Petty Officer Zachary Henning was happy to be back home after a tour of duty in Afghanistan, but didn’t feel like it was a true homecoming until Gus, the stray dog that stayed by his side during his deployment, arrived in the U.S. to be with him. Gus is just one of 200 homeless dogs soldiers have been able to bring back as family pets, thanks to help from a group called Nowzad Dogs.
For five years, Nowzad has survived against all odds rescuing stray dogs and cats from appalling conditions in Afghanistan and aiding soldiers from the U.S., Britain and other countries in adopting an animal they have grown to love during their deployment. Nearly every non-military dog that has been shipped home to a soldier, has spent time at the Nowzad shelter, which is the first ever animal shelter in Afghanistan.
Now the shelter is at-risk of becoming homeless as officials in Kabul have given them until July to “fund and build a new shelter” or close their doors. The 90 animals in their care will be sentenced to life on the Afghan streets, if help doesn’t come.
Nowzad was founded by Pen Farthing while he was a Sergeant in the Royal Marine’s stationed in Afghanistan in 2006. His job was to “provide stability for the local people,” but he quickly realized that “it wasn’t only the local people that needed help.”
“When we first arrived in the town of Now Zad I broke up a dog fight that was taking place right outside our remote compound. What I didn’t know was that one of those fighting dogs would then befriend me! I couldn’t say no to those big sad eyes, the now very former fighting dog, became my buddy and found himself a name – Nowzad,” said Farthing.
Soon Farthing found himself looking after two more dogs named RPG and Jena. Both were very malnourished strays that would not have survived the approaching Afghan winter without help.
Then a female called Tali and her 6 puppies crawled under a gate to find shelter and an injured dog named AK tagged along.
Farthing and two other marines built modest dog runs for the pack, so they could get out of the cold. They fed the dogs left over military rations.
In the spring, Farthing decided to get the dogs to a better life and located a rescue group in the far northern part of the country. The long journey was tainted with sadness as their vehicle was stopped at Taliban road blocks. RPG and AK escaped when the car door was left open and one of the puppies was stolen, but the other dogs arrived safely.
Jena was adopted to a family in the U.S. while Nowzad and Tali joined Farthing and his wife in the UK.
Once home, the Nowzad dogs became quite famous and Farthing realized he had to continue efforts to save the animals in Afghanistan. The charity was formed in May 2007 and has continued to rescue stray cats, dogs and donkeys.
Photo Credit: NowzadDogs