Donors help Marine rescue Afghan dog he’d never even met


by Kevin Reece / KHOU 11 News

Posted on December 12, 2011 at 10:17 PM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 13 at 11:52 AM

HOUSTON—Animal rescue organizations have helped U.S. troops, contractors, and government employees bring home more than 200 stray and adopted dogs from Afghanistan this year. Monday brought a new wrinkle to that process. A Marine welcomed home a dog he’d never even met.

The happy ending was supposed to be for a dog named “Bill," the lone survivor of a litter of puppies that was nursed back to health and raised by members of the Lone Star Battalion. Sgt. Jon Staffen became the most attached to the Afghan mutt.

“It’s funny looking back on it, but at the time it was genuine. You know he was like our little son,” said Staffen.

And their son proved irresistible. A website brought in $12,000 in donations to care for Bill at an animal shelter in Kabul and pay for his eventual transport to Pakistan and then to the United States. But Bill never made the trip. He never left Afghanistan. He died of parvo in November.

“Bill was a fighter. He survived as a 9-day-old puppy in Afghanistan. Kind of hoping he’d pull through,” said Staffen. “But it was a bad disease.”

But what do you do with all that money and all the good intentions from hundreds of donors? A Marine doesn’t quit until the mission is over.

Staffen, who had already paid several rescue groups to assist in Bill’s rescue, asked the shelter in Kabul if there was another dog he could have: another one that might die if the Marines didn’t bring him home. The shelter said they had an injured dog, a dog with a limp that they named “Limpy.” A dog crate, with the misspelled name “Lampy” written on it, arrived at Bush Airport Monday afternoon.

“Your crate is filthy, you know that,” said Staffen, leaning close to a little brown dog that had just made the 20-hour journey to Houston. A second crate held a larger, white Afghan dog destined for the home of a Navy corpsman.

Staffen said the trend of troops bringing adopted dogs home from the war is an attempt to fight their bad memories of the conflict by bringing home something good.

But while Staffen laughed as he took his new dog for its first run on American soil, he quickly found out he’ll have to throw out suggested names like “Bill” or “Bo.” His new dog he’s decided to call “Holly.”

“She seems really smart. And she was staying with me while I was walking with her,” he said.

Holly is a girl.

“Yeah, it’s a she,” he said of the unexpected surprise.

The Marines hoped that “Bill,” the puppy they raised from birth, the one that gave them hope in a dangerous place, would be repaid with a new lease on life in Texas. That didn’t happen. Instead, the war in Afghanistan has a new survivor with a new best friend: a Lone Star Marine.

“Raise [her] in a place that’s not so hostile where [she] can actually lead a fulfilling life—just as I would have done for Bill, you know,” said Staffen.

Staffen said the additional money donated to bring “Bill” home from Afghanistan has been donated to non-profit groups helping to rescue additional animals in that country.