Early in October, five rescue experts from Operation Baghdad Pups flew into Baghdad for a very special mission: saving the lives of 18 dogs belonging to U.S. soldiers. Last week, four rescue experts returned from another mission with 15 more dogs.
The Operation Baghdad Pups program was started by SPCA International in 2007 as a means of safely returning dogs adopted by U.S. soldiers in Iraq to the soldiers’ homes in the United States. Since the military does not allow “adopting as pets or mascots, caring for, or feeding any type of domestic or wild animal,” the dogs would otherwise be back on the Iraqi streets when their companions’ tours ended.
As of November 2009, the lives of 149 dogs and 22 cats have been saved.
One of the dogs rescued in the October mission was Stryker, the companion of National Guardsman Zachery Wolf. While patrolling with his unit in Baghdad, Wolf heard a small cry. He and his team looked around and discovered its source – a small puppy trapped inside a bag of cement mix that someone had poured water into. The horrified team had to complete their patrol, but immediately afterward they found a chisel and returned to save the pup. It was a difficult job, but they managed to free him one leg at a time.
The team brought the starving puppy, who they named Stryker, back to the base and nursed him to health. Wolf and Stryker formed an immediate bond. When Wolf heard about Operation Baghdad Pups, he contacted SPCA International and asked for their help. On October 3, Wolf and Stryker were reunited at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, and they’re now living happily ever after together in Pennsylvania.
Operation Baghdad Pups receives an average of three to four pet rescue requests per week from soldiers, marines and military contractors. Each month from October through May, SPCA International sends rescue team members to Iraq (due to extremely high Middle Eastern temperatures, the airline that transports the animals imposes an annual heat embargo that does not allow trips between June 1 and September 30).
Rescue missions will resume in late January 2010, after the January 16 Iraqi elections. According to SPCA International Director of Communications Stephanie Scott, “For safety reasons, we have to wait until after they occur to send another team back.”
Aside from the heat embargo, Scott said that Operation Baghdad Pups is currently facing another major issue. “Troops are increasingly being pulled out of Iraq and U.S. military bases are closing,” she said, “so requests are now more urgent because the dogs and cats cannot be passed on to new incoming units as they have been in the past. This will continue to be an issue as the president draws down troop levels throughout 2010.”
Donations will help ensure that “no buddy gets left behind.”
On November 15 at 10:00 p.m., “No Dog Left Behind,” a documentary about Operation Baghdad Pups, will premiere on the Military Channel.
i Love Dogs has been a proud sponsor of Operation Baghdad Pups since the program’s inception in 2007.
Here are pictures of the 18 dogs rescued in early October: