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two old friends…

I had been Brins constant visitor for over one month and he was really settled and very loved at the quarantine.

The girls who cared for him were amazing and often would come in and sit with me while Brin would dart in and out to check out the snack rations.

One day was going to be particularly amazing and one I had hoped would come.

Mark was home and was travelling down to see his old pal once more. It had been several months since they had seen each other at the dusty patrol base back in Afghanistan. To Mark, it still seemed incredible that Brin had actually made it home.

On his arrival, Mark thanked all the girls who had already done so much for Brin and then came the moment when the two old friends would meet once more.

Brin heard his voice even before he saw him. He knew exactly who was arriving. His whole body changed and his tail wagged as if it would fly from his body.

Mark was behind the door and as it lifted there was no stopping the flurry of a small brown dog who danced around Mark as if on hot coals.

He raced up and down the corridor, skidding all over the place and his energy was awesome to see. Mark whistled him back and Brin raced once more to be at his side.

There was no denying the bond between these two.

Always together.

Many memories.

I think this photo says a lot about the relationship between Mark and Brin.

For ages they sat together and Brin didn’t take his eyes off him.

Without Mark, Brin would not have survived long enough to make it out of Afghanistan.

I think he knew.


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building the trust…

Three times a week I would travel down after work to spend 2 hours with Brin.

At first he would be very pleased to see me and we would play with his toys for a while but then he would become distracted and watchful, spending most of his time gazing out of his kennel drawing in deep breaths through his nose as if drinking in everything around him.

Eating was a major activity and, at first, the adrenalin rush would make him unsteady on his feet and he would lean against the wall until the moment passed. Regular food was still something to get used to and his diet was carefully monitored at this time. When he arrived he weighed only 21kg and through his coat signs of a rib broken some time ago protruded sharply.

There was a concern that he may also be deaf as he was so, so quiet despite all the barking and activity surrounding him. Later, I would learn that this was something he had learnt in Afghanistan and that to stay quiet around barking dogs was a way of surviving and he still does this to this day.

I would bring a book to read on my visits and Brin would chose to come in to me, just to check I was still there. I chose not to be overboard with cuddles and interaction at first but rather to let it take it’s course.

Other visitors to other dogs would play and run about the kennels and when it was time for them to leave the dogs would howl. Brin showed signs of being very content where he was and I did not feel that to encourage him to be too active at this stage would beneficial to his wellbeing.

His toy collection grew over the weeks and this included a toy bought with the money donated by the soldier as promised.

Nothing was ever destroyed and he treasured each and every one of them.

Gradually, he began to enjoy being brushed although some areas of his body proved a problem and he would let me know by swinging his head round as if giving a little warning. I respected that.

During the late summer months we would sit together in the sunshine, me reading and Brin content to keep guard at the front of his kennel. He still had little intention of making moves towards me unless a snack was involved but that was fine by me.

His first bath showed what we always suspected. A cost of many, many colours ranging from red to black. A short, soft coat with two layers, one to keep him cool during the unrelenting heat while living in the desert and the other to keep him warm during the bitter nights. The change in temperature in the UK caused him to scratch as the humidity was something he was not used to. His eyes began to clear from the constant stream of gluey material caused by stress and poor condition and before our eyes we were beginning to see Brin in all his true glory.

A month in quarantine and Brin was doing really well. But what he didn’t know was that a huge surprise was awaiting him just around the corner…


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the moment of truth…

Brin arrived into the UK on September the 15th around midday. I was at at school at the time when the text came in and I was able to share this news with the children who had also followed Brins story over the summer holidays.

The quarantine rang to say they would be collecting him in the afternoon and, once cleared, Brin would be finally on his way to Sussex to begin 6 months in their care.

Many people have opinions on quarantine, and I personally feel that for ‘domestic’ dogs this is a long time indeed. But, with Brin, I felt that this time would be beneficial in two ways. One, to get to know him and try to understand how he ‘ticks’ and two, for him to get to know me and to learn trust and commitment from a human who had decided never to let him down.

The quarantine was set in beautiful countryside and the people in charge, kind, caring and full of humour and there are stories I will share with you later.

On arriving (after getting very lost!) my husband and I waited as the paperwork was handed over. This folder contained everything to date concerning Brin and documented every stop/injection and medical check he had gone through to make it home.

It was all a bit of blur really as all I really wanted to see was if this little brown dog, who had been part of my life 24/7 for the past three months, really was real.

The noise became pretty deafening from all the dogs as we walked along the path toward the kennels. Faces, large and small, peered out over vast swathes of grasses waving in the wind.

