“My unit was in the process of relieving another unit from a compound in north Baghdad. As we were taking over, some of my soldiers found three puppies in a shack behind our main building,” Dantzler said.
Two, however, were already dead along with the mother. They were found after a fire fight. The soldiers brought the remaining three back to the compound and started taking care of them.
The unit, but three soldiers in particular, adopted the three pups they called Iram, Blackjack and Pathfinder.
Dantzler and the rest of the unit filled out paperwork designating the three new furry members of the unit as “Force Protection K-9s” so they could legally live on the Army compound.
“Iram and I just got attached to each other,” Dantzler said. “I started keeping him in my room and he would hang out in the Tactical Operations Center and also go on missions with me riding in an MRAP (which stands for a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle).”
Iram’s sister, Blackjack, would also go on missions, but the other sister, Pathfinder, would always get car sick, so the unit usually left her at the compound.
“I hadn’t planned on trying to get any of the dogs back, but we were on a 15-month deployment, so they started to really grow on us,” Dantzler said.
Iram and Dantzler would walk the compound every morning and every evening, checking out the guard towers, the fences and the walls.
Eventually, Iram started to stay in Dantzler’s room on base. After a while, Dantzler also built a little caged area all Iram’s own.
“We just kind of clicked.”
Usually, when a unit leaves, they also transfer any animals on base to the new unit. But this time was different.
“Terri Crisp and Operation Baghdad Pups made the news a few months before we were scheduled to leave, so I contacted her,” Dantzler said.
Their three puppies met all the SPCA-International requirements, so, when I presented the idea to the other soldiers, “we decided to try to get all three back. We were close to the Baghdad International Airport, so we smuggled the dogs there for a few days waiting on Terri and the plane. There was quite a bit of paperwork and sneaking around, but we had some wonderful officers who ‘looked the other way,’ and it was well worth it.”
Eventually, all three found a home in the States. In fact, Iram arrived in Colorado only a day after Dantzler finally returned home after his last deployment.
“These dogs need a job,” Dantzler said.
That’s what everyone is saying about the dogs brought back from Iraq. There seems to be a large pack instinct in them, probably because these stray dogs are usually found in tight packs and maybe also because of the breed. Iram is probably an Anatolian Shepherd.
“He’s an excellent guard dog. He’s my best bud.”
OPERATION BAGHDAD PUPS
Terri Crisp, who brought Iram, Blackjack and Pathfinder home, also wrote a book about her experience in bringing Iraqi pups back to the United States, titled “No Buddy Left Behind.” The book features a picture of David and Iram on the cover.
According to the SPCA International website, Operation Baghdad Pups Program helps U.S. troops safely transport home the companion animals they befriend in the war zone.
Operation Baghdad Pups is a logistically challenging program that helps immensely with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The animals bring comfort to the troops and the troops provide the animals a safe, permanent home. SPCA International receives three to six new requests for help every week from soldiers serving in the Middle East, and their families.
The first step is to fill out an application. Go to the website at http://www.spcai.org/ for more information.
Once your application is received by SPCA International, it will be reviewed by its staff and then they will be contacted by e-mail.