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Update on Brin…

Brin has been a busy boy over these past few years.

Slowly, many things have changed for him and he has certainly relaxed from the ever vigilant soldier that roamed the local forest and side streets near my home. He is well known around here for his rather loud bark and so many people love him and pop out of their homes to say hello.

Not to say that I don’t still have my ‘Mary Poppins’ moments when an unsuspecting Husky or Lab pads around the corner…but Brin is certainly more controllable and I still have my fingers intact.

Having been awarded many accolades for his time in Afghanistan, and constant demands for documentaries,  life was now beginning to settle down for all of us and this was something I was truly grateful for.

Of course, it is amazing to care for a dog who is loved the world over but part of me just wanted him to be Brin.

Our Brin.

Walks in the forest, sitting on the beach or just lazing on the sofa were now becoming the routine and he still has aversion to change.

New places still cause him stress and this can last for days resulting in bloodshot eyes and exhaustion. This will never change and his travels are to familiar places and daily. He has never been down a High street or anywhere noisy or crowded and still, when in a room, he will place himself facing the door.

There are times I look at him and I am still overwhelmed by his journey. This brave dog who walked miles between patrol bases in Helmand Province, each and every day…but somehow survived.

Today, as he lays in the sun, never far from my side, I feel an old soul has touched my life and I am so proud of the way he makes so many people happy.

Brin is always checking where I am. Always by my side x

Brin is always checking where I am.
Always by my side x

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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progress and snacks…

Life is never dull with a dog from Afghanistan.

After the initial exhaustion of coping with a dog who pushed so many boundaries life began to change literally day by day.

Norman’s Bay

in pursuit of a seagull

People who knew him noticed huge changes and that he was becoming much more relaxed and able to cope with situations that were very difficult, and challenging, before.

I think, also, we were changing.

We, as a family, were less wary of him. Not that he was aggressive in the ‘I’m going to show you my pearly whites’ sense but in the way that the tension that surrounded issues like ‘who was coming through the door/upstairs/near his toys and near me’ issues.

Brin is fearful not aggressive and by changing our approach to him changed his perspective of what to expect.

He is also an excellent rat catcher, walking on tip toes in absolute silence, he would pounce with acute accuracy and run inside with his prize much to my horror. Frogs caused him to jump back with a puzzled look and coming across a grass snake in the back alley Brin froze then moved backwards in slow motion as if not wanting to be seen.

He is a creature of complete habit and each and everyday will move to places around the house where he can see me at all times. I adore him for that and admire his technique of just being there silently watching.

always there

Brin also shows great compassion for other animals, something that has shown itself as time has passed.

A few days ago two baby birds were born in my shed and sadly, one died. As I carried it away to be buried he walked with me and watched as I dug a little hole. Laying the little body down he pushed past me and I expected a chase to retrieve it from his mouth but instead he sniffed gently, licked it’s lifeless body and sat down next to me as I proceeded to cover it over.

What is also wonderful to witness is his happiness when family and friends arrive. Brin took quite a while to wag his tail freely. At first it was just the tip that would wiggle slightly when he reacted to a sound or action but never the full on base to tip wag we all know from many of our dogs. Gradually, over time, this action increased and now when he wags his tail he almost does a hula dance as his hips move with it. I never thought that a dog would have to learn such an action but I suppose, because of the huge chunk of socialisation missing from the start of his life, this too had to be gradually learnt.

It was a true pleasure to witness this and when it happened it also brought a great sense of achievement to us all knowing that, at last, he was feeling more settled and content in the environment that was now his home.

wagging tail prior to walk!

That is not to say that Brin is an angel!

Far from it!

A more stubborn dog I have never known!

On walks (or patrols as we like to call them) around his neighbourhood there are moments when my arm has almost been wrenched from its socket due to his determination to sniff a lamppost or chase a cat. He either has super glue on his paws or a rocket where the sun doesn’t shine and I have engaged a telepathic link to his lead and am able to read what coming next via it’s vibrations!

