Saturday, October 15, 2011


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.


  1. Hi Piper,

    I love that you mentioned this organization. It's such a nice organization. A problem that arises though is that the doggies and kitties, most of the time, have kitty and doggy PTSD, so they need therapy like people too. It's one thing for a military person to get a dog with PTSD, because they'll understand because sometimes the they'll be going through it too (and therefore, they can help each other.)

    However, sometimes the animal goes to the family of the deceased and they have no idea what to do and the animal goes to the shelter. That's not so good. So, it's very important that the animal goes to a family where they understand PTSD and understand it happens in doggies and kitties too! They need to have therapy too! It's no fun to be scared. It's important that this be shared so people know about this aspect of these animals. They are like people in that aspect. It's sad, but it's true.


  2. Dear Katie,

    This is a really, really good point to make, and I'm glad you made it. Dealing with any animal or person with PTSD takes special patience and understanding, so people should know what they are getting into before they adopt a dog or cat who is likely to have this condition. I think the same thing happens sometimes to dogs that come out of other bad places, like puppy mills, for example. Maybe that is not as bad as coming out of a war zone, but there are still some emotional issues.

    Anyway, thanks again for bringing this up.


  3. Last month, CNN Anderson Cooper 360 reported on SPCA International and uncovered that the nonprofit misrepresented one of its programs called "Baghdad Pups" on its tax filings and millions of dollars are unaccounted for.

    Last week, CNN filed another story, this time focused on SPCA International employee and former Noah’s Wish president Terri Crisp. That story may be viewed here:

    In 2007, Terri Crisp made headlines when she was fired from Noah’s Wish, a nonprofit she founded. Crisp and Noah’s Wish raised 8 million dollars during Katrina.

    The Calfornia Attorney General’s office investigated the nonprofit for misuse of funds raised during Katrina and settled the case against Noah’s Wish in 2007. The AG stipulated that 4 million of the 8 million dollars raised go back to the state of Louisiana where donors had intended for the funds to be used.

    Additionally, the founder of the nonprofit, Terri Crisp, was fired from the organization and the settlement agreement was banned from having a fiduciary role with another nonprofit for a period of 5 years.

    This is the settlement agreement with Noah’s Wish:

    According to the CNN story, Ms. Crisp is once again being looked at by the California Attorney General’s office. SPCA International is also being investigated.

    Pierre Barnoti, head of SPCA I has a questionable history, too.

    Millions of Americans love animals and there are so many good organizations helping to make a difference. Please support animal welfare charities that are founded in integrity.

    1. Dear Anonymous,
      Thank you for posting these links. I was not aware of these problems with "Baghdad Pups" and the SPCA International.
      Sincerely, Piper

  4. Piper, I've been working in Iraq since 2010 as a contract worker. From then until recently we had been working 12hrs@ day 7 days a week, but now we're working 12hrs 6days a week. Which gives me idle time to get board. A buddy and I had found a female puppy in March of this year half starved and pretty dirty not to mention the fleas she had. We bathed her that night and gave her food scraps from the mess hall. I e-mailed home and got some flea drops from my wife for puppies and had her vaccinations done by the K-9 that comes here every 3 mos.
    She is now staying with one of us at night and she goes to a huge kennel area by herself during the day where she has food, water, and cover to get out of the elements what ever it may be. We're trying to keep her a secret from upper management here because it's against company rules to have pets. I'm proud to say she is coming along very well she isn't aggressive in anyway shape or form. She sits on command and waits to come in and go out until told to do so. She'll also wait to go to her food or water dish until given permission to do so. We're trying to find a way to get her home and would like some info on who to contact and how long it will take for this process from start to finish (Iraq-US.)
    It's my understanding that Pups of Baghdad only help military personnel is that true?

    1. I don't know if Baghdad Pups only helps military pets or not. Their website is and you can click on "Request Assistance" to get an application form to fill out. I hope you will be able to bring your puppy back to the U.S.!