A lot of times, the American soldiers who are in Iraq end up taking in stray dogs or cats and keeping them in their barracks, even though maybe they are not supposed to. But the fact is that these animals help make the soldiers feel happier and less homesick, which is an important thing that dogs and cats are good at doing. The sad part is that when the soldiers go back home, they are not allowed to take their pet dogs or cats with them because it's against the military's rules to do that.
But now there is an organization called Operation Baghdad Pups, and it is helping solve this problem. The way this group got started was that in September of 2007, a soldier named Sergeant Edward Watson wrote an email to the SPCA International, and in this email he told them all about a dog named Charlie. The men in Sgt. Watson's regiment found Charlie when he was just a tiny puppy who was thin and had lots of fleas.
One of the men picked Charlie up and hid him in a blanket and brought him back to the outpost where they lived. Then the soldiers took turns caring for Charlie in secret because they weren't supposed to have a dog there, and they all started loving him.
Sgt. Watson wrote in his email that "When all the guys got to playing with Charlie, we'd forget where we were, at least temporarily. During those moments you could almost imagine being home." The men promised Charlie that they would not abandon him because they knew that if he had to live in a place that was so dangerous and full of war, Charlie would die at a young age.
The SPCAI wanted to help the soldiers keep their promise to Charlie, but it turned out to be really hard to get a dog out of Iraq and to the U.S. Finally, they worked out a way for it to be done by sending one of their staff people to Iraq to pick Charlie up. A woman named Terri Crisp did this, and when she got to Washington D.C., a whole bunch of TV stations and other press were there to report on the story.
Now Charlie lives in Arizona with Sergeant Watson, and Operation Baghdad Pups was formed to help other military people bring their dogs or cats home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Another dog that got rescued from Iraq is named Hammer. This dog was found by Captain Scott Eberlein and his unit in the Diyala Province. When he got found, Hammer was a little puppy who was dirty and very hungry. He got his name because that was the nickname of the men's company. Hammer went to see an army veterinarian and all the guys in the unit took good care of him, and soon he was growing big and strong. He was kept at the barracks as what is called a force protection canine. This is a dog who stays outside at night and barks a whole bunch if any bad guys come sneaking around.
While he was on duty one time, Hammer got injured in his right front leg. A veterinarian set the leg, but it did not heal the way it was supposed to because there was too much nerve damage. So Hammer went to a combat army surgical hospital, and a team of 12 medical professionals amputated his leg. Captain Eberlein was there to comfort Hammer.
After Hammer became a 3-legged dog, his unit knew they could not leave him behind when they got sent to another area, so they worked with Operation Baghdad Pups to have him sent to the U.S. Now Hammer lives in Alaska with Captain Eberlein's family.
One Eye and his kitten littermates were born on an isolated military base, but they were abandoned by their mother when they were very young. Some Marines found the kittens and decided to try to save them, which they did, but it wasn't easy because they did not have a Petco nearby or even a milk cow.
Anyway, after a while, they noticed that one of the kittens mostly kept his right eye closed and only used his left eye, so they started calling him One Eye. A medic took a close look at the kitten's eye and saw that the eyelashes were growing on the inside of the eyelid. The Marines were afraid that the kitten would go blind in that eye, so they started trying to figure out how to get him to the States. One Marine did a search on the internet, and he found Operation Baghdad Pups, and the group agreed to bring One Eye to the U.S. and pay for his care.
After One Eye arrived here, he got surgery done by a veterinary opthamologist. It turned out that One Eye had a condition called Feline Coloboma Syndrome. This happens to kitties before they are even born, and it makes them have deformed eyelids. Which causes the eyelashes to rub against their eyes, and that hurts a lot.
One Eye actually had this condition in both eyes, but luckily, he was able to have the problem fixed by surgery, and now he can see just fine out of both eyes. These days he lives in Colorado with the Marine who figured out a way to get him out of Iraq so that his eyesight could be saved.
There are lots more stories like this with happy endings on the Operation Baghdad Pups website, so if you want to read them, you can go there. Also you can learn more about the organization or make a donation. I think it's great that dogs and cats can help with the morale of the soldiers, and also that the soldiers can help give the animals a healthy life.