Returning Soldiers Adopt Embattled Afghan Dogs
Dogs are sometimes more than a just man's best friend. They are a soldier's salvation.
When fighting abroad, many soldiers strike up bonds with stray mutts and other pets. Not only does the companionship give them much needed joy and solace during their deployment, but growing evidence now shows that canine companions can actually help a soldier to overcome post-traumatic stress.
The companionship is equally as valuable to the dogs, who often come from some of the most embattled and war torn regions of Afghanistan. If the dogs aren't groomed for illegal dogfighting by Afghan locals, they're often left to fend for themselves. Kabul is home to thousands of stray dogs, for instance, many of which are shot and killed.
The partnerships that develop between these dogs and the soldiers that rescue them therefore run incredibly deep; They are each other's salvation.
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.
The organization is also working with Afghans to change the local cultural attitudes about owning pets. Poverty in Afghanistan often makes keeping pets impractical, a fact which feeds into a common disregard for them. Some Muslims also believe dogs are unclean and therefore unfit for keeping. Though dogfighting was banned by the Taliban, it remains a popular activity. So when dogs are kept, it is often for this abusive practice.
Nowzad is already seeing a sea change develop about locals' attitudes, though. The organization is increasingly adopting dogs out to pet-friendly Afghan families, and have set the goal of being an Afghan-led organization in the eventual future.
Besides dogs, Nowzad also handles the adoption and care of many cats and donkeys too.
Currently the organization is working to raise $250,000 dollars for a new plot of land. You can donate to the effort at their website here.
[Via Yahoo! News]