Stress of war prompts soldiers to take Afghan dogs home
By Amie Ferris-Rotman
KABUL (Reuters) - Spot made the clandestine journey from the Afghan Taliban stronghold of Helmand to the capital Kabul, where he is undergoing medical treatment before moving to the United States to live with the family of the Marine who rescued him.
His ears clipped and tail severed from his days as a fighting dog, the surprisingly docile ginger and white mutt is one of hundreds being adopted in increasing numbers by foreign soldiers, who pay vast sums to take their new pets home.
"Dogs have been proven to help post-traumatic stress and the soldiers who adopt them are addressing this," said Pen Farthing, founder of British charity Nowzad, an animal shelter on the outskirts of Kabul.
A former Royal Marine, Farthing adopted his dog Nowzad, named after a Helmand district, during his tour there in 2006. He then set up the charity, where dogs and some cats are neutered and vaccinated against rabies before their journeys abroad.
Nowzad has given homes to over 330 dogs since it was founded, mostly to soldiers from the U.S. and Britain, but also from South Africa, Australia, Canada and the Netherlands.
It costs around $3,000 to get a dog from Afghanistan to its new home, and Nowzad relies solely on much-needed donations. It is now trying to raise $250,000 for a new plot of land.
The dogs' birthplaces in some way reflect the thrust of the NATO-led war against Taliban insurgents, which has experienced some of its toughest fighting in the militants' southern bastions.
"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 said by a row of outdoor pens holding black and yellow puppies. Continued...