A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

Battle Buddy Now Therapy Donkey

Smoke settles in at his new home in Nebraska

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

“He was a battle buddy,” said Marine Col. John Folsom, who had brought the donkey home from Iraq. “And you don’t leave your battle buddy behind.”

It took three years, but Folsom has finally fulfilled his pledge to Smoke, the gray donkey who had become his company’s mascot in Iraq.

Smoke’s odyssey began in 2008 when he was found roaming the Marine base at Camp Taqaddum, near Fallujah, Iraq, and became the mascot of the 1st Marine Logistics Group.

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.

But then the Marines were given orders to withdraw from Camp Taqaddum, which meant abandoning their beloved mascot.

The camp’s commandant, Col. Folsom, was not, however, the type to give up on his charges, human or otherwise. Instead, he set out to bring the donkey back to the United States to live near his home in Nebraska, where he could become a mascot and therapy animals for Wounded Warriors Family Support, an organization he had founded in Omaha.

First, though, he had to find out what had happened to Smoke after the Marines withdrew from Fallujah. It turned out he was with a local family who’d been trying unsuccessfully to turn him into a work animal and who agreed to give him up.

The next challenge was getting him out of Iraq. That took four months, and required moving Smoke first to Turkey and then to Germany.

Finally, with the help of SPCA International, Smoke boarded a flight to the United States, landed at JFK in New York, was loaded into a large horse trailer lined with hay and driven to Nebraska by Folsom.

Smoke will live out the rest of his life as a therapy animal with Take Flight Farms, an equine therapy program.

“As soon as we’re comfortable that he’s comfortable, we’ll start putting him with the other horses for therapy sessions,” said Gale Faltin, executive director of Take Flight.

Smoke greets Annie at his new home in Omaha

Smoke was clearly comfortable very quickly. Within a few minutes of stepping out of his trailer, he was trotting over to make friends with Annie, a white mare who lives at the sanctuary.

Soon, he’ll be paying regular visits to the therapy program. It’s something he’s been doing unofficially all along. As soon as he was rescued in Iraq, he started giving the Marines who cared for him something other than the horrors of war to talk about when they contacted their families.

“He was a conversation starter for a lot of the dads when they talked to their kids back home,” Folsom said. “He did a lot of good for us, morale-wise. It’s nice to know he’s going to be well-fed and get great care from now on. If you think about a donkey, they’re humble little creatures. They don’t expect much.”

What you can do: Wounded Warriors Family Support would welcome your support.