Thursday, October 28, 2010

When my son's company accepted responsibility for their new “home” in southern Afghanistan, they also unknowingly accepted ownership of a very special resident. That resident was just a story at the time they entered the base, because he was believed to have died some months earlier. That mysterious resident was an Afghan wolfhound mix, first rescued by the previous company when he was about two months old, starving and flea-ridden. Military regs don’t really allow local animals to be housed on base, as disease, fleas, and rabies are always risks in this war-torn desert. Ultimately, the Marines had to “hide” their dog at a remote base, where, unfortunately he was attacked and his head crushed with a rock. He dragged himself off, it was thought, to die out in the 120 degree heat.

About a month into their deployment, that dog came back to the only home he knew, to those people in uniform who were the only ones who seemed to want him. The Marines welcomed him home. They cleaned up his fleas, brushed his coat, shared their care package meals with him, and named him Kujo. Their command also insisted on enforcing the regs, so they unhappily set him outside the base one night, figuring he would again wander off into the desert. But Kujo knew where he belonged. The next morning he came to meet the first patrol, and walked tirelessly through the heat by their side, fending off wild dogs, leaning up against the nearest Marine whenever they paused to rest in the heat. From that day on, Kujo was part of the 81s. He slept outside the base, but greeted each patrol and walked by their side, came back, rested, then went out with the next patrol. We sent a collar and tag proudly proclaiming he was “Kujo, K9 Defender, Eighty Ones.” Other families sent bones, toys, treats for their Marines’ dog. He’s now an 8-month old puppy with huge feet, who can easily stand on his hind legs to put his front paws on the shoulders of a 6’3” Marine so he can lick his face and make him laugh. He can “sit,” “lie down” and “shake hands.” Best of all, he can go out into the desert with one of his teams, look up at the moon and howl joyfully along with his pack.

As their deployment wound down, the Marines started to worry about the fate of Kujo after they left, as dogs are not pets in Afghanistan, but vermin and pests and treated as such. The odds were good that Kujo, who hopefully ran toward anyone he saw in camouflage, sure of his welcome, would not last long once his Marines departed.

That was the reason for the plea,  

Mom, you’ve got to save Kujo.


Bless the Marine who still believes his mom can do anything, including figuring out how to transport a dog out of an embattled desert country on the other side of the globe, and somehow bring him into the US to a safe home!

I said I’d do my best, then immediately turned to my global Marine family, the MarineParents website, the source, in my opinion, of  all necessary knowledge to help a Marine family survive and support their Marine.  Less than 15 minutes after posting a plea for guidance, quite honestly not too optimistic about being able to pull this one off, I got a referral from a Marine Parent who had heard about a British Rescue group in Afghanistan called Nowzad Dogs, founded by a former Royal Marine who started this effort after he, too, found and fell in love with an abandoned puppy in Afghanistan during his tour.  Within 20 minutes, I had been offered a home for Kujo from a Marine family in central Texas, with a very large ranch, their own dogs, goats, donkeys and chicken – room to roam for Kujo, familiar animals…just nobody shooting at him!  I accepted.  Although I would have loved to keep Kujo, I knew our small suburban yard would be unfairly confining for a dog used to miles of open space and the freedom to run and howl at the moon.

I searched for Nowzad Dogs on the internet, and sent them an email telling them my story. I had an email waiting for me the next morning, from a wonderful young former British soldier now part of the Nowzad Dogs rescue shelter in a very scary part of Afghanistan.  She told me how it worked – they handled EVERYTHING once the dog made it to the shelter including transportation to his final home, all the government paperwork and medical treatments and required shots.  My son’s job was to get Kujo to the shelter.  My only job was to raise the money to fund this massive undertaking.  I’m counting on all those reading to help me do that.  In a moment, I’ll tell you how, and why you should.

My son pulled strings, talked to his command, made deals with fellow companies, and finally had a plan to get Kujo to the Nowzad Dogs shelter.  The day before Kujo was supposed to make the trip, I get a devastating call….the route to the shelter was currently dangerous, and passed into the area of operation of another NATO country, requiring a lot of military protocol to transit.  The command could no longer approve the plan.  I have never heard my son so devastated and hopeless.  He told me he had sat outside the base with Kujo, held him, rubbed his tummy, and told him "Sorry" a hundred times, that he had really tried.  I told him to call Nowzad Dogs and let them know.

The next thing I knew I had an email from Nowzad Dogs,  telling me,  I imagined, in a very British voice, that they were not giving up, Andy could not give up, and I, as his mother, needed to make that clear to him . . . Marines don’t give up and they do NOT leave their friends behind.  Within 24 hours, Nowzad Dogs had somehow found a local driver to come to the base, pick up Kujo, and drive that dangerous route to the shelter.  That call from my son was jubilant, and proud and grateful.

Nowzad Dogs has let me know that Kujo has arrived safely at the shelter, and will be examined and cared for there safely until I can arrange the financing to finish this grand adventure.  Here’s the challenge:

We need to raise $5,000 as quickly as possible so that Nowzad Dogs can arrange transportation for Kujo from Afghanistan to Texas, and complete, file and pay for all the governmental paperwork in both countries.  These are real out-of-pocket costs…picture the air fare alone from Afghanistan to Houston!


This isn't just about Kujo, it's about Kujo being the one simple, uncomplicated place of peace for these boys who couldn't trust anything or anybody, not even the road they walked on.  Kujo just loved them, stayed by their side, fended off all comers, made them laugh, played with them, howled at the moon with them, offered himself up to be loved back.  I suspect each one of the Marines spent time alone with Kujo, held on to him, talked to him and told him their worries when no one else was around.  He was where they all hid their young, all-American boyhood for safekeeping while they walked the streets of Nawa being the stone-faced Marines.  Kujo was there to give it back to them whenever they needed it.

I feel like I personally owe Kujo for what he offered to my son and his buddies.  I also think I owe it to Andy and his buddies to bring home Kujo, because he has a piece of each of their hearts.  All of them deserve proof that we DO bring our friends home, and keep them safe.  On many of the Facebook pages of Andy’s Marine buddies, I see happy postings saying, “The best dog in Afghanistan is coming to America!”  I don’t want to let them down.  I am betting, if we tell this true story, Kujo will be on his way home in a week!

All you have to do is follow the ChipIn Link here to a secure PayPal page, where you can make your credit card contribution directly to Nowzad Dogs, specifically to help bring Kujo home.

And then post the link to this blog on every social media site you can.  E-mail it to your friends, pass out flyers, ask at church and at school.  If we collect "too much" for Kujo, the money will automatically be directed by Nowzad Dogs to the next rescue operation they have going...there is always the next dog, and the next cat, and the dog after that, and the cat after that, and the momma dog and her puppies after that . . .

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