In 2007, still at the height of the war in Iraq, author Terri Crisp was working for SPCA International. She received a desperate email from SGT Eddie Watson who was stationed in Baghdad. He had rescued and befriended a stray puppy that he'd named Charlie, and with his unit only months away from redeployment, he was urgently looking for a way to bring his beloved pet back to the States. The U.S. Military has strict rules against befriending animals or using military vehicles to transport them, but he couldn't bear to leave behind this puppy that had come to mean so much to him. Terri and her co-workers were moved by Eddie's plight and agreed to help. Through a lot of hard work and determination, and the help of many other people along the way, Terri made arrangements to fly into Baghdad herself to save Charlie. Thus began an odyssey in which Terri made numerous trips into the war zone, including one particularly challenging and harrowing trip in which she and a friend stayed for several days at a private security compound in the Red Zone. During the course of her work, she was able to rescue over 280 dogs and cats with whom U.S. service members had fallen in love. No Buddy Left Behind recounts this brave woman's amazing journey.
I originally picked up No Buddy Left Behind as research material for the book I'm currently writing. Not only did it provide valuable insights into rescuing animals from Iraq and Afghanistan, but it also turned out to be a darn good read. Some non-fiction books can be rather dry, even if only in places, but there was nary a dull moment in this one. I was thoroughly engrossed from beginning to end and was wishing there was more when I finished it, but I suppose there's only so much one can write about this topic and that after a while the rescues probably bear enough similarity that they start blurring into one another. There are many smaller individual stories contained within the framework of the author's adventures of rescuing these animals, because each dog or cat captured the heart of a different American service member. However, they all flow together into the greater story that follows Ms. Crisp on her mission of bringing service members' beloved pets home beginning with one special dog and ending with a massive rescue of nearly thirty animals all at once. Like I said before, it's an amazing story that I thoroughly enjoyed.
After reading No Buddy Left Behind, I have the utmost admiration for the work Terri Crisp and all her friends who helped with her endeavors have done. Ms. Crisp is a woman who truly cares, not only about the animals themselves, but also about the people who love them. She undertook these rescue missions at significant personal risk, flying in and out of Baghdad at the height of the war. During that mass exodus I mentioned, she even stayed in the Red Zone for several days, all because she strongly believed that these dogs and cats were every bit a member of their masters military units as their human counterparts and deserved to go home where they would be loved and cared for rather than left behind to die. Considering the Iraqis deplorable attitudes towards animals, particularly dogs, that's exactly what would have happened too. Sadly, as is often the case in a war zone, not every story had a happy ending, but the important thing is that extraordinary efforts were made to give the animals a happy, secure life. As a result, many service members were helped as well. Their stories were emotional and often heart-wrenching tales of how these animals' friendship helped them stay sane during their deployment and beyond. For that reason alone, I think the military should consider loosening their restrictions on the befriending of animals in a war zone. Also for that reason, I commend SPCA International, Ms. Crisp, and all the friends who assisted her, because those pets who gave so much to the troops definitely didn't deserve to be left behind. Thanks to their efforts more than 280 dogs and cats had been rescued by the time this book was published.
No Buddy Left Behind is an extraordinary tale of love, compassion, courage, and friendship of both the human and animal varieties. It shows just how much one person can accomplish when they put their mind to it, even when the task seems impossible. Oftentimes the odds appeared to be stacked against her, but Ms. Crisp persevered and was willing to do whatever it took to bring these animals home safely. I don't know if I could have done half of what she did, but I admired her for it nonetheless. This story is by turns heartwarming and heartbreaking. I laughed at some of the animals antics, and I cried many times too, out of both happiness and sadness. The kindness and generosity of certain people, as well as the joyous reunions between human and animal, were moving beyond words, while the stories that didn't end happily nearly broke my heart in two. I highly recommend No Buddy Left Behind to animal lovers everywhere, and to anyone who has an interest in furthering the cause of the members of our military being able to bring their four-legged friends home with them when their tours of duty are up.
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