Evelyn started taking care of siblings Chief and Gunner when she was stationed in Basra, located in southern Iraq. In Basra she was assigned to fly VIP's between the airport and the U.S. Consulate located in that city. The puppies were found on the helicopter ramp at the Basrah airport. They showed up on a bitterly cold night in late November. The weather guy went out that evening to check the visibility for an upcoming flight and saw two tiny puppies. He was able to get the black one to come to him, but the other was too frightened and ran off. When Evelyn learned about the puppies she jumped in and helped, never expecting the bond that would eventually form between her and these two homeless puppies. She got the braver puppy some food and put him in a warm vacant room with a blanket, food and water.
Later that night Evelyn went outside and heard a puppy crying. The white puppy had returned. In spite of trying to coax him to her, he just would not risk coming any closer. Evelyn had an idea she thought would work though. She went and got the other puppy and brought him outside. She put a blanket on the ground and laid the black puppy on it. That is all it took. The white puppy was very happy to see his brother. Within 30 seconds, they were curled up with each other fast asleep on the blanket – probably the softest thing they had ever laid on.
From that point on, the area were the puppies were being kept was fortified so they could not get out and get back on the ramp or the area where there was lots of vehicle traffic. Evelyn with the help of several of her co-workers entertained the puppies and kept them fed and happy. As Evelyn got more and more attached to the puppies she began to explore how she might be able to get the puppies out of Iraq. When she found information on spcai.org about the Operation Baghdad Pups program, designed specifically to help Americans serving in Iraq rescue animals like Gunner and Chief, she got in contact with us immediately.
The SPCA International team agreed to do everything we could to save two more puppies befriended by an American working in Iraq. To date, this special SPCAI team has rescued over 500 animals for U.S. service member and veterans serving in the Middle East. What we were up against initially with Chief and Gunner's rescue, was the location where Evelyn was working was preparing to be shut down and Evelyn was headed home in mid-December for well deserve R&R. This meant the puppies had to be moved to another location and there was not a lot of time to make this happen. The kennel that SPCA International uses in Erbil, in the most northern part of Iraq, was available, but the challenge was getting the puppies there. Normally the security company that SPCAI hires would have been able to do the transport, but traveling to Basrah has gotten increasingly more difficult. With time running out, we knew we had to get creative and come up with another way to move the puppies. What finally came together to save the puppies was indeed a testament to what happens when people make up their mind that one way or another they are going to tackle a challenge and succeed.
It took a lot of pulling favors and agreeing to make some exceptions to allow Chief and Gunner to be flown by helicopter from Basrah to Baghdad. They spent the night in Baghdad, while Evelyn worried all the way from her home in the states whether the puppies were safe and the plan we'd come up with was going to work or not. The next leg of the puppies journey was from Baghdad to Erbil aboard Embassy Airlines. After traveling the full length of Iraq from South to North, these two fearless fliers arrived at the kennel in Erbil, where they remained until the SPCA International team arrived on February 1 to transport them the rest of the way home. Gunner left Erbil on February 4 and Chief followed on February 8. After crossing the Atlantic they spent a few days in Northern Virginia before they departed together for Texas on February 16.
These frequent fliers' journey took 64 days. Thanks to a team effort, these new American canines will be spending their days together, never again having to worry about how to survive day to day.