Loved by U.S. forces, an Iraqi dog brings hope amid war

By Andrew Edtl

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, July 31 2013 9:52 a.m. MDT

Tripod in Kirkuk, Iraq.

Andrew Edtl

Heroics are not uncommon in times of war. But there are some that have gone largely unnoticed: the native dogs of war. Born and raised in war, they’ve become the best friends of American forces overseas. This is the story of one such dog — befriended by American forces and hunted by others in their command.

Life in Iraq

Tripod was an Australian shepherd Basenji mix. Rumor has it, she lost one of her legs when she was hit by a military vehicle, and an American medic performed emergency surgery. After returning to the United States, I enjoyed sharing this story after telling an alternate story about her saving my life.

Losing her leg didn’t make her the dog we fell in love with, though, it just made her unique in the eyes of the Americans. Tripod lived at a coalition forces gate at Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Iraq. The security forces for the base were made up entirely of Air Force reservists.

As we rolled in and took over, we quickly made friends with our new dog. Those before us took care of her, providing her with water and occasional treats. We picked up where they left off, converting cereal bowls into water bowls and bringing her a food plate back at dinner time. At one point, some family members sent us dog food and dog treats from America. We watched in amazement as she ate American dog food, thinking it couldn’t possibly compare to hamburgers and pulled pork.

Tripod would play fetch and was a major morale booster for our entire section. Those who frequently worked at the gate, such as Army and Air Force intelligence, also knew her. She returned the favor by alerting us of danger, barking at any Iraqis that were approaching the gate long before we could see them.

We also learned that Iraqis were scared of dogs. When asked why, they would inevitably tell you that a dog bit their mother when they were a child. Their fear of dogs wasn’t unfounded, though. Unlike the domesticated dogs in the United States, dogs in Iraq are mostly wild, and rabies is common. Because of Tripod, the Iraqis often stayed away from that gate. This was a blessing to us, and while we will never know for sure, we believe this may have prevented potential confrontations or attacks at the gate itself.

Hunt for Tripod

But as the old saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished. And unfortunately, it is illegal to keep native pets in combat zones. The base pest and animal control personnel, simply known as “Entomology,” arrived at the gate in search for a snake that was reported to be in the area. While they didn’t find the snake, they found a three-legged dog that shouldn’t be there.

A master sergeant, whose name I never learned and who I never had the opportunity to meet, returned with a shotgun. He was met with hostility, and the area commander ordered that while we cannot interfere with Entomology, they were not allowed to kill the dog in front of the gate personnel. They would have to capture the dog first.

This was an important order to issue. See, one day some Iraqi police threw rocks at Tripod; and before they knew what they were doing, two Americans had weapons aimed at the Iraqi police. There are a few things you should never do, and messing with someone’s dog is generally at the top of that list.

The master sergeant with Entomology was relentless. He set traps, showed up unannounced, and brought top security forces personnel with him. His efforts were thwarted at every attempt. Gate personnel would scare Tripod away, and others that worked with Entomology would tip off the gate when they were on their way.

Escape

These measures were temporary, though, and something had to happen. In my search for a solution, I got in touch with SPCA International, which just happened to have a program in place to bring Iraqi dogs that befriended American forces back to the United States. We were thrilled.

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