A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

Stray Dogs of War Take a Bow

Animals in War

When Animals Are Drafted
For 5,000 years they’ve been fighting our wars with us

War Horses – the Engines of Battle
A brief timeline of “the supreme animals of war”

For Kittens of War, Marines are Heroes
Rescued from the firing, now living happily ever after

All Creatures Great and Small
Elephants and pigeons on the battlefield

When Soldiers Deploy
What happens to their pets?

The 80th Commando
The dog who went after Osama bin Laden

Animal Soldiers Go Hi-Tech
Dolphins and bats as conscripts in war

Battle Buddy Now Therapy Donkey
Smoke settles in at his new home in Nebraska

Warrior Dog Gets Stem Cell Therapy
Basco’s hip healed from arthritis

Animals, Conspiracies and ‘The Avengers’
Testing out our weapons of war

Should We Be Testing Weapons of War on Animals?
Behind the scenes at secret laboratories

Stray Dogs of War Take a Bow
A special appearance at a prestigious dog show

The Most Decorated Dog
Sgt. Stubby – a World War I hero

The Lion of Afghanistan
How the King of Beasts became a sacrificial victim in a world gone astray

At first, Pen Farthing thought it was a joke. An e-mail from the U.K.’s prestigious dog show, Cruft’s, inviting his dog Nowzad to make a special appearance.

Pen had rescued the dog from a fighting ring in the dangerous, outlaw province of Helmand, Afghanistan. From the fighting ring to the show ring — it was almost unimaginable.

During a patrol in the alleyways of the small town of Now Zad, he’d heard a small crowd cheering. It was a dogfight.

“More than three years on, I can still recall the sound of snapping teeth as this dog and a larger one did battle,” says Pen. “Most of all, I can hear the jeering Afghan police egging them on. It hadn’t been sensible, but I had barged in to break up the fight. Well, we did have bigger guns.”

Pen put up a small shelter for Nowzad, as he’d named the dog. It was the start of something bigger. “We ended up with five stray adults and 14 puppies.” One of them, a desperately thin mother dog, had crawled in under the fence with a puppy. She then crawled back out and brought four more in, one at a time. Pen called her Tali, short for Taliban. (“Who else but the Taliban would attempt to crawl in under our gate? She was a survivor.”)

Then he called his wife, Lisa, and they decided to adopt Nowzad and Tali so Pen could bring them back to his home in England.

The dogs had to spend six months in quarantine, but then went to live with Pen and Lisa on the south coast of England. Pen admits they’re a handful.

“Each time I took a muzzled Nowzad out, I had visions of what would happen if he broke free. With the approach of a loose dog, I would see the hackles on his spine rise in anticipation as he thrashed on his lead. Although he came across as ferocious, Nowzad was just confused and frightened. The aggression was a means of defense from everything he didn’t understand. Unfortunately, that was most things.”

He and Tali are also couch potatoes.

“I came downstairs one day to find him snuggled up in a pile of Lisa’s underwear that he had carefully carried to his bed from a radiator drying rack. For two dogs who had survived freezing Afghan winters, Nowzad and Tali were getting very used to home comforts. Getting them out into the garden first thing in the morning was a nightmare. They would last about five seconds before bolting back to the warmth.”

By now, Pen and Lisa had started a charity for dogs rescued in Afghanistan, and had written their first book. The second, No Place Like Home, has just been published. (You’ll find it on Pen’s website.)

The Nowzad Dogs charity quickly became the best — basically the only — source of information about the strays of Afghanistan. Pen and Lisa were soon coordinating dozens of rescues for British and European soldiers.

One of these involved a puppy rescued by Dutch marines and christened Fubar. The marines found her alone and freezing when they were out on patrol. They took her into their compound and looked after her, but knew they would not be able to take her when they moved bases. So they asked their families to find a way to bring Fubar back to Europe – and eventually they discovered Nowzad Dogs. Fubar was taken to a rescue center in Afghanistan and now lives in Holland.

Pen and Lisa enrolled Nowzad and Tali in a special training and behavior course for their appearance at the Cruft’s Show.

“What were the two of them going to be like wandering through the packed exhibition halls of the largest dog show on Earth?” wondered Pen. “It dawned on me that Nowzad might have flashbacks. The spectators could remind him of a dogfight.” After all, he might be cheered as he entered the show ring. And the last cheering he’d heard was when he was fighting for his life the shabby fighting ring in Afghanistan.

Lisa was more worried that Nowzad might break loose and go after another dog.

“I can’t wait to see him eating someone on live TV,” she joked.

Cruft’s rivals the Westminster Dog Show in New York, with all manner of fluffy, froofy, purebreds who’d been trained for years to show off. Nowzad had been trained for something slightly different!

As it turned out, Nowzad kept his cool and was completely unflustered as the crowd cheered when Pen, holding Nowzad, and Lisa, with Tali, stepped into the arena.

“As we walked, I marveled at the absurdity of the situation,” said Pen. “Here I was, a serving member of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, running around in front of a huge audience at this world-famous show with a fighting dog that, until just recently, had lived in one of the most Godforsaken corners of the world. I couldn’t help but grin like an idiot.”

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