Another thing I love about the change in him is night-time.

When he first came home it would often take up to an hour to get him in but now he trots in with the others and sits in a line with Ruby, Jake and Dennis patiently waiting for a small snack after which he will run upstairs and jump on the bed falling a sleep within minutes.

I now can’t sleep unless he rests his head on my foot..he has become a true symbol to me of unconditional love and, although he has learnt so much since the dark days of Helmand, we have learnt so much from him and for that we are eternally grateful.

a brave soul

 

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in all weathers and the Houdini show…

Brin hated rain.

In England that would prove a problem.

Being a relatively clean dog inside the house as soon as the rain would fall he would flatly refuse to budge outside meaning accidents would happen on a daily basis.

In Afghanistan the rain can come down very hard, so hard it can actually hurt, and it was this memory that seemed to strike a deep fear in him.

The only way to tackle this problem was to meet it head on and so, donned with waterproof clothing, I would take him out to the forest in torrential down pours avoiding the stares of people sitting in their steamed up cars wondering if I was totally mad or being totally cruel to a miserable looking dog who looked as though he wanted to sink into the mud swirling around his feet and give up.

a little light rain!

But it worked. After a few months of dragging him through acres of soggy forest Brin became used to the puddles and mud and eventually was happy to go out into the garden once more.

Next came the snow.

He had never witnessed a full snow fall before other than a shovel-full that had been placed in his quarantine kennel many months before.

I had been getting up around 2am to let him out for a while now as he was quite nocturnal when he first came home but this time he would be met with around 10 inches of fresh snow.

Instead of being tired, I felt like a joyful mum watching her child play for the first time.

2am and out we went…

I had bought him a coat but that idea was quickly eaten ending up in shreds on the floor.

Brin loved the snow and I loved seeing him run, jump and dig in it all. He was really enjoying his new discovery and instead of having to encourage him to out nothing would now get him in!

What snowball?..Where?

even his own igloo…

He continued to learn about all things new and with that came a lot of pleasure and joy witnessing his freedom to explore and the fun he had while doing so.

The digging of deep holes at night-time was starting to subside but with that also came his desire to be free of his bed inside the crate.

I had said goodnight to him and he settled down and appeared to be sleeping. I had got into bed and was just falling asleep when I heard a strange noise rather like a soft squeaking sound.

Getting up I walked to his room and listened through the door. The noise came again, this time followed by a snuffling sound on the other side of door. In my disbelief I entered the room to be met by Brin totally out of his crate that was still locked and with no damage whatsoever. I still to this day have no idea how he got out of it…I can only think he squeezed himself between the floor of the crate and the upper bars…it made my stomach churn as he could have so easily trapped his neck.

Brin loved his bed..until one night…

Brin had had enough and now resides on the end of our bed and, despite his loud snoring, we never know he is there.

And secretly, we prefer it that way.

 

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toggles and respect…

The story of Brin was being featured in many magazines and this was proving very beneficial in supporting the charity Nowzad who had enabled him to come home.

Many people wished to meet him and as I had always said that ‘I would never forget the others’ I felt that taking him round to places would also be a good way of sharing the work Nowzad do.

Travelling with Brin had never proved to be a problem as he enjoyed the adventure, often sitting up at the window and watching the world go by.

Our first visit was to the local Guides and I was to give them a small talk on the life of animals in Afghanistan and the journey Brin took to make it home. I was a little nervous as this was still quite early days for him but he seemed to like fuss and had never shown any dislike to children.

In fact the only ‘human’ problem I had incurred with him was young asian men, people with walking sticks and woman carrying babies in their arms. He always would stop if a child was being carried and try to jump to ‘have a look’. There was no aggression but just serious inquisitiveness that was often quite awkward! Even to this day, Brin becomes quite jumpy if anyone is carrying something. Some times he would take a mild dislike to someone but a swift about turn would quickly change his attention. It was just another thing to be aware of.

