Sunday, May 31, 2009

In Memory of T-wall


T-wall was just a four weeks old when he was found and befriended by the 10th Mountain, 82nd Airborne, a number of contracted DoD dog handlers and several local Iraqi citizens. He was about to be adopted by one of his caregivers and was in queue with Operation Baghdad Pups to be flown to the US when he became ill and died in just a few short days. His friends are heartbroken and miss him dearly.
Please take a moment to remember T-wall.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Top 10 Reasons to Adopt a Black Dog

Black dogs have a very hard time finding homes for a variety of reasons. It's sad but true.

There are many GREAT reason to adopt a black dog!

The Top 10 Reasons to Adopt a Black Dog:

Number Ten - Black dogs are easy to find in the snow.

Number Nine - Owning a black dog makes YOU look thinner!

Number Eight - Black dogs never look dirty.

Number Seven - Black dogs always win at night-time hide and seek games.

Number Six - Black goes with everything so you and your dog will never clash.

Number Five - You can sing AC/DC "Back in Black" to your dog everyday.

Number Four - Black is a formal, elegant, and prestigious color!

Number Three - A black dog will bring you good luck.

Number Two - A black dog is every color of the spectrum and beautiful!

NUMBER ONE - Black dogs are just as loyal and loving as any other color of dog!

Reposted from

My beautiful black dog, Brunswick, adopted from an Oklahoma "No Kill" shelter (except he was on the list to be euthanized as "unadoptable" 'cause he barked alot). His name is taken from the motto for the Canadian Province New Brunswick, which is SPEM REDUXIT which is Latin for "Hope Restored."

Isn't he a beauty?

I just adore him. He is such a great dog and a trusted, true and loyal friend.

Won't you consider giving a home to a beautiful black beauty?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Who would stamp my passport in Baghdad?

When I met Terri in JFK Airport, the first thing I asked her was how my mascots, Fenis, Tanner, Punisher and kitty Simsim were doing. I wanted the most recent news and any backstory that Terri could give me about them. Her answer surprised me. She informed me that I was not bringing these four home at all but I'd be bringing Anthrax, Typhoid and Julian with me. I wasn't sure I'd heard her correctly. How would I get through U.S. customs with anything called Anthrax or Typhoid, even it they were just puppies? Then seeing the devilish grin on her face I realized she wasn't joking.

Our trip from the Kuwait airport to our hotel was uneventful. I was more comfortable inside the car than I had been out in the sandstorm. I was also looking forward to seeing what the city looked like but couldn't see my surroundings as the sandstorm continued. We were more worried about whether the wind would subside in time for our flight to Baghdad that night. I kept my mind off of the concern by listening to Terri catch up with our driver. She knew someone in every place we stopped at each point along the way -- from flight attendants on all the airlines, gate agents, baggage handlers and now our hotel shuttle driver. They all seemed just as eager to share news with their friend that they see every week or so.

We arrived at our hotel, checked in and Terri introduced Charlene and me to several hotel staffers she knows. I wasn't terribly tired from traveling, which surprised me, but I also knew it had gotten to be about 4:00 AM local time. It seemed like we should be asleep. It took another hour or so to settle in and by then I was ready to hit the rack. Sadly Terri delivered the news we could only sleep for about four hours since the paperwork for the mascots would take three to four hours to complete. I wanted to help save these mascots, really I did, but I also love my sleep. Going without it leaves me cranky and whiny. I did my best to be a trooper. After all I was the newbie onboard with this mission to rescue these animals for our boys and girls in the military. I tucked myself in and tried to sleep.

I was jolted awake feeling like I had slept just minutes only to find out that we all had overslept -- by four hours -- it was already noon in Kuwait. We'd have to rush through the paperwork, careful to complete it all and make no mistakes or jeopardize these puppies getting to their new homes in the U.S. We needed to leave for the airport soon in preparation to head to Baghdad.

