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three hours and counting…

So the day came.

Nearby there is a forest. A beautiful ancient forest entwined with history dating back to the Norman times.

I had never been there before, as my dogs had always loved the local walk than runs just behind our house. For Brin, this would not have been suitable as it’s long narrow paths were also frequented by cyclists and joggers and I felt to face the possibility of locals being eaten was not the best way forward.

Setting off on a cool spring morning I arrived at the car park and scanned the area for any sign of trouble in the form of owners and dogs. Brin was up at the window also scanning. It was all clear.

Using my ‘wait! or I will slam the door on you for next 60 minutes’ voice Brin did as he was told and I opened the door to take hold of the lead.

I did not know just how big this forest was but I could see was well trodden paths that led down into, what I hoped, would be good experience for this little brown dog..so off we went together on our first adventure ‘into the wild’.

I decided to take, what seemed, the quieter less populated path as I wanted to avoid too much confrontation on our first major walk together.

Somehow, I must have taken a wrong turn.

Deeper and deeper into thick forest we went and Brin, in his ever helpful fashion, decided to sniff each and every leaf, petal and blade of grass. This was quite incredible to watch as he would close his eyes and seemingly drink in what ever he had zoned in on. He was also incredibly stubborn.

Dogs from Afghanistan have very large, webbed feet that seem to become suction pads when they decide to stop to explore. Nothing will budge them and to save my arm from being pulled out of its socket I slowed my pace to allow him his moments. Everything was totally new to him and I really wanted him to enjoy the learning process of becoming a normal dog.

He also spent ages looking up trees until he was satisfied with whatever he was looking for wasn’t, in fact, there. Diving down critter dens, digging up mole-hills all became part of his first trek experience and soon every step was taking longer than the one before.

Eventually, we came to a clearing where a wide lake, full of ducks, rippled and glittered in the mid-day sun.

A passing Coot, who drifted by, caught Brin unawares and I suddenly had visions of swimming while hanging on to him for dear life. Thankfully, he just followed it with his eyes and continued with his endless search for the perfect smell.

Keeping an eye out for dogs, we were able to continue our walk but I seriously had no idea where we were.

Two hours later Brin and I were getting deeper and deeper into the forest and I was becoming exhausted. Because of the path we were on I had not seen or heard anyone for all that time and I had no signal on my phone.

Sitting down on tree stump to rest, Brin waited patiently by my side happily rooting around in the undergrowth. Suddenly, he shot across the path leaving me no time to react other than holding on tight to the lead.

Running with him was not an option, as he had moved so fast I had no time to stand up so ended up on my knees clinging desperately to the nearest tree, a young sapling, that lifted gracefully out of the ground and travelled with me in a peculiar dance spectacle that rivalled Fred Astaire.

Brin, thankfully, came to a sudden halt and began to bark furiously up a tree and, from where I was laying, I spied a young squirrel gazing down at me as if I was some new kind of nut.

So there and then I knew there was yet another no go item to add to my list of ‘Brin avoidance’ moments.

One hour later and I made it back to the car park, battered, covered in mud and slightly bruised but trailing a happy but tired little brown dog who jumped in the car and promptly fell asleep.

The next day I bought serious, heavy-duty walking boots in my determination to stay on my feet for longer the next time we ventured out together…

 

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a word of advise…

Other problems were arising.

Brin had a dislike of young men, sudden footsteps and doorways.

Wherever I was, Brin would be stuck to me like glue and because of this he took to protecting me from everything and everyone, including my youngest son.

I had become his lifeline and he was going to make sure I was always in his sight.

The dogs also became a little wary and would slink around trying to become invisible and this was not a good situation to be in.

Discipline was not going to be easy for it had taken so long to gain his trust that any form of deprivation or punishment by removing him completely from a situation was going to be tough so I sought advise from a trainer.

Brin greeted her on her arrival and we spent a while talking about his past and the problems that were occurring. She agreed this was no ‘ordinary’ dog but we already knew that.

Although I had worked hard with him already and taught him to stay, sit and wait the issues of protecting me were the real focus of why I needed help.

Out came ‘Clickers’, treats and toys from a very hefty black bag and my heart sank. This was not a dog that could be tricked and despite all she was telling me I knew that none of this was going to make a difference to Brin. Contempt came from his eyes as he listened to the clicker click away in his ear as if say ‘really?…you think that is going to work on me?..fat chance’…

I then sought further advise from an animal healer friend who has worked with all kinds of animals and achieved amazing results. Pippa came and spent time just sitting with Brin and laying her hands across his back. To witness his reaction was humbling and he lay on the ground as if melting away. There were few people that could touch him like this as his ribcage and tail area were extremely sensitive, both mentally and physically, to this dog who had suffered such horrific abuse at the hands of the Taliban.

Two more sessions later and the difference in him was becoming evident and, although, he would never become a totally relaxed soul, he seemed to be starting to let go of many of the tensions that overshadowed his recovery.

