ways to get them home so that these service members don’t have to have their hearts broken like the Soldier who was forced to leave her battle buddy behind in 2004.
However, we simply can’t do it without your support, your generosity and your kindness. Please continue to follow and share our stories. Please continue to donate whenever you can. I promise to keep doing what I am doing – no matter the time day or night. Together we make a great, life-saving team.