As I packed up my things, (Why had I brought an entire suitcase anyway? I'd be heading home in just about 8 hours or so.) Terri scurried to get all the necessary forms ready. She then casually commented that, indeed, she would be accompanying me to Baghdad on the flight that night. I was momentarily stunned. Was there ever a question she'd be going with me? Apparently there had been, but she had gotten clearance from the private charter company to go along with me and show me the ropes -- the next time I'd go to Baghdad by myself. I was grateful and decided not to think what it would be like or how the mission would go were I to have gone by myself. Terri has an uncanny ability to smooth things over and overcome obstacles that had proven useful on almost every mission she'd been on. I wasn't sure I'd be able to produce the same results. Fortunately, we didn't need to find out on this trip.

Finally, Terri and I left for the Kuwait airport at about 3:00 PM. Charlene would stay behind with her cell phone and Terri's computer, should anything unexpected arise. I wasn't sure why we were leaving so early for a 7:00 PM flight, but we were going to Baghdad. I didn't ask questions. I focused on where we were going and worried more that I wasn't worried. Terri's daughter had made the trip several times. I felt if Terri would bring her own daughter along, then surely I had nothing to worry about. It wasn't until we got to the airport and I saw the lineup of civilian contractors, that it really hit me where I was headed -- these guys (I don't recall seeing any females in the group) were mostly paramilitary types, wearing their khaki 5-11's and sporting their high and tights, even though they didn't have to. I'm pretty sure it's in their blood to do so.

Boarding the charter was not unlike boarding a domestic flight. We all settled on board for the flight to Baghdad which would take about an hour. The next moment that caused me pause was when I learned we'd fly into Baghdad blacked out -- no lights whatsoever. Looking out the cabin window, I didn't even see the typical flashing beacon at the end of the airplane's wing. It finally hit me -- I was going to Baghdad -- and to get there, I'd likely be flying over dangerous enemy territory. I didn't ask any questions. I thought about it only briefly. I wondered for a brief moment if I was crazy. Then I thought about our soldiers who face the enemy every single day. I put my concerns aside. If they could do it for months, sometimes years at a time, I could do it for an hour. We were to land in Baghdad in just a few more minutes. I wondered if we had to fly in blacked out, what other surprises awaited me?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Getting there was half the fun - well, not really

NOTE: In an effort to catch you up, I'll be entering details of my trip to Baghdad with Operation Bagdhad Pups in segments.

My trip to Baghdad on the surface was largely uneventful. i.e. I made it there and back in one piece. The most difficult parts were (a) packing (I never did get a recommended packing list - What DO you bring with you to Baghdad to escort some pets home?) and (b) the resulting bout with pneumonia I got when I came back - in part one of the reasons I haven't blogged in so long, the others, well I'll save that for another day. My mascots are the story today and the trip was no less than surreal.

Fennis, Tanner, Punisher, and kitty Simsim did not return with me as planned. I was all ready to meet my mascots. I had learned their names, sought out their stories, but it didn't happen that way. But not to worry; these guys were merely delayed by another week after my return. I came back with Typhoid, Anthrax (for real) and Julian.

I met up with Terri and another volunteer, Charlene, at Dulles Airport on Monday February 9. Getting to and waiting at the airport seemed all too routine and that alone was surreal. We spent a few hours waiting for our next flight while we enjoyed people watching. When the Emirates (our airline) flight attendants arrived it seemed they were readying for royalty. As we counted their numbers we bet that there were more of them than of us.

We departed at 11:00 PM EDT, flew almost 12 hours overnight, and landed in Dubai on Tuesday night. I was intrigued at being in another country of such different culture than my own, but sadly only got to see the inside of the airport terminal. After another five-hour layover there, we flew on to Kuwait landing at 2:00 AM on Wednesday, February 11. Being there seemed odd to me, but once I met our ride I realized I was safe. This country had been liberated. As I looked forward to seeing the city, my enthusiasm was dashed since the sandstorm that was building outside had infiltrated the airport terminal. I noticed the local people were all covering their faces. My chest began to tighten, moreso as I realized my asthma medication, which I rarely need, was running low. How did I forget to check my supply before I left home? I worried what I would do if my symptoms worsened. I'd have to cross that bridge when I got to it, so I decided to put it out of my mind. Not losing Terri and Charlene in the low visibility as we made our way to our car was more the pressing concern at the time.

