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?"