Knuckles came to us in March 2012. He had a fantastic story to tell which we have published below in his own words!
“I will skip some of the gory details, like why my ears look the way they do. I will also change the names to protect the brave heroes that took great risks to get me to where I am at now; the NOWZAD rescue, waiting for my VISA to the USA.
I was probably only two months old when the Afghan Border Police brought me into the partnered Combat outpost. They tied me up under their guard tower for what turned into hours and then days. The water they would put out for me would freeze throughout the frigid night. My leash was too short to wander very far. Finally after days of lying in my own excrement and freezing cold, and hungry, I began to cry and wail. None of my Afghan owners would come to my aid. The sun was just coming up when I suddenly heard someone scaling the HESCO barrier, and then suddenly two men jumped down and began examining me. One of them immediately began fetching me water; he was a rather short man and the other one very tall always referred to him (the short one) as “Doc”. I assume he must have some special skill as people from all around would always come to him for different types of ailments and pains. The tall one took notice of my paws grabbing them very brutishly pulling them close for examination; he immediately noticed that I have rear dew claws. He explained to Doc that these are equivalent to human thumbs, however they don’t work very well so they are typically removed back in the states. This is when he started calling me “Knuckles” because of my thumbs! I must say he was right; my thumbs don’t work well at all, serving only to get caught and hung up in things, I am still forced to pick things up with my mouth.
After my rescuer’s got my water and cleaned up the mess I made, they disappeared for a few moments. I could hear them talking to my Afghan owners, the tall one and a man named Selab soon returned and took me off my leash; they were very stern and told me to not wander off the camp. My new found freedom was very intimidating. The camp was filled with several men called Marines. Their language was foul and they were always yelling. I noticed they were much regimented, they would wake very early and shave, brush their teeth and then eat or as they say “chow”. And when they ate I ate, and boy did I eat! These guys were always handing out scraps! Then most of them would disappear for the day and return around night fall and they would eat again! This was turning out great!
As the weeks went by I grew very comfortable around these “Marines” and began to wonder what they were doing all day and night when they would leave the camp. I started to attend all their mission briefs. I quickly found out these guy’s had high expectations and a low tolerance for bull shit. In fact their company motto is “If you can’t Rock-n-Roll, don’t ******* Come”. I needed to prove to these guys that I could rock-n-roll!
I was nervous about my first patrol. We stepped off early in the a.m. after we filled our bellies with morning chow. We began walking, and walking and more walking. These guys would walk for hours going through villages talking to everybody, drinking chai and handing out snacks to all the kids! These Marines are very liberal with their chow, this I like!
I went on several patrols, they were always people to see and chai to drink. We would cross several canals filled with water. The Marines would attempt to jump these canals but with all their gear it was challenging at best. If a Marine did not make it and fell in all the other Marines would laugh loudly and berate the Marine with insults. For some reason they loved this activity. In fact they have a name for it, “busting balls”. I on the other hand would never jump the canals; I would jump in them and cool off or go for a little swim
I had several patrols logged in and was becoming very comfortable, or as the Marines say complacent. They say complacency kills. I would soon learn a valuable lesson in this. A new Lt, showed up in the camp and wanted to go to a village and talk to an Elder. I of course jumped on the patrol because the tall one and Selab were going. As the Marines approached the village I stayed on the out skirts. The village has very large aggressive dogs that hate me. While the Marines went about their business I jumped in a canal and began to swim, it was such fun I lost track of time. I noticed the sun was going down, I also noticed the Marines were gone!
I panicked at first and yelled a few times. I remembered in the patrol brief the lost Marine plan, and to remain in place. I quickly found a place that provided some concealment. Hours past when I first saw what appeared to be a Marine, I quickly sprinted towards him only to find out it was a Villager!!! Yikes, he had a rope and tied me up. I could not believe what happened! I blew it! Complacency kills. The Marines have a name for my predicament; they call it “Jeckyled”. I was jeckyled!
Several days passed, I was very weak and dehydrated. My captors did not provide me with much water. I had no food. I was losing hope. I could not chew the rope off to escape. I was ashamed that I got myself Jeckyled. I knew the Marines where planning a big operation and were due to leave the area for several days. There was no hope.
The next day came, my stomach ached it was so empty. My mouth was so dry you could knit a sweater. As I was lying there I thought I heard a familiar voice. Several minutes passed and I heard it again. I tried to sit, and then I smelled it! MARINES! The Marines, one of which they referred as Gulab, came to the last place I was at. They executed the missing Marine plan, they came to rescue me. What I did not know was all along they were planning operation “Knuckles”. When we arrived back to the Combat out Post, the Tall One, Commander Selab, Jon Mohammed, and another named Sharif were at the gate and guess what they had? Snacks, cold triple distilled water and bacon strips my favourite. Lesson learned!
The Marines left for their operation and returned several days later. They had constructed a fire pit and every night after evening chow the Marines and all my friends, Commander Selab, Sharif, Gulab, Jon Mohammed, and the Tall One would sit around the fire and bust balls and tell war stories. But they mostly talked about backhauling gear and retrograding stuff because the war was over. I wondered what this meant for me. Soon the Marines would be gone.
Little did I know the Marines where hatching a plan to get me to the US. It was very difficult to understand what the Marines where saying because they are always stressing about operational security, or as they say “OPSEC”. To accomplish this they talk in brevity. They made mention the contact at NOWZAD and they started to refer to me as the “package”, and talking to Sharif’s “fixers” and drivers and coordinating all the logistics. Moving me over lines of communication was going to be tuff, they called this movement the “underground railroad”. I had no idea what they were talking about but it sounded like one hell of an adventure and I was all in!
Several weeks passed, and then one day the Tall One was putting a collar on me. Everyone gathered and began to take photos. He also had a bag of chow and a whole case of water. I knew what was happening, I was getting ready to travel on the “underground railroad”. The Marines walked me to the gate. There a car and several men stood and they were intimidating, and sketchy. They all talked for several minutes, I could tell the Marines were very nervous, which is not normal for them. Then finally the tall guy bent over to pick me up to load me into the car. I don’t know what came over me but as soon as the tall guy bent over I began to scream and cry, louder than I ever have! Even louder than when my damn dew claw gets stuck in the black matting and the tall guy has to get me unstuck! I was embarrassed and ashamed of my behaviour but I did not want to get in that car. The Tall One stuffed me in there and off I went. I stared at Commander Selab, the Tall One, Gulab and Sharif as we drove off and the Combat Outpost disappeared.”
Knuckles finally did arrive safely at the Nowzad shelter after an incredibly long and hard journey from Southern Afghanistan and we were able to send him home to one of those soldiers in April 2012.