The guide meeting went really well, with Brin parading around allowing each and everyone to have a stroke. I was amazed at how well he coped with it all and the crowd adored him, even presenting him with a chew bone wrapped in a ribbon. The children asked really interesting questions about the animals over there and I enjoyed sharing the stories of the many cats and dogs saved by Nowzad.

The next port of call was Swindon. Another troop, this time the Scouts, who had raised an amazing £1,000 for the charity. Brin’s story had inspired them and so I was asked to bring him along for a presentation and film show.

Brin was getting used to long journey’s by now and even the hotel where we booked were excited to have him! There was quite a gathering in the reception when we arrived and they even upgraded us to a large room at no extra charge! Brin was certainly getting the star treatment!

In the room there was a lovely clean dog bed ready and waiting…

but Brin had other ideas.

I never like leaving him in a room so I ordered room service as I hadn’t eaten all day. After about 20 minutes a knock came and Brin set too with one of his ear-splitting barks. Grabbing the lead and holding him tight I opened the door to find a quivering girl holding a tray with copious amounts of spilt coffee swimming about near my meal. I felt so sorry for her as she continuously apologised for the mess.

Walking Brin is always a bit difficult around hotel grounds. There is little grass and often broken glass around the roadways. We managed to find a large piece of wasteland and, in the dark, we ambled round and round while he set about his business. It would be quite exhausting really as both of us were far from home and it often felt very isolated surrounded by motorways and the sound of heavy traffic. But we always got through it and his company was fun, gentle and attentive.

The next morning was an early start as the BBC wanted a live interview with the Scout leader and myself. At 7am they picked Brin and me up and we drove to the studio. It was a cold day with a bitter wind and it was decided by the programme that they wanted the interview to be recorded outside, to add ‘atmosphere’.

I felt coffee and a warm fire would had added that but out we went and huddled in a corner of a car park waiting for the cue to start talking.

All went well, despite my slight concern after being told there was a cat that lived at the back of the car park and when the interview was over I was kindly driven back to my hotel.

Before the Scout meeting I decided I would like to go to Royal Wooten Bassett to pay my respects to a town who had seen so many of our fallen pass through. It was a bustling, pretty place full of history and pageantry and, although, I did not get out with Brin due to the many dogs around I was glad to be able to sit for a while in relative peace and think about the bravery and strength so many families had shown in such sad circumstances.

The Scout meeting went well. Brin trotted in to be met by around 60 people who had come to hear about the work Nowzad achieve for the animals in Afghanistan.

Brin was given his own scout scarf and behaved brilliantly until one moment when a sack of food for dogs arrived.

I had always stressed that no food must be given to him or be near him but there is always someone who, although well meaning, forgets this rule. This is why, at all times, I watch Brin.

Two boys dragged the bag over before I could stop them and Brin decided that he needed to ‘protect’ it. Of course, it wasn’t his finest hour, but to his credit he just throws out a warning shot with no actual malice or teeth!

Bag removed and all was calm once more and after a couple of photos from the local paper it was time to leave.

It is quite exhausting to meet so many new people, especially as I, personally, have never been one to put myself out there. Having Brin has given me confidence to share something that changed my life forever and, through his story, I have found a way of overcoming so many obstacles in my own life.

Many people say, “it’s wonderful that you cared enough to save Brin”…but deep down I know that we saved each other and, as we collapsed on the hotel bed together at the end of a very long day, I felt grateful to have him in my life.

Together we both have learnt so much. Trust, companionship, consistency, and loyalty. We were both lacking that in our lives and I know, throughout the many years we will be together, that these things will continue to become stronger and stronger.

 

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well, I didn’t like that plant anyway…

Brin loves the outdoors and will spend hours sitting on his table (yes table) surveying the garden.

He also likes to dive into any shrub, bush or flower bed containing anything that should be ‘naturally’ upright squashing them flat. I have also never known a dog to ‘disappear’ so quickly, as if by magic.

He also walks on tip toes..literally. I have never seen this before but observed this talent when he discovered a rat living under our shed. Brin would rush out in the evening, stop, listen then tip toe across the patio.

