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Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Operation Baghdad Pups and the American Graffiti Ending

Jack Kemp

The book "No Buddy Left Behind: Bringing U.S. Troops' Dogs and Cats Safely Home from the Combat Zone" \(by Terri Crisp) tells the story of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCAI) International's efforts to bring American service men's and women's adopted pets from Iraq and Afghanistan back to their homes in the U.S. and all that it meant to everyone involved. A significant part of the book is the story of two SPCAI employees’ trip to Baghdad to transport a group of about thirty animals, mostly dogs, with the help of FedEx which was repositioning some of its planes. The animals were then brought to the States via Dubai, France and Britain.

Enlisting the help of both adult and high school volunteers, those animals well enough to travel and which hadn't escaped their handlers before the trip, made the trek to the U.S. These were animals that had endured everything from Iraqis cutting their ears and using them for soccer balls inside of sacks, to escaping US military rules against keeping foreign stray animals (and their potential diseases) on bases where US contractors were ordered to round up and kill them (perfectly legal) - if the contractors could find where the troops had hidden them.

At the end of the book, in the Afterward, there is a group of small summaries, similar but longer than those shown on the screen in the movie "American Graffiti," telling where the animals are now. Some sample excerpts include:

Burt - Erin is happy to report that the two-timing Burt, who 'missed the boat,' managed to catch the autumn flight and made it home to America in October, 2008. He is alive and well and has grown into a big, bed-hogging cat. 
"Burt is fit enough to make any Marine proud," she says. " There's not ounce of fat on him. He's all muscle."

"Burt has a few postwar quirks, just like I do. Once when I was in a bookstore, somebody popped a balloon, and it took all I had not to fall apart. I hit the ground, and then I found a corner to stand in, where it took me fifteen minutes to calm myself down and stop shaking.

"Burt does the same kind of thing. When somebody was using a nail gun for home repairs, my other animals took the sound as normal, but Burt scrambled onto my lap, and he tensed and jumped with every pop. I knew exactly what he was feeling. It's something we share...

"As Marines, leaving one of us behind is against everything in our being, and if we'd had to do that for Burt, it would have been so hard on the people at our FOB (forward operating base) and would have absolutely destroyed me. I hope Terri and the SPCA International are able to continue their work for U.S. troops."

Pooty - When her husband's normally upbeat voice sounded unusually down during their overseas call between Iraq and the States, Rhonda asked him what was wrong..."It's this dog at our FOB," he explained....

During Michael's tour he had been blown up by an "S vest" (suicide bomb) and spent ten days in a German hospital before returning to duty in Iraq. Thoughout his absence the camp mascot stationed herself on the soldier's cot. Except for potty breaks, Pooty refused to move until Michael came back. Rhonda suddenly realized that this dog meant more to her husband than anything else at that moment, and she made a vow to bring the dog home, no matter what it took to do it...

Today Pooty weights fifty-four pounds and is as healthy as a German short hair from Iraq can be...Pooty regularly attends U.S. military and SPCA fundraisers, doing her best to support the troops, and she raises money for local SPCA shelters and the Operation Baghdad Pups program.

Moody - Bryan's mom, Janet, was taken aback when someone asked why she and her son wanted to bring home a foreign stray dog, while so many American dogs needed homes. With two sons serving multiple tours in Iraq and a daughter married to a soldier on deployment, Janet was quick to respond, "Not one of those American dogs saved my son."

When the Military cable TV channel showed Bryan and Moody's Operation Baghdad Pups rescue story, a nurse in New York couldn't get the beautiful dog or the soldier with the sad eyes and gorgeous smile out of her mind. After several days she broke down and e-mailed the soldier, who had just started his fourth tour in Iraq. The nurse said she'd be glad to send stuff to Bryan and the other soldiers of his unit, so he quickly responded, "Yes, please!"...

Three years later Bryan is still serving in the military, and he's back in the States living with is dog and the special woman he loves.

"Every time my son looks at that girl, his beautiful smile lights up his face," says Janet happily. "If it weren't for Moody, they'd never have met."

As of May 31, 2011, Operation Baghdad Pups brought a total number of 340 animals - 280 dogs and 58 cats from Iraq, plus two dogs from Afghanistan - to the United States...

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