Smoke the donkey, rescued by marines serving in Iraq, has finally arrived in the United States and is on his way to his new home.
It all began when the donkey was found roaming the Marine base at Camp Taqaddum, near Fallujah, Iraq, in 2008. Military rules prevented the donkey from being kept as a pet, but Colonel John Folsom applied for Smoke, as he became known, to be a working animal, and a Navy lieutenant said that he could be classified as a therapy animal.
Soon after, however, the Marines had to withdraw from Camp Taqaddum, and Smoke, the company’s mascot had to be left behind. Folsom never gave up on him, though, and has been working ever since to bring the donkey to live near his home in Nebraska.
With the help of the SPCA International’s Operation Baghdad Pups, he arranged for Smoke to be flown back to the United States.
First, however, he had to find the donkey. A local sheik who works with U.S. forces told the Marines that a local family was trying to make Smoke into a work animal, but would give him up for $30,000. 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.
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, yesterday, Smoke’s 6,000-mile journey around the world ended when he landed in New York. After a brief quarantine and vet check, he’ll soon be headed out to Folsom’s home in Omaha, Neb.
Folsom, now retired, is planning for Smoke to 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.
Mascot Donkey Home from the War