Getting a dog out of Iraq is harder than it might sound, though. There were few operating airports, and the country was generally considered to be unsafe to travel through. Not only that, but locals generally don’t like dogs. To top it off, there was a constant threat to Tripod’s life by our own forces.
Our first step was to get her vaccinated for rabies. Easy enough, right? Except that it was illegal for military veterinarians to provide any assistance to native dogs. As if from above, though, a local veterinarian, perhaps the only one in the city, just happened to stop by the base one day.
The veterinarian visited another gate, and they thought it might be useful to get his contact information. We were able to contact him, and he graciously offered to provide the vaccine for Tripod. When he came with the vaccine, though, Tripod was nowhere to be found. With an imminent threat of danger, she started roaming during the day and coming back at night. Luckily, the veterinarian left us with the vaccine.
One of our own reluctantly volunteered to administer the vaccine, and it was a relief. Coordinating her exit from the base was proving to be hard, but we knew that she would at least be safe from rabies for a time.
As days seemed to last forever, we were finally able to coordinate her departure from the base. The details were kept secret, and only I knew of their exact time and date. The day before her extraction, I told my supervisor that I might be late the next day. He knew what that meant.
I arrived at the gate several hours before Tripod was scheduled to be picked up. I was worried that she would run off again, and we only had one chance to get her out. To our relief, her transportation arrived. A private security detail, three armored vehicles with heavily armed men, came to pick up Tripod and three other dogs in the region.
The battle was finally over, and Tripod was safe.
Life in the United States
Tripod endured an incredibly long journey through the Middle East, finally arriving in Washington, D.C., where she stayed for two weeks in the care of SPCA International. From there, she flew to Phoenix, where she lived with an amazing dog sitter until we returned from Iraq.
When I returned from Iraq, I kept Tripod for several months. At the time, though, I wasn’t able to afford a dog that needed space to run and bark. She was adopted through an adoption agency, and while I’ve never had the courage to find out where she went, I pray she continues to be happy and enjoy her life as an American.
After returning from Iraq, it was determined that more than 80 people on the base contributed to Tripod’s safety after Entomology started hunting her.
Thousands of dogs have made it to the United States safely, thanks primarily to SPCA International. But thousands did not. While wild animals pose a significant threat to American forces, their effect on morale and security should also be taken into account. There are many amazing stories of these native dogs fighting side by side with American forces and impacting their lives forever. Let us not forget these incredible four-, or three-legged, friends.
Andrew Edtl works in the retail industry and serves in the Utah Air National Guard. He holds a degree in business management from Western Governors University and is an MBA candidate at Westminster College. He is married and has two children.
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