Operation Shaggy Dog- From Afghanistan to the U.S.A
This is the amazing rescue story of a dog named Tor, who traveled thousands of miles from war-torn Afghanistan to a better life in the United States – thanks to a network of friends – including Stray Rescue. The story is told by his new Dad still fighting the war and is stationed in Afghanistan.
I’ve been to 47 countries now and have seen thousands of stray dogs. But something seems very different about the ones here. Most look very similar. I went online and found that they are a breed native to Afghanistan -- Sage Kooche.I’ve never heard of them before and now that I have, I know I will never be able to forget them. I am a Rhodesian ridgeback kind of guy; they share characteristics and traits that I love in my best friends -- big, powerful, proud, smart, loyal, athletic and compassionate.
The Koochee tribes are the Nomads of Afghanistan. They live in extremely harsh conditions in the mountains and deserts, and they live a very Spartan life. They also are the only people in the country who have and keep dogs. Outside of the farms and the Nomads, the dogs are all strays or are used for fighting, which is unfortunately very popular in Afghanistan.
Tor in Afghanistan
It’s heartbreaking to know that most male dogs will almost certainly fight and subsequently be killed or put down. The breed is 5,000 years old, and one of the few left that has not been altered by man but developed by its work and environment. The Nomads needed an independent dog that would guard livestock and their property when they traveled. This breed possesses unmatched stamina, courage and strength, but at the same time is extremely intelligent, trustworthy and independent. They operate without any special guidance or training.They display unwavering character, a strong sense of pride, demonstrate outstanding tenacity and perseverance, and unrivalled strength and agility. They can be extremely friendly and affectionate and form deep, emotional bonds with their pack.
If things go my way you will all hopefully get a chance to meet an Afghani Koochee named Torfahn “Tor” Schroeder. For those who are wondering, Torfahn is Dari and Pashtu for “big storm,” almost like a typhoon. One of our interpreters helped me to pick it out.
Tor’s litter was born near the compound early in December 2009. Because most dogs and puppies virtually have no future, the thought of rescuing at least one was weighing heavy on my mind.I didn’t know how I was going to get one out of country, but I decided to save a little white pup that most closely resembled his father, Dusty.
Keeping any dog, much less a puppy, is extremely challenging in a war. Tor turned out to be one of the most trainable dogs I’ve ever encountered. Within a day he was fully potty trained. I knew that my ability to hide Tor would be very limited, and didn’t want to get in trouble for having him and eventually have him taken away from me.
Getting Tor out of Afghanistan proved extremely challenging to say the least. He needed a travel kennel. He needed shots and flight certificates. He needed to be transported inconspicuously to the airport. He needed a ticket. Shipments out of Afghanistan were being more closely scrutinized. Time was critical – and we encountered difficulties at every turn in our effort to get Tor to the states.
After weeks of running into roadblocks, I called Laura and I broke down. I’d grown to love Tor so much over the weeks and just couldn’t imagine a day without him or the possibility of him being put down. Laura, as she always does, helped me to deal with my despair and sprung into action.
Laura talked to her friend Andi, but unbeknownst to Laura, Andi had contacted Randy Grim and Rich Crook, two people I had no idea existed.After conversing by e-mail, I found out who these guys were by surfing the Web. These are some very special individuals and they’ve done some absolutely amazing things. My spirits picked up, but I know Afghanistan is an anomaly and nothing goes as it’s supposed to.
One of countless e-mails received in the ensuing weeks really lifted my spirits. It was from Carey Neesley. Rich Crook had helped facilitate the rescue of two dogs that her brother, Sgt. Peter Neesley, had befriended prior to his tragic passing two years ago in Iraq. Carey said she would do anything to help us.
Randy and Rich contacted people they knew in the Middle East; several yielded no results. Aymen Murrani, a friend of Carey’s and Rich’s whose family used to run the Baghdad Zoo, had relatives who run a vet office in Dubai who offered to help. Eventually, we found out an airline that would fly Tor unaccompanied from Kabul to Dubai, and all we had to do was find someone to fly to Dubai and try and figure out how to pay for this whole international rescue. I concluded that sometimes it’s not what you can do for others; sometimes it is important for others to be able to do their thing, for them to be able to wade in on your behalf. At that moment I started to follow the flow of help from a group of amazing people.
Randy offered immediate and unconditional help. I was so deeply touched, but it also kills me to think that we’d be taking away monetary resources from the dogs that he is helping on a daily basis. I know that Laura and I will repay Stray Rescue by continuing our lifelong commitment to rescuing and helping dogs in need.
Laura made arrangements with a broker and kennel in Dubai to ensure a safe transfer from one aircraft to another. Carey would fly from Detroit to Dubai and back. Laura contacted SAFI Airlines to arrange Tor’s unaccompanied flight from Kabul to Dubai. As we made Tor’s last combat run to the Kabul International Airport, I couldn’t believe this rescue really was going to happen.
But there were more glitches – and a surprise. We agonizingly made it through checkpoints, X-ray and metal detectors. In trying to find the SAFI counter, we ran into a couple who told us about a big dog that had come through the airport a couple of days earlier. Turns out it was Tor’s dad Dusty, who now is in quarantine in London, but better days are ahead for him. There were many more delays and anxious moments. When the time arrived to load Tor on the plane, I opened the kennel door and whispered to Tor to give his new mama my love and to take care of her until I return. I leaned in and he gave me a kiss on the nose.
When word arrived that Carey and Tor were on the ground, I was so ecstatic. Laura sent me a picture from her cell phone, and my heart skipped a beat seeing Tor in my baby’s arms in Detroit.
All of you who helped rescue Tor epitomize what I in Afghanistan fighting for. American values are the foundation of what is so great and wonderful about our country. I am in awe of people like Randy Grim, Rich Crook, Andi Karcher, Carey Neesley and others. I’m also in awe of Carey’s brother Peter, who died in service to his country to ensure freedom for people he didn’t even know. Your love and compassion are unmatched. I am forever grateful and in debt to you. I feel my family has grown to include you all. I look forward to Tor being a member of the Schroeder family for years to come. I’m sure we will have many adventures to talk about, but none likely will be as crazy or exciting as this one!
Tor, welcome to America! Stray Rescue is proud to be part of your journey.