The dog rescue that started it all!
Pen takes up the story….”When we first arrived in the town of ‘Now Zad’ in Helmand Province in 2006 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 was given a name – Nowzad“
Soon the first ever dog warden of Now Zad, Sgt Pen Farthing, was looking after two more dogs “RPG” and “Jena”, strays that were very under nourished and didn’t look like they would survive the onslaught of the Afghan winter.
Unbelievably they then gained “Tali” who crept in under the gate carrying 6 little puppies followed by an injured “AK” bringing up the rear. And then to complicate matters “Jena” had 8 puppies as well – life was just a little busy at the best of times in the compound that the Royal Marines called home for nearly three months in the Afghan desert.
In a quiet corner of the base Pen and two fellow Marines Dave & John built the dogs a modest dog run of sorts and for the dogs added safety they added on a mortar shelter to hide in, which luckily also provided some warmth during the extreme winter nights.
The dogs went from scavenging food one day to eating two decent meals a day courtesy of the left over military rations that the Royal Marines didn’t eat!
Pen had already decided that he was going to try and get the dogs to a better life. He managed to track down an animal loving journalist in Kabul, the Afghan capital over 700 miles of the remote base the dogs were currently living in.
The number one problem was how Pen would transport the dogs to Kabul when the military would not allow the use of any assets to do so.
As Pen explains “So the difficult task of persuading a local Afghanistan driver to take the dogs all the way to the rescue in the north – a journey of several days – began. Eventually we found a taxi that would take the dogs some of the way to Lashkar Gar and then they would be exchanged with another driver for the journey to Kandahar and then swapped again into another vehicle for the drive to Kabul. We had a few issues with this as we knew that the vehicles would be stopped by the Taliban at road blocks and for that reason the driver wouldn’t let us put the dogs in cages, (a very British thing to do – definitely not an Afghan method of transporting dogs), so we had to tie the dogs up with rope and put the puppies into small crates, (Jena’s puppies went into an old bird cage!), not something we were entirely comfortable with. I knew if the vehicle doors were opened without the driver paying attention then there was a chance one or two of the dogs would escape……“
When the vehicle left for the epic journey carrying the dogs of Now Zad that had been, for the last three months, a source of comfort for some of the lads, giving them a sense of achieving something positive, the feeling of whether the Royal Marines had done the right thing was at the front of their minds.
Not knowing what would happen to the dogs next was only slightly comforted by the fact that if they had left the dogs in Now Zad then, death would probably come sooner rather than later from starvation or cold. They might even have succumbed to one of the frequent attacks by the Taliban.
Travelling to the rescue had at least given the dogs a shot at a safe and cared for life. It was something the Royal Marines were willing to risk.
Several day later Pen managed to find out that Tali, Jena and Nowzad and 13 of the 14 puppies had made it to Kabul. RPG and AK had escaped when the car door was left open. 1 of the puppies had been stolen.
The Marines’ celebrations were tainted with sadness. They had no idea where RPG and AK had escaped and there was no way they could go looking for them.
After several months of fundraising and paperwork plus six months of quarantine; Nowzad and & Tali came to live with Pen in England. Those two dogs that gave the Royal Marines of Now Zad companionship during a difficult tour of duty were the incentive for the Nowzad charity to be born.
You can read their amazing ‘tail’ in full by purchasing a copy of One Dog at a Time here.