Next: Who would stamp my passport in Baghdad?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Have you met my mascots?

So I think I am all ready to leave for my trip to Baghdad. Packing seemed a little too simple for me to actually have gotten it right. I am quite sure I don't need 1/2 of what I am bringing. After all, two of the nights I'll be gone I will actually be sleeping on a plane. But how bad would it be to be 7000 miles from home and wish you had brought along that favorite shirt or pair of sweatpants?

More importantly, the mascots I'll be bringing back are ready for their trip. That is who this trip is all about anyway. So who are these lucky travel companions of mine? Meet canine companions, Fenis, Tanner, Punisher and kitty Simsim. (I hope to have pictures up on Friday) I'm not worried about my safety in anyway, but I have to say that having a dog named "Punisher" along for the ride is going to let me breathe even easier. Wasn't it Jodie Foster who had been searching in the belly of a plane recently looking for her son and fending off bad guys? I'm sure I could get to Punisher to get his help if I really had to. I digress.

All of my little travel buddies have been vetted and cleared for travel and it looks like all systems are go. I say "looks", since these four mascots are some of the lucky ones. They are safe for the moment and awaiting their transportation to the US. That is not always the case with these unofficial mascots. Being that it's against a military general order for personnel to maintain and transport mascots, it is up to local commanding officers to decide what to do about it. Some mascots are, in fact, rounded up, taken to outlying areas and dropped off, others are poisoned and some even shot. Which ones get the worse deal is up for debate.

So assuming these guys and gals stay safe and under the radar screen, we'll depart Baghdad, through Kuwait, then Amsterdam and then onto Washington DC. Once stateside, my band of international travelers will ultimately live with their soldier mom or dad or their families in four different states across the country. Every mascot that Operation Baghdad Pups brings home already has a family to live with. No one is trying to add to the overpopulation of homeless pets that already exists here. And in the case of, Cinnamon, our mascot who my brother brought home (finally) in 2006, he and his wife have adopted two additional rescues since then. One from the local pound, which is a kill facility and the other was a stray right off the street. Both Pete and Elvis are now living the good life with Miss Cinnamon. So, in my humble opinion, bringing Cinnamon home actually helped two additional dogs get rescued from homelessness.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

All this for a dog?

So you may have heard that I'm flying over to Baghdad next week with Operation Baghdad Pups to help bring the next group of mascots home. I can't wait. Cinnamon was a mascot awaiting travel to the US at one time. Had Operation Baghdad Pups been in existence back then ('06) she would not have gone through the trauma and harrowing experience of being thrown away (7000 miles from home) like trash by the dog handler that was supposed to safely bring her home to her new family. But that's a story for another day.

My travel buddy, Charlene keeps asking if I have any questions. She had lots of them before the first time she went over. I really just want to know if I need to bring my own sleeping bag, sheets, pillow, towels and TP. What did she know about the mission she was going on that I am missing?

Whether I am ready or not, my trip starts in less than a week. I'll be leaving on Monday, February 9 at about 11 PM from JFK. There are several stops along the way, in New York, Dubai and then Kuwait before we actually get to Baghdad. I'm embarrassed to say I did not know where Dubai was until I looked on a map. Even now I'm still not so sure.

And did you know that Dubai is an Emirate? Well I didn’t know that either. Not that it would have mattered since I didn't know what an emirate was either. Well I looked it up and now I'm wondering if an emirate is more like a state, a province or a country. I do see the connection in that it is ruled by an Emir. Catchy how they came up with the term emirate. All that aside, it will take four plane rides in all to get there, four plane rides back and a total of about 80 hours of travel (about 32 actual flight) time. Whew!