Pointing to one kennel I could see two eyes staring that belonged to a small brown dog who remained totally calm despite all the chaos surrounding him. Those eyes I knew by heart. I had looked at them everyday.

The time came when the door to his kennel was to be opened and peering in I could see a dividing door from where I could see a shadow moving behind. I had already thought about how I should introduce myself and took up position to allow him to come to me and not the other way around. I had no idea really as to whether he would greet me, or bite me…but the time had come to find out.

Brin leapt though the door and immediately began wagging his tail. Back and forth he leapt though the door as if checking that his escape route was still there. Following him into the front part of the kennel we watched in wonder as this dog, who had made it so far, ran around greeting each and everyone of us as if he had known us for always.

He was extremely dusty and dirty but underneath all of this there seemed to be a river of colours just waiting to shine. His eyes were almost orange in colour and followed you everywhere. Brin allowed us to stroke him but only at arms length, for any closer he would back up and skip away on his rather short little ‘Queen Anne’ legs!

In a bag I had a toy. His first ever real dog toy. A small yellow fluffy dog had been donated, along with his first proper bed, from Pets at Home who had heard of his story and wanted to help. Brin’s reaction to the toy was one of pure wonder. The sound of the squeak sent him flying backwards with surprise and tentatively he  stepped forward and took the toy gently from my hand.

 To this day..this teddy remains intact and in his bed.


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the long haul…

It was then, after Brin’s momentous journey, that I was contacted by Cpt Mark to ask if I would be able to offer Brin a permanent home.

To be honest, despite all the hours and months involved with raising awareness and funding to get him to the UK I had not expected to be asked to care for him. Owning domestic dogs is a very different ball game to caring for a feral one. Although, from all I had learnt, he seemed a fairly chilled chap I was also certain there would be quite a few obstacles involved in the rehabilitation of such a dog.

Discussion with my family about the possibility of having Brin here was, understandably, not without it’s concerns. Three elderly dogs and a cat did not bode well to bring yet another into the fold.

Mark was unable to offer a permanent home due to the nature of his work and looking back I realised that he had never actually said he could..he just wanted Brin saved if possible. So a new dilemma evolved.

It was decided that we would ‘give it a go’ if Brin passed the screening in Kabul for the onward flight.

He would undergo six months quarantine, which would give ample time for getting to know whether it would work or not. I knew, deep down, I already adored him but tried hard not to let that show, even to my family.

His face, from the very first time I had seen him, had bored deep down into my heart and held on tight.

On the 13th September a new text came through.

Brin had passed his tests and was now on his way to Frankfurt for a stop over and further vet checks…and from there he would arrive at Heathrow on the 15th and from there he would go to a quarantine just outside of Brighton, approximately 40 minutes from door to door.

I cannot explain my emotions at that point. It is hard to put into words.

I know I cried.

I know I looked at all the paper surrounding me along with the ‘stickit notes’, photos and thankyou cards strewn all around my room.

I know that, in a way, I was ecstatic, overwhelmed and, deep down, extremely nervous of what was to come in the way of the reality of meeting a dog who had been through so much and had come over 4,000 miles to a country totally alien to his way of life before…


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sandstorms and bravery…

One can never truly imagine what life is like serving in Afghanistan.

I have caught glimpses when talking to men and woman who have been there and still only scratched at the surface.

What I have learnt is that there is a companionship, a loyalty towards each other that creates a bond that goes above and beyond anything I have seen before. You can still see this in the faces of our soldiers from wars long passed and I know from the stories shared by my late father-in-law that all they witness and experience  never leaves their side no matter how many years have past.

The journey from where Brin was in Helmand to Kabul was 421 miles, a journey that would take over eleven hours through some of the most dangerous and toughest terrain.

Of course, it would have been easy to fly but restrictions on the transportation of strays would have meant serious consequences for the soldiers and death for Brin.

But, with the clock ticking, something had to give.

On a secret journey that took five days, due to constant delays due to severe sandstorms and other set backs, Brin sat hidden in a special box made for him by the lads out of bomb proof material. Not a sound did he make during that time, as if he knew his life, and others, depended on it.

Five days of confinement for a dog who had roamed vast deserts, escaping all the dangers and horrors that befall so many animals in that area, proved to be just another moment in his life to cope with… and he did just that.

On his arrival at the Nowzad shelter the staff there adored him. His stubborn and independent nature made them laugh coupled with his ability to trust and befriend humans unknown to him. Brin would stay at the shelter for two weeks due to screening for rabies or parvo for, if he showed any of these diseases, then his journey onwards would be in doubt.

and so another waiting game began…


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