In honor of dogs and the military, catch ‘No Dog Left Behind,’ the moving TV documentary about stray dogs in Iraq and the soldiers who love them. These war dogs are often every bit as heroic in their actions and support of soldiers as the highly-trained military working dogs in Seal Team Six. This is the story of service men and women who are willing to do whatever it takes to get their canine comrades home. Operation Baghdad Pups is working to rescue these dogs and reunite them with their service men and women. – Global Animal
No Dog Left Behind is a documentary about the enduring friendships forged in wartime between military men and women and their canine comrades. It is a film that reveals the power of the human-animal bond to comfort, heal, and inspire the best in people in the worst situations; to find their humanity in the midst of dehumanizing conditions. The war in Iraq has seen an unusual number of troops rescuing stray dogs and caring for them, in spite of military prohibitions.
Beyond the risks they have taken to save these animals lives, the soldiers and Marines in our film have also battled enormous odds to arrange their dogs’ safe passage to the United States. They did so without truly realizing how instrumental their dogs would be in helping them adjust to life after wartime and dealing with the losses they suffered during their deployment. As retired Marine Lt. Col. Jay Kopelman says of his rescue dog Lava: “Many times, he’s been my best friend and my only friend.”
Helping these soldiers and scores of others is a tireless and determined animal rescuer who has gone to heroic lengths to set up an under-the-radar network of airlines and contractors, veterinarians and donors working together to bring these animals home. Terri Crisp began Operation Baghdad Pups after receiving an email at her office at SPCA International in 2007, from a soldier named Charlie Watson. Watson was desperate to find a way to get his dog to safety in the U.S. at the end of his deployment, when he knew the dog would be euthanized.
As word spread that SPCA International was mounting a rescue operation, Crisp was inundated with emails before she had any semblance of a plan. Unable to use military planes to fly into Baghdad and without a way to retrieve the animals from the far flung locations where the troops were stationed, Crisp amassed enough money from donations to hire security contractors and to pay private airlines, veterinarians, kennels and trainers to fly the animals via Kuwait to Dulles Airport in D.C., vaccinate and quarantine them and eventually get them into the hands of soldiers’ family members.
“I knew from the beginning that we were breaking the rules,” says Crisp. “But if the men and women who befriended thee animals were willing to take that risk, I was willing to do it too.”
Of the four beloved dogs featured in No Dog Left Behind, two were rescued by Crisp. Shortly after a mangy puppy named Moody was discovered by members of Staff Sergeant Bryan Spears’ company, the unit was told the dog had to go. A few weeks later, five of the soldiers on the team were killed by a suicide bomber. That same night, the dog miraculously returned. For Spears, it was a sign that the friends he’d lost were keeping an eye on the rest of the company. Moody became a lifeline for many of the devastated young soldiers who had never seen death up close.
“We weren’t helping the dog,” says Spears. “The dog came back to help us.”
Air Force Major Jennifer Mann was part of a combat stress team that was working with Army units in western Iraq. One of her teammates brought back a puppy that was to be euthanized unless someone could put it to work. The tiny pup was pressed into service as an unofficial therapy dog. Named Patton, he became a major draw for many troubled soldiers who might not otherwise have come to the clinic for services. And when one of her patients committed suicide, Mann turned to Patton for comfort. “He was a blessing and he came at exactly the right time.”
Major Brian Dennis and Lt. Col. Jay Kopelman were among the many Marines who went to extraordinary lengths, fighting red tape and countless obstacles, to try to bring their dogs home. Both men forged deep emotional connections with animals who are as close to them today as their other battle buddies from the war in Iraq. Of the injured dog who tracked his team seventy miles in the desert and stood by him on every watch, Dennis says: “I became enamored of the idea of Nubs transitioning from the sands of Iraq to the beaches of San Diego, California, and how amazing that would be. He earned it.”
UK soldiers caring for strays in Afghanistan: Soldiers’ Animal Companions Fund
SPCA International program to allow soldiers to bring non-military dogs and cats home: Operation Baghdad Pups
The effects war can have on military dogs: Dog Suffers PTSD After Iraq Duty As Bomb-Sniffer