ALL THAT FOR A DOG? OR CAT? Who's asking might I ask? And, I have to say that if they have to ask, then I couldn't possibly explain. And yes, there are millions of animals right here in the US that need homes. I know, I know. I get it.

But you may have heard me say it before….you can't help who you fall in love with. And these men and women in uniform have sacrificed for our country and for our freedoms. And they have found comfort in and fallen in love with these mascots. It would be cruel and wrong to expect the soldiers to leave the pups and kitties behind when they all have come to rely on each other for their very survival. Call me melodramatic.

So yes, I am bringing home 3 pups and 1 kitty for our troops. And in case you know someone who was asking "All that for a dog?", pass this along to them. It goes for kitties, too.


From time to time, people tell me, "lighten up, it's just a dog,"
or, "that's a lot of money for just a dog."

They don't understand the distance traveled,
the time spent, or the costs involved for "just a dog."

Some of my proudest moments have come about with "just a dog."

Many hours have passed and my only company was "just a dog,"
but I did not once feel slighted.

Some of my saddest moments have been
brought about by "just a dog,"
and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of "just a dog"
gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day.

If you, too, think it's "just a dog," then you will probably understand
phrases like "just a friend," "just a sunrise," or "just a promise."

"Just a dog" brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust,
and pure unbridled joy.

"Just a dog" brings out the compassion
and patience that make me a better person.

Because of "just a dog", I will rise early,
take long walks and look longingly to the future.

So for me and folks like me, it's not "just a dog"
but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams
of the future, the fond memories of the past,
and the pure joy of the moment.

"Just a dog" brings out what's good in me and diverts
my thoughts away from myself and the worries of the day.

I hope that someday they can understand that it's not "just a dog",
but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being
"just a man or woman."

So the next time you hear the phrase "just a dog"
just smile...
because they "just don't understand."

by Richard Biby

Tulsa, Oklahoma
Contributing Editor VHD

From "The Versatile Hunting Dog"
NAVHDA's Magazine
February 2006

Next time, "Have you met my special cargo?"

Monday, January 19, 2009

I Need a Moment.....

At the risk of stating the obvious, please remember to keep pets indoors during these frigid temperatures. And don't be afraid to report to the proper authorities (police, animal control officer, cruelty hotline, etc.) any situation that you might witness where an animal is in potential danger or is being neglected or abused. We MUST speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

I heard last week about a case where a Toy Poodle had been left in someone's car at the airport while they were away on an extended trip. I hadn't seen or read anything about it on the news so I googled the story and here is what I found.

"Michou -- a 12-year old poodle -- had been left in a car for 19 days in the frigid cold at Burlington International Airport without food or water. He had lost more than half of his body weight. A passerby noticed Michou and called police."

If you read the whole story, Michou's owner claims he "forgot that the dog was in the car" when he left on his trip. HUUULLLLOOOO, Michou's owner! REALLY?

The guy drove two hours to the airport and would be gone for almost three weeks. How in the world does someone leave on an extended trip, not make arrangements for their dog to be cared for while they are away and then forget that he is in the car with them while they gather their bags?

Personally, I can't make heads or tails of it. So in order to maintain my sanity, I have to look toward using this careless act to help save other animals. I have wondered ever since I heard the story, how many people must have passed by the car with poor, helpless Michou starving inside and didn't give him a second thought. He was in an airport parking garage afterall. Someone was surely just picking up an arriving passenger and would be back shortly. The circumstances, however, were most unfortunate for little Michou.

Michou was extremely lucky as one passerby finally noticed him 19 days after he was left by his owner and she called the police. Due to the caring act of this stranger, Michou was rescued by police, given proper medical attention and survived. The next fur-baby might not be so lucky.

So please take a moment. If you see an animal locked in a car when it is too hot or too cold call the authorities. It is better to risk being wrong about the situation than to risk the dog's or cat's life if you do nothing. It only takes a moment. You can make a difference. And isn't that exactly why we are here?

"Saving one animal will not change the world, but surely the world will change for that one animal."