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Mascot Donkey Home from the War

Smoke is ready to board a flight from Iraq

Smoke the donkey at Camp Taqaddum in Iraq

Smoke the donkey, the former mascot for 1st Marine Logistics Group in Iraq, will soon have a new job in the United States.

Marines had been forced to abandon their beloved Iraqi-born mascot when they withdrew from Camp Taqaddum, near Fallujah, more than two years ago.

Smoke may be going to work at Wounded Warrior Family Support in Omaha as a therapy animal for children.

But the camp’s former commandant, retired Col. John Folsom, has been hard at work to bring the donkey to live near his home in Nebraska.

With the help of the SPCA International’s “Operation Baghdad Pups,” Smoke is expected to hop a flight out of Arbil, Iraq, in the next week or two.

Smoke became the Marine group’s mascot after a sergeant found him roaming the base and tied him up outside Folsom’s tent. Military rules prevent soldiers from keeping pets in war zones, but there are always workarounds. In this case, a Navy lieutenant said that Smoke could be classified as a therapy animal.

The Marines named the donkey for his grey color and his affinity for cigarettes. (Chewing them up, that is!) But they had to leave him behind when their group was moved to a new location.

Finding the donkey again was no small feat. A local sheik who works with U.S. forces said that a local family was trying to make Smoke into a work animal, but would give him up for $30,000. Col. Folsom said that was out of the question, and the family, faced with having to pay to feed an animal they didn’t really want, eventually gave up Smoke at no charge.

Folsom hopes Smoke can work at Wounded Warrior Family Support in Omaha as a therapy animal for children. The non-profit organization, founded by the colonel, works to help the families of killed and wounded service members.