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Category Archives: dog

Knock knock…

June 2011 brought a wonderful surprise.

Once a year the PDSA announce awards for animals who have achieved outstanding bravery/devotion and loyalty.

Brin’s story was, indeed, well known but I had no idea it had made it to their boardroom for consideration among so many others.

Brin was selected for the PDSA Loyalty Award for never leaving the soldiers while on patrol in Afghanistan and a huge achievement for a small brown stray from Afghanistan. Everyone who had cared for him were so very proud and no one more so than Cpt Mark.

The framed certificate arrived along with a wonderful letter of congratulations and, after making a copy for myself, I sent the original on to Mark to keep forever.

A few weeks later a PDSA van arrived at our local pet store and I took Brin, and his award, along to show it to them as they had never seen one before.

Brin was also offered a free health check and weigh-in but declined…

Many of the other strays that the troops have befriended over there have shown similar loyalty and I hoped that this award would help to raise the profile of these incredible animals who often go unsung in recognition of the unconditional devotion they give despite all they go through.

 

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where there’s muck…

Brin had a few visits planned to say thankyou to the people who had helped to raise fund to get him home and so off we set to meet the children at my school who had followed his journey and were so excited to know he had made it home.

I had used his story as part of a lesson I was teaching them about animal welfare. There was to be a debate about whether animals should be used in war, rescues and security.

This debate proved really interesting as they spoke about the reality of situations, through research, far beyond their experiences, thank god.

The outcome was that animals should be used if it meant the saving of a human life.

Brin had saved lives without any specialist training of course. This is what made his story that more remarkable. He knew where the dangers where just by having to survive everyday. People say that they wished their animals could speak but in Brin’s case I am glad he couldn’t as I feel the pain of his experiences would be very hard to bear.

Brin behaved impeccably at the school where over 100 children lined up to stroke him. Cpt. Mark came along to talk to the children about Brin’s life in Afghanistan, bringing with him Sam his own dog. I would have thought Brin would have freaked at meeting such a huge dog but he just greeted him normally as if he knew that he was part of Mark’s family.

Brins tolerance of children was amazing for, in Afghanistan, the new generation of youngsters have, sadly, been brought up to fear strays and their treatment of them has been known to be pretty harsh at times. Brin either escaped such treatment or managed to steer clear for his friendliness was lovely to witness and no children were eaten that day!

Raising funds to help other dogs and cats make it home was always on my mind and one day, while walking in the forest Brin came upon a pair of underpants lying by the base of a tree. He wanted to carry these with him but I managed to persuade him otherwise. I documented this story in pictures as he would rush back each day to check on his ‘treasure’. Other items were also found and the hilarity of his ‘finds’ made for a fundraising idea.

The pants were framed and auctioned along with pictures of his ‘Quest’ and raised a good amount for the charity..the couple who won them were delighted… apart from the fact that when they hung it on their wall it promptly fell down and hit them on the head!

It seemed wherever he went he caused chaos!

 

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sometimes…

Four months in.

Brin would still guard doorways and, despite the house becoming a little like the visiting room of the local prison due to the ever-increasing number of stair-gates, we all were getting used to his quirks and quibbles.

Brin was never going to be easy but there were brief glimpses of him relaxing more and becoming less demanding on my time.

I was also getting used to walking him out in the forest and I seemed to have developed a 6th sense of what was around the corner. Small dogs were never a problem even if they chose to hang off his top lip and this led me to believe that sometime, in his past, he either was around puppies or had fathered some.

Big dogs remained a problem and around here there are many and sometimes I would be so tired and physically exhausted after a walk I would cry.

People were often very good when they stopped long enough to hear his story. Some were not and, often at a time when I felt particularly low, their words would hurt. It often felt very lonely.

Everyday I would take him out, rain or shine, and I learnt to swiftly dive into the thick undergrowth when the enemy according to Brin’ would appear over the horizon. I took to taking him out mid-afternoon as this time was the quietest and the people walking their dogs were often more sympathetic to a woman hanging on for dear life to a dog who had a bark loud enough to wake the devil.

Sometimes it felt that life would have been easier had I decided not to take him on.

My home would be gate free and my nerves, having to cope with the growling every time someone came up the stairs or if one of the dogs decided to amble innocently into the room, would be less frazzled.

I seemed to spend all my whole time trying to avoid situations and, to be quite honest, I was often at the end of my tether. I adored him but the feral in him was tough to break and it seemed, at times, we would always be living on a knife-edge with Brin with me in tow trying to keep things together.