One of the problems I had, and eventually solved, was Brin leaping from the car whenever I opened the door to let him out. This could be pretty frightening, especially near the busy road where I live. I had begun to learn my own ‘superpowers’ and managed to achieve complex physical contortions that I had no idea I was capable of while trying to stop him flying through the door. In my frustration, when one day he leapt over the parcel shelf and out of the open boot, I took to extreme measures.

In a quiet street I parked up and went to open the door. Brin was ready for action but I was quicker. Every time I opened the door I would slam it shut, causing him to back away onto the seat. Every time I did this I would shout ‘wait!’. Over and over I did this, until I was exhausted and he had stopped rushing forward. It took, in all, over 2 hours in total. I drove my car to another area and repeated the whole exercise and to my amazement Brin made no moves towards the door as I opened it and I was able to reach in and take his lead.

To this day Brin will not come out of the car unless I say so, even if my other dogs have left already. It was a huge relief and I was able to feel less on a knife-edge every time I took him out.

Our next step would be the forest…

 

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life on the base…

Brin was not in good shape at first, having been deprived of water and food for quite some time but his friendly and hopeful character soon brought about a loyalty and companionship that worked both ways. He was given spare rations once a day which included a raw egg to build up his strength and improve his coat and soon items were sent over to help with fleas and ticks.
Brin also enjoyed for the first time rawhides and a toy made from army socks rolled up into a ball.

This message from Mark explained a lot about Brins life on the base:-

A message from Captain Mark Townend re – Brin

 Hi all. My name is Captain Mark Townend, Brin’s adopted owner in Afghanistan. Given the public interest in this lively and devoted young pup I thought I would write to let all interested parties know how well our lad is doing. Sally will probably be posting a few new photos on the page in a few days which will help get a better idea of who Brin is and how he lives.

 First and foremost: Brin has filled out since becoming a full time member of the Patrol Base (PB). On a diet of army rations and fresh food when available from the kitchens (twice a day if available) along with a constant supply of clean water on tap Brin has begun to look much healthier. His ribs are gone and his coat has started to shine (an egg a day will do this for any dog owners out there!). In parallel to his health his personality has shown signs of healthy improvement. He has always been friendly to people, especially westerners and soldiers. He has become a keen watcher of humanity, sitting in what shade he can find from the mid day sun and watching the world pass him by, wagging his tail occasionally at someone he recognizes and enjoying the constant head scratching from all who take a second to greet him, which is pretty much everyone!

 Most encouragingly, he has recently begun playing: Something that afghan dogs are alien to in the way we would know. He has been gifted a tennis ball from home which he takes great delight in chasing when thrown in the air and retrieving back to his “safe” area for a re-throw! This has shown a retrieving instinct that bodes very well for his home training in his future life. He is suffering somewhat in the summer afghan heat (as all dogs do) and is relatively lethargic in the day time until the evening cools off a little and allows him to perk up. He will definitely enjoy a change of climate on his move to UK soil and he will likely become far more active in cooler day time temperatures. He usually walks the perimeter of the PB first thing in the morning and last thing at night when the temperatures are coolest which is his exercise routine for the day. He will be looking forward to longer walks in the UK, and has a natural tendency to walk “to heel” on the lead (although he does like to pull when he sees something that catches his eye!).

 He is also a relatively clean dog: business is limited to a small area and is always “scrapped over” as best he can manage. He enjoys regular brushing (important given the parasites around the place out here) and will melt in the hands of anyone who takes the time to scratch him between the ears for a few moments. He is friendly with other dogs although his boisterous and puppy-like full speed approach can be misread by more nervous animals: introductions are handled in a relaxed and calm manner to ensure no issues. Once introduced Brin makes friends easily and he loves the company. His best friend to date is a search dog (golden Labrador) named Casper who is always pleased to see him when their daily walks cross paths.

 In short he is a pleasure to have around, is in no way a burden to our daily soldiering and has shown some very positive signs of being more “civilized” than other afghan hounds with his background. He will blend seamlessly into UK life I am sure.

 I will post what I can when I can on his progress: my involvement with him stops when he reaches a safe area of afghan and the hands of the next stage carer for his vet checks and eventual flight back to UK. Your support and generosity has made this risky and dangerous journey for him as supported as he ever could ask for and, with your help, if ever a dog had the best chance of making it through the war zone to safety it will be Brin. We will all do all we can on our various levels to do the right thing for our boy: but know that your interest in his story in itself supports his journey and improves his chances. From Brin and myself: Thank you. To Sally and all of you who have contributed to his future and his welfare. Never could either of us imagined such a response to his story.

He proved to also be quite the ‘escape artist’ often to be seen off base running after patrols and trotting about without a care in the world which was not the best thing to do in that area!
So, Brin had to learn to stay put by being tethered outside the sleeping quarters where he would wait patiently for Cpt. Mark to return from patrols and they would go for a walk together around the base twice a day.
Brin lived with the Gurkha Rifles for many months and, although still a ‘stray’ in the eyes of the army, he became part of daily routine and included in many activities alongside his newfound friends.

Despite his relative safety there was always the doubt about his future as, for many of the strays from these areas, the outlook is bleak.

The army, after all, are not there to save dogs…

and for Brin, time was running out.

 

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