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We’re familiar with the military phrase, “leave no man behind,” but what about, “leave no man’s best friend behind?” While our U.S. soldiers were away from home in Iraq and Afghanistan, they made stray dogs and cats, and even a donkey, members of their combat zone family. The SPCA International’s “Operation Baghdad Pups” helps reunite furry loved ones with a soldier-owner once back on U.S. soil.

U.S. troops have pulled out of Iraq, but the American presence — and its need for “patriot pets” — remains. Terri Crisp, author and program manager for Operation Baghdad Pups, continues to fly to Iraq to bring home Americans’ pets. She’s following leads at this time to find a home for brother and sister Kurdish Shepherd mixes, Rookie and Monty, who she might place with a vet from Texas.

Crisp estimates that there are currently 16,000 Americans in Iraq working as civilian contractors or Embassy and Consulate employees. Some of these remaining American citizens tell Crisp, who’s made 40 trips to Iraq and Afghanistan, that they feel like prisoners at times. Crisp says, “The companionship of a dog or cat is even more crucial because they’re isolated on a very small base and can’t go anywhere.”

In fact, they’re willing to risk their safety to find a pet. In the absence of the U.S. military, Crisp says Americans have to rely on the Iraqi police for safety if they do leave base.

Considering the great lengths Americans in hostile territory go to make these friends and the great comfort their friends provide in return, it’s understandable that they don’t want to leave their pets behind to be euthanized or revert back to strays.

While not every pet can be reconnected with its original owner, Operation Baghdad Pups strives to match these animals with people who understand what they have endured and who can care for them accordingly.

Maybe there’s room for a fourth value: “Duty, Honor, Country,” and Canine?




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