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Soldiers' Animal Companions Fund

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Buttercup's Story
 
Buttercup, the tan dog on the left, is one of three dogs that were cared for by a group of Special Forces soldiers at a remote base in Afghanistan.  While stationed at this isolated post, the soldiers became very close to these dogs.  They would often accompany the soldiers on patrols and were there to give them comfort when they returned to base.
 
 
As Buttercup’s owner explains,
“The dogs provided a sense of compassion in a very remote place.”

When it came time for the soldiers to move on, they felt strongly – they did not want to leave their dog companions behind.
 
One of the soldiers described Buttercup with these words:
 
“Buttercup is the oldest of our three dogs, we think about two or three years old.
She has participated in more missions than some of the guys on our camp, and she is one tough dog.
Before our arrival, she was accidentally shot in the hindquarter by an Afghan Army soldier and disappeared for about three months.
 

Some of the guys were patrolling one day and they found a dog that looked like her and walked with a slight limp; they called out her name, and she followed them back to the camp.
 
If any dog has earned her way home to America, she has.”

Fortunately, before they left the soldiers were able to contact Nowzad and arrange the transport of all three dogs to the Nowzad shelter in Kabul.
 

Buttercup was cared for at the Nowzad shelter until funds were raised to bring her to the States.

Thanks to the generosity of many donors, that didn’t take long.
 
 
Here she’s shown getting ready for her transport to America.
 

 
But a glitch came at the last moment.  Buttercup was originally to go to a friend of one of the soldiers on the East coast.  At the last moment that future home fell through and John Gustafson, living on a sheep farm in Minnesota, got a call in the middle of the night from his son stationed in Afghanistan.

His son asked if he remembered Buttercup, the dog he had talked about.  He had often talked about the dogs and how much they meant to him and his buddies.  Well, it turned out that Buttercup needed a home.  Would his dad please go to the airport and get her?
 
Not just a loving father, John is also Director of Development and Communications for Animal Allies Welfare Society, He was definitely a good person to call and agreed at once to go to the airport to pick up Buttercup.
 
Initially his plan was to foster her until a new home could be found.
From pictures he knew the dog was big and looked a bit like a hound.  He wondered how she would do around his sheep and with his two working dogs – a border collie and a short-haired collie.  On the day she arrived, he said, “Buttercup is quite beautiful already, moves nice. I am waiting for her to relax enough to smile.”

 


But once John had Buttercup home for a while and did some research on her, he discovered that she had a lot of the characteristics of Anatolian shepherds.  These were dogs the locals originally bred to care for sheep and goats.  Maybe Buttercup would fit in after all.
 

In fact it soon looked like Buttercup was going nowhere else. This soldier’s parents’ sheep farm was destined to be her home.

John said that as he’s gotten to know her, he can see how important she has been to the soldiers on that remote base.  He believes that companion animals can have a connection to our souls.  The value of Buttercup, and the other dogs, to those who cared for them is immeasurable.
 
 
Now Buttercup spends her time learning how to be a farm dog on a sheep farm and acting as an ambassador for soldiers’ pets.  Animal Allies made a recent appearance at a nearby Veterans’ Center and Buttercup was very well received. Veterans from Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan really appreciated her presence and she inspired them to talk about the animals that had meant so much to them during their own deployments.
 
 
Her new parents have sent us the following message:

“Buttercup is doing great. Learning all about civilian life here on the farm. She's been to dog training classes to learn her sits, stays and downs. Been to the local Vet Center to introduce local veterans about volunteering at the local animal shelter (where John works). Buttercup was a big hit there with vets who served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Gulf war and Vietnam talking up a storm about the animals they cared for during their time in country. And Buttercup has been interviewed (albeit through me) on local public radio about coming to the states from Afghanistan.

She’s put on some much needed weight and is learning to play with the other dogs -- Gully and Skye. Buttercup really, really likes just lying on her beds and snoozing. Lambing season is done and we are now just waiting for the pastures to green up so the flock can graze. We'll be walking fence lines soon.”
 

 To hear Buttercup’s interview (via John) with a local public radio station, please click here and hit the “Listen” prompt.