It became a huge responsibly caring for Brin as he also now had many people following his antics on his Facebook page. I didn’t share the tough times except through private messages to Sue and other Afghan rescue dog owners. But it seemed we all were going through similar situations and this helped so much knowing I was not alone.

Brin was also raising much-needed funds for Nowzad through his antics…and one in-particular caused quite a stir…

 

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trials and tribulations…

Brin had now been at home for just over three months and everyday brought new challenges, lessons but above all laughter.

Brin was becoming a real character and his confidence to cope with many new things were developing well.

One major problem, however, was rain.

Afghanistan is known for torrential downpours and these downpours are short, sharp and severe. The rain comes down so hard is actually hurts causing man and beast to run for cover.

Living in the UK Brin was going to have to learn a lot about rain!

The amount of ‘accidents’ in the house increased with every wet day as his refusal to go outside became a serious problem. I decided to meet this head on and, during one of the wettest days since his homecoming, I donned hat, mac and boots and took him to the forest. Sensible people were at home and, as I sat in my car in the totally vacant car park, I wished I could do the same.

Rivers were literally pouring down the tracks and despite my coverings the rain seeped in to soak everything underneath. With one miserable looking dog by my side we ventured on our way.

One thing I did notice was his coat. He looked rather like a duck in the way the water would form into beads and run off his body leaving his undercoat totally dry. My other dogs would have been thoroughly drenched by now.

Arriving at the pond we turned to walk along a sheltered path and Brin seemed to relax and accept his fate of coping with the downpour and started to enjoy his outing.

Suddenly, from nowhere there came a dog from the bushes and with that Brin became super charged and started giving chase. Holding on with all my might, the mud beneath my feet became the perfect medium for land-surfing and, yet again, pain shot up my arm. Landing on my backside I managed to keep hold by using two hands and my feet, but still travelled along the ground at speed. The dog had long disappeared into the undergrowth and Brin had become entangled in scrub bringing him to an abrupt halt. Slowly standing up I noticed that, by a miracle, I had just missed a huge pile of fresh horse manure and, although it maybe great for roses, laying in that would have certainly clinched the deal on what had turned out to be yet another nightmare moment.

My hand was throbbing badly and fears of yet another break came to mind.

As it turned out I had dislocated my little finger which took 6 weeks to heal.

After that, Brin coped with rain and the accidents in the house decreased, apart from now and then.

 

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on being found…

In March, 2010, the Coldstream Guards were clearing a road in LasKar Gah, Helmand  province when they spotted a small brown stray dog barking at the side of the road. On closer inspection they found that he was barking at a hidden bomb device (I.E D) that would have certainly killed at least two soldiers at the front of the line.

This little brown dog had saved their lives.

Taking him back to their base, due his friendliness, he quickly became a source of comfort and companionship, earning the name ‘Alan The Vallon’ as he would accompany  the troops on many patrols through heavily mined areas without incident. He knew the smell of such dangers and had probably witnessed the effect through living rough in that area for many months before.

During a fierce firefight with the Taliban, ‘Alan’ was left behind as the troops were airlifted out to safety as ‘strays’ were not allowed on military vehicles. It was not what the lads wanted but they had no choice. They also knew that ‘Alan’ had often trailed off now and then and had always found his way back to the base..so they hoped this would be the case after this event.

‘Alan’ did not return.

Time came for the soldiers to leave but before they did they left word for the new input, The Gurkha Rifles, to keep an eye out for him and why but months passed and still nothing was seen or heard of him and it was assumed he was dead.

Then, during May 2010, word came back from an Elder at a local village that a dog was being held to ransom at a Taliban outpost. This dog was deemed valuable as they had been watching him guide the troops through dangerous areas without the usual animal army protective clothing and also running free. They wanted money for him or they would kill him.

The Gurkha Rifles sent the Afghan National Army in to clear the Taliban base, not expecting ‘Alan’ to come out alive but after the bombardment he was found, alive, starving, suffering broken ribs but still wagging his tail.

‘Alan’ was brought back to the base where he first was taken and handed over to Captain Mark Townend who recognised this dog from the story left behind. Cpt. Mark renamed him ‘Brin’ after the colouring of his coat but also to protect him from further harm due to being very well known in the area.

There then came a bond between these two that changed both their lives, and many others, forever.

 

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