It is the funniest thing to watch.

The problem is that once he gets ‘one on’ there is no stopping him.

this once was tidy…

In my greenhouse there was a mouse…a small country mouse that I had been quite happy to share my space with. Brin knew it was there and I would have to trick him into moving away by throwing a toy if I ever wanted to open the door.

His obsession with this mouse grew quite intense and he would snort loudly through the crevices, where the greenhouse was nailed against the wall, as if he thought could blow the critter out… rather like the battle between the wolf and the three little pigs.

For weeks I managed to keep him away but Brin, being Brin, was not going to give up easily.

The door had been left slighty ajar one evening and with one swift swipe of his paw he managed to prise it open and fly inside.

As I have mentioned before these dogs are strong..very strong..very stubborn and impossible to move.

The chaos that ensued was frightening. Shelves came down, pots went flying and to cap it all, in his effort to grab the mouse who was in full flight (bar a superman cape) he backed up and went straight through three panes of glass. Luckily, two broke away from him and I just managed to catch the top one before it came down  on his back.

Out came the mouse, followed by Brin, and the once adorned flowerbed adjacent to the now wrecked greenhouse became a hunting ground. Leaves, flowers and mud flew everywhere and as I stood there clutching the heavy loose pane I could do nothing but watch in despair.

The mouse had hidden itself in a clay ornament, shaped like a huge mushroom, and Brin was now snorting loudly though the base of it. Over it went and with one stomp of his paw the top broke off and he saw, to his delight, his long-awaited prize.

The mouse is now buried under a forlorn looking rose that once had many blooms.

 

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motorways and lamposts…

The day that Kilo and Brin would meet loomed and Sue and I were slightly anxious that they would not like each other despite all the ‘lurve’ shared on their pages. Afghan dogs are not known for their accepting attitude towards other dogs and Brin had always disliked the bigger ones. Kilo didn’t like smaller dogs and so this was certainly going to be an interesting moment.

Sixty people were due to attend along with Pen Farthing the founder of Nowzad who was going to give a talk about the charity.

The journey for me would take just over 3 1/2 hours and I had never travelled such a distance with Brin so was a little nervous about how he would cope.

I bought a car restraint for him but this was duly chomped through before I got to the end of my road so I resigned myself to driving slowly or brake suddenly and wear him as a scarf.

The journey was not too bad and we only stopped just a couple of times to stretch our legs and soon we arrived at the hotel where all the staff were very excited to meet him, having found many articles on the internet and printing them out for everyone to read. They had even saved him his favourite food…bacon.

Signing the admission form I noticed that it stated that dogs were not on allowed on the bed and I assured them that this would not happen and that I brought his bed to sleep on.

Brin, it seemed. had other ideas..

The next day preparations took place for the gathering, which was to take place at a nearby hall surrounded by a lovely field where we agreed to allow the dogs to meet.

Brin dressed up for the occasion and looked very smart indeed and for once the chomp action was firmly out of reach of it’s target!

Brin and I waited outside while Sue and Kilo walked out of the hall towards us and we both prayed!

Keeping a safe distance the two dogs sniffed the air but made no move towards each other which was a relief on all sides.

The whole evening was a fabulous success with people coming from all over England and flying in from Europe to meet the dogs and hear more about Nowzad. With the raffle (including the Pant’s quest picture) we raised over £2,000 for the charity.

Both Brin and Kilo were totally spoilt but, above all, friendly and gentle towards everyone who came close.

Sue and I were so proud of these dogs and, knowing just how hard we had both worked to build their confidence, this really showed that it was all paying off.

Sue and I meet for the first time

Exhausted, both Brin and I fell into bed around 11.30 that night, but not before I had taken a wrong turn on the way back to the hotel and driven 10 miles down the motorway before being able to turn round.

Brin had been a star, along with Kilo, and this would prove to be one of many trips he would make to meet many people who so longed to stroke a canine hero from Afghanistan.

 

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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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