Aneesa was known as the FOB (Forward Operating Base) dog for some soldiers stationed in the Ghazni Province of Afghanistan. Although she had been rejected by her original dog pack, she found a happy home on the base where she greeted soldiers as they returned from patrol and could be found enjoying a nap or sunning herself anywhere on the FOB. At times, she’d claim a soldier’s bed or even a parachute as her own.
She was also quite the little thief. Once when the soldiers had to fall into formation, one soldier removed his fleece and set it down. “Dog-Bert” as Aneesa was affectionately called, casually walked over, took the fleece as her own, and wandered off. Many things would be taken by her – from gloves and an unopened blueberry muffin to a facemask (that she was kind enough to return).
It wasn’t easy to get her to come close enough for attention as she was shy and wary of humans, but she did seem to sense that there on the FOB she was safe from the dangers outside and so she never left. Besides, the soldiers always had beef jerky on hand -- one of her favorite treats.
But finally Aneesa was caught in the traps one time too often and the order came down that she was to be euthanized. The soldier responsible for carrying out the order readied his 9mm, and just as he was about to follow through, this small, shy little dog rolled over, showed him her belly, and he swore he saw her smile.
That was it. Not only could he not carry out the order, but from that moment on the soldiers and Jerry, a former soldier -- now contractor working on the base -- knew they couldn’t leave her behind. They had no idea where to find help to get her out, but they knew it had to happen quickly before she was discovered. To add to their worries, the base was shutting down soon and they all knew she wouldn’t survive on her own in the violent environment surrounding the base.
Jerry phoned his fiancé in California to tell her about this small, shy dog he wanted to bring home to live with them, and she began an Internet search – trying to find a way to accomplish this seemingly impossible task. Fortunately she was referred to Nowzad and the impossible began to look possible. Word spread throughout the FOB that “Dog-Bert” was going to be rescued and smiles and looks of hope could be seen all over the base.
A few days later Nowzad let Jerry’s fiancé, Christine, know that they would need a local volunteer to bring “Dog-Bert” to the shelter in Kabul. Andar was in a very hostile area and it was too dangerous for the shelter volunteers to get to her. Christine relayed their request to Jerry who then asked a local he had befriended on base.
A lot was being asked of this person, for if a local working with the coalition forces is discovered traveling along the dangerous route from Andar to Kabul -- a route heavily controlled by warlords – it could mean a death sentence. If he were caught transporting a dog, that action in itself would certainly result in death for both the local and the dog. Fortunately this man was willing to take the chance. He wanted to get home to his wife in Kabul because she was about to give birth.
So began the process of saving “Dog-Bert” who now had a new name – Aneesa, meaning “of good company.” After a few setbacks, a travel cage and a collar for Aneesa were made, and the local left with her for what was to be the first part of Aneesa’s journey to a new life. Little did she know that would be the last time she would see her soldier friends.
Thankfully Aneesa arrived without miss hap at the Nowzad shelter in May – and the local made it to his wife’s side just in time. Incidentally, shortly after her arrival, another pup from the same base was on his way to the shelter. Aneesa’s rescue had given another soldier hope that he too could save a small puppy he’d bonded with. Little Bravo Rufus now lives with his soldier and soldier’s wife in Connecticut.
After time for an examination, immunizations, fundraising, and working through the animal transport ban in Afghanistan – for which Nowzad was finally able to obtain an exemption – Aneesa was ready to head for California!
After she arrived at LAX, Christine describes her new life:
“On June 3, 2013, Aneesa met her new pack members here in Southern California and instantly bonded with both her new brother and sister. Something she could not do with her previous pack that rejected her almost a world away.
Unbeknownst to her, her soldier friends still stationed at FOB Andar, were anxiously waiting to hear the news that she’d arrived safely. More smiles and congratulations could just about be heard from across the ocean.
By Aneesa’s fourth day in her new home, she had her first bath and shocked her soldier friends when her pictures were posted online. She now looked nothing like the little scraggly malnourished dog that was known as a darling of a thief in Andar.
Slowly over time, her confidence grew and she has made our home, her home. This is her “safe zone” but [she] still sees the world beyond the front door as a big scary place.
She was housebroken in less than a month; she bosses her big brother around and hunts through the back yard with her sister. She loves sleeping on the bed or her dog bed and has gone from eating raw chicken to kibble. She’ll still watch animals on the TV for that fascinates her and the sound of a baby, animal or human, crying on the TV causes her concern and so she “searches” for the one she thinks needs help. She’s learned that I do not need protecting from bubbles in a bubble bath, and she conquered the dog door after her initial shock of seeing her new pack disappear through the wall and then reappear again.
She was known as a very quiet dog on the base and at the shelter but [along with the] confidence that she’s gained here [has come] the discovery of her voice as she will alert me when someone is near.
She will always bear physical and emotional scars of her time in Afghanistan but it doesn’t slow her down when she’s playing with her brother and sister. She wins the hearts of all who meet her from her unique and beautiful looks to her love for human attention. She has learned that we’re all not that bad and sometimes, a human will have a tasty treat of beef jerky or Doritos’ along with plenty of belly rubs and that’s pretty okay in her book.”
Christine also has a message for us all about rescuing these special animals:
“I am telling Aneesa’s story, which is about a group of soldiers and veterans coming together to overcome obstacles so their little battle buddy wouldn’t be left behind, to bring awareness about [these dogs of war] and the important role they play in the lives of soldiers and veterans.
The soldiers and their battle buddies share so much together that those of us who have not served can ever comprehend. They’re both in a hostile environment that doesn’t want either of them, neither knowing what the day will bring, and whether or not they will be safe to see another day. The animals find comfort with a human in uniform and in turn, these animals provide much for the soldiers and even veterans. There have been stories of these stray dogs that have saved soldiers’ lives by alerting them to danger and so the bond is much more than a simple pat on the head in passing. Soldiers and veterans live by the creed “leave no man behind” and they extend that to their four legged battle buddies. When soldiers leave their bases to head home, it emotionally wears on them that they’re leaving one of their own behind -- knowing that a battle buddy’s fate is a dire one in a country that views dogs and cats differently than we do.
That’s where the power of the Internet comes into play, the power of a unity of complete strangers from all over the world who pull together to reunite a soldier or a veteran with his battle buddy, and none of it can happen without all of them, Nowzad Dogs and Soldiers’ Animal Companions Fund. Aneesa would not be with us if it weren’t for the two wonderful organizations, and my fiancé, a veteran, along with the many soldiers that also looked after her. … We have been honored and humbled by the many friends we’ve also gained throughout our journey.
[These] dogs are not just scraggly strays. They are a soldier’s and a veteran’s comfort, a reminder of home; they share an understanding of where they are and where they’ve been and too, they share the scars, physically or emotionally of their time in a war zone. Simply put, [one of these dogs] is a battle buddy, a point man, and you never leave your battle buddy behind.”