Thursday, December 10, 2009

A home for the holidays...

Today I returned my foster cat Salem to the MSPCA. He lived with me for a month, recuperating from conjunctivitis and limited use of his back legs as well as a possible sore front leg. Yeah, I didn't know cats could get pink eye either...

Personally I think my wily little former stray concocted all those maladies just to get a vacation from the shelter. Once home, he was our little dustbuster, zooming around the room, exposing me for the pathetic housekeeper I am. I adored having the little guy, and I was a little sad giving him back.

So you'll have to indulge me for today's spate of stories on adopted animals. ABC News ran several connected stories on dogs found in Iraq and turned into soldiers' pets as well as working military dogs who've retired to the good life. They tugged at my already soft heart.

In the first story, Major Brian Dennis socialized a former alpha from a pack of desert dogs during daily missions out and about looking for insurgents. After a few months of coddling and reaching out, Dennis' unit was moved away from the area. Nubs, earning the moniker for his cropped ears, wandered 70 miles in below-freezing conditions to find his way to Dennis' new area of operations. That journey spurred the 36 year-old Marine to contact friends and family to raise the money needed to send Nubs to the States. His family stepped up, and once Dennis finishes his current tour, he will return home to his best friend.

The 101st Airborne, 159th Aviation Brigade found a newborn puppy in the midst of an Afghan battlefield, and despite military rules, brought her home to the base with them. Ally did physical training and stood in formation with them. Army Cpl. Michael Lemmons emailed his mom, who brought her home to the US two weeks before Lemmons and his comrades came home.

ABC News' story about retired bomb-sniffing dogs caught my attention because my uncle, a retired state trooper, adopted a former police dog after the dog retired. I hadn't realized the military used dogs in the same way police officers do. Compared to Navy SEALs, "war dogs" sniff for bombs and tackle militants in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are the first line of attack when clearing out houses suspected of harboring terrorists. These are high stress jobs, even for animals, and in the past, war dogs were euthanized after retiring. Now, a new program helps adopt out the dogs which have been tested to be able to fit into civilian life.

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