When U.S. soldiers are far from home on military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, they often befriend stray dogs living in the area. Some even go so far as to adopt the furry friends as pets. With some servicemen and women, this bond with their animals becomes so tight that when they return home, they want to bring them back to America. But there’s often a (costly) roadblock.
It can cost several thousand dollars to transport a dog from overseas, and this expensive bill usually prevents such a reunion stateside. That’s where Guardians of Rescue, a Long Island-based charity dedicated to helping stray animals and veterans, steps in. The nonprofit’s No Buddy Left Behind Program identifies soldiers who have befriended dogs in foreign lands and raises money to bring the animals to the United States through social media and crowd funding websites including GoFundMe and YouCaring.
One such story that captured the attention of many was that of a mother dog named Sheba and her litter of seven puppies that a New York National Guard unit looked after in Afghanistan. Guardians of Rescue raised the money required to quarantine the dogs in the Kabul facilities of Nowzad (an international animal rescue organization), vaccinate and spay or neuter the dogs, fly them to Dubai, and from there to the United States.
Another Guardians of Rescue program, Paws of War, pairs specially trained dogs with soldiers that suffer from PTSD and other conditions. “If the veteran suffers from hyper-vigilance or claustrophobia, we will train the dog to face outward towards the door,” Dori Scofield, the Vice President of Guardians of Rescue told Arielle Brechisci of Newsday. “Some are trained to wake you up when the alarm goes off.”
Paws of War paired PTSD-suffering Iraq veteran Paul Zimmerman of North Babylon, New York with a boxer named Kona. “It certainly is the best medicine I’ve ever had,” Zimmerman said. “Just having him just being there for you is tremendous.”