Dogs and cats have always been a great source of comfort for soldiers.
Sgt. Stubby, the terrier mutt, alerted soldiers to poison gas and incoming artillery shells during World War I. Tiddles the cat was on several British ships, logging more than 30,000 miles at sea during his career. Both animals retired to a home with a service member.
Nowadays, it's more common than ever for troops to bring home pets adopted while deployed. In fact, a Delawarean in Afghanistan is raising money to bring home his buddy, Sully the cat.
When Dan Met Sully
Staff Sgt. Dan Brissey is on his fourth overseas tour as part of the National Guard. He started in the military later in life than most. When he joined in 2000, at age 31, he was one of the oldest in his basic training class. He spent a year working at the Pentagon as a military policeman immediately following 9/11.
Now 50, all of Brissey's children are grown and he's coming up on retirement. Following deployment, in January, he'll return to his wife and home in Seaford, Delaware.
Brissey is stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan's capital and largest city, working as an engineer at a construction site. He noticed an orange kitten one day in a corner of the compound.
"I immediately recognized her as part of a litter of four I had seen around. She was the only one that made it," he said.
While stray cats are plentiful in Kabul and around Brissey's compound, many of them avoid humans.
"I know from experience that a lot of these kittens are feral. I'm never able to get close to them," he said. "But I'm an animal lover and, if I see a kitten, I want to pet a kitten. So I got down on my knees, and she crawled right up to me and put her paw on my leg."
Brissey became pretty attached to the cat he called Sully. He couldn't leave her in Afghanistan, so he started trying to make arrangements to get her to Seaford.
Saving War Dogs and Cats
Nowzad is the only animal rescue in Afghanistan, as far as its founder, Pen Farthing, knows. Since the nonprofit's 2007 founding, Farthing and his volunteers have assisted more than 1,000 service members in transporting their front-line pets back home.
The name comes from the small Afghan town of Now Zad, where Farthing himself once served in the British military. It was there that he broke up a dog fight and became fast friends with one of the dogs, which he called Nowzad. He later learned the words translated to "newborn," and thought it a fitting name for the first animal rescue of its kind in Afghanistan.
Nowzad operates a small clinic and shelter in Kabul, where there are about 140 dogs and 40 cats.
"There has been no form of stray animal control in Afghanistan now for nearly 40 years, because of various ongoing conflicts," Farthing said. "There are stray dogs on every single street corner."
Farthing lives in Kabul for much of the year and picked up Sully himself to take her to the clinic.
"Our senior vet, he's there every day. He looks after her and gives her cuddles," he said. "As soon as funding is raised, Sully will be headed to the U.S."
Funding is Nowzad's biggest challenge. To get a cat to the U.S., it generally costs $3,500; for a dog, it costs up to $5,000.
"It sounds like, and it is, a horrendous amount of money. Airlines charge a premium, unfortunately. They don't give any discounts," Farthing said. "But when you think about a soldier that's been on the front lines for years, away from family and friends, that animal has probably been one of the only positive things throughout the whole process."
The price tag does, however, provide a sort of screening.
"We don't want to send animals back to the U.S. that aren't going to be cared for, so we ask the soldiers to make a financial commitment through fundraising," said Farthing.
Brissey is fully onboard for the fundraising. As of Dec. 2, his Fundrazr.com account had surpassed his $3,000 goal.
The hardened soldier turns into a pile of mush when he talks about Sully.
"Have you seen a picture of her? She's just adorable," he said.
He recently got an update on Sully from the Nowzad clinic.
"She's about three months old now. She's doing really good. They vaccinated her, and she'll get spayed at the clinic too," Brissey said. "I just want to do what I can for her. Take care of her and give her a good home."
This article was written by Shannon McNaught from Dover Post, Del. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.