Alabama & national politics can be so depressing… so let's start this week off with a news story that brings a smile. It's a tale that gives us the opportunity to help our US soldiers and improve the lives of Afghani families – and their companion animals.
Many soldiers are thus faced with a heartwrenching decision when it comes time to return home. Adopting and transporting a pet with them can be a costly endeavor: around $3,000 to get a dog from Afghanistan back to the U.S., for instance. For most, saying goodbye to their loyal sidekicks is an unacceptable option.
That's where a burgeoning new dog adoption charity, called “Nowzad,” comes in. The upstart charity, founded by British veteran Pen Farthing, is named after Farthing's own adopted canine, who was in turn named after the Helmand district Farthing fought in during his tour in 2006. Nowzad has already given homes to over 330 dogs, adopted mostly to soldiers returning home to the U.S. or Britain, and the numbers just keep on growing.
“We're seeing more soldier rescues than ever before. When you're being shot at by the Taliban every day, dogs give you that little bit of normality,” Farthing told to a Reuters reporter.
Now, these aren't war dogs like the one that helped kill Osama Bin Laden or that have worked tirelessly and loyally beside our soldiers in so many war zones. Even if, as the Smithsonian Magazine poingantly reported in 2000, so many got left behind:
Only about 200 of the several thousand canines that served in Vietnam ever made it back home. While hundreds were sent on to other military assignments, perhaps a thousand were turned over to the Vietnamese, a fact some veterans equate with abandonment or a death sentence in a country where dogs were sometimes eaten for dinner. About 300 were killed in action.
No, these are strays that soldiers have befriended – and who provide an invaluable service to their human companions. Animal therapy is becoming a widely-accepted, valuable tool for treatment of PTSD:
Unlike humans, animals are not at all prejudiced toward differences among people. Relationally speaking, the animal neither notices nor cares if the human has been handicapped or is in some way impaired. The use of prostheses, wheelchairs, or crutches holds no attached meaning for a pet. For the PTSD patient, pets are the ever-affectionate friend determined to give and receive comfort and attention. In the case of dogs and cats, they are the warm body that curls up beside you when life, or your past, threatens to overwhelm you.
Nowzad is attempting to raise funds to aquire a permanent shelter in Afghanistan. You can make a tax-deductible donation to this effort through the “Soldiers Animal Companians Fund.”
Dogs are sometimes more than a just man's best friend. They are a soldier's salvation.