Another great European Dog Show

At the time of writing the Czech canine organisation (CMKU) is hard at work on the last preparations for the FCI European Dog Show 2014 in Brno. The number of entries is impressive almost 15,000 dogs + those who take part in the circuit breed club shows.

The CMKU which back in 1991 also organised the EDS – also in Brno – is an experienced organiser and I am convinced that the event is in the best hands and that the FCI Europe Section will be proud of the show when the results are available.

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Jørgen Hindse
President of the FCI Europe Section
Mission: Impossible Possible

Animal rescue activity – together with rehabilitation and finding a new home – is still one of the toughest issues for animal welfare organisations in civilised societies. But what about starting and completing the same job at the world toughest and most dangerous places? Rural environment and jeopardy does not mean there are no stray animals at all – contrariwise, the opposite exists. Nonetheless, it still happens in Afghanistan and seems to work, starting with a real unordinary friendship.

Exclusive interview with Pen Farthing about a real accomplished mission.

Your story and Nowzad Dogs started some years ago when you were deployed to Afghanistan. Would you brief what happened, how you met this dog that triggered all the following and unexpected events?

I was serving as a Royal Marine Commando in Helmand in the town of Now Zad during 2006 when, as we were coming in from a patrol outside of our Forward Operating Base, I was confronted by Afghan National Police holding an organised dog fight.

I was not in Afghanistan to watch animal cruelty so I broke the fight up and watched as one of those dogs ran into our compound to seek shelter and hide.

Upon finding him I tried to coax him out of hiding with old military biscuits, but this back fired as he then thought I was his friend and over several days we became great buddies. I named him Nowzad as he was battered and war torn just like the town we were fighting over. ‘Nowzad’ was my five minutes of respite each day where I could sit and relax and not pretend I was in Afghanistan. Obviously, after being with this dog through my tour of duty in Afghanistan I could not bear to leave him behind so I had to plan on getting him from Afghanistan to England.

What does ‘Nowzad’ exactly mean?

Nowzad is actually Farsi and means newborn.

How difficult was that to finally manage to take Nowzad the dog with you back to UK?

No one had transported a dog from Afghanistan to England before. We had to have him smuggled to Kabul (as the military would not support us) and then he was exported from Kabul to London to enter quarantine. It took several months and a lot of money.

Do you know the exact number of dogs finding home at soldiers returning back to UK during the years?

Now as a charity, Nowzad dogs has helped over 650 soldiers serving from UK, USA, Canada, The Netherlands, Italy, Australia and South Africa to be reunited with the dogs (or cats) they befriended on the front lines in Afghanistan.

I realise it is a common situation that marine and soldiers get into friendship with stray animals. Why are these companionships so important that people make such a huge effort to get these animals to their home after when they are deployed back?

The dogs give the soldiers something they miss dearly whilst on the battlefield – a sense of normality and respite from the surreal situation they find themselves in. The dogs help the soldiers cope with the daily stresses and abandoning the animals at the end of the soldiers tour of duty is just not something the soldier can contemplate.

And how is the situation of dogs in Afghanistan? Does the society care about animal welfare?

Life is hard enough in Afghanistan for people to survive – let alone to try and take care of stray dogs and cats. But news of what we do is spreading and we now have Afghan nationals come to us with injured animals they have found. Our clinic in Kabul is staffed by four Afghan nationals we have trained as vets who can carry out small animal surgeries. Our core mission is to humanely reduce the stray-dog population and hopefully reduce the threat of rabies.

What difficulties you had to face to open the shelter for stray and abandoned dogs and cats there?

Opening the shelter was the easy part – funding it all is the difficult bit… we only survive from the generous donations of general dog loving public.

And of course we also have to beware of the constant threat from the Taliban as they attempt to disrupt life in general on the streets of Kabul…

Please share some important and interesting facts about the operation of Nowzad Dogs in Afghanistan and the way you can find home for these animals.

We are constantly amazed by the friendliness of the dogs that come into our care even though they may have suffered terrible injuries from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Recently we had ‘Noel’ – a cute black and white dog brought to us with a severely broken leg after he had been hit by a car on Christmas Day. We had no choice but to amputate the damaged leg. But Noel has bounced back and just loves being in the company of people!

Or there was Private Conrad Lewis of the British Army who was looking after a dog called Peg. Conrad would write letters home always talking about Peg and how she was helping him deal with the stress of Afghanistan. Sadly Conrad was killed, by the Taliban but his parents immediately got in touch with us to see if we could rescue Peg and get her to England. It took a lot of organisation, but peg is now a very important member of the Lewis family here in England.

You have published two books about these stories in full details and the third one has just been published. What parts of your story do these books cover?

One Dog at a Time tells the ‘tail’ of Nowzad and how I found him and the journey to get him to England.

No Place like Home picks up the story of Nowzad adapting to life in England and my journey to start a shelter in Afghanistan.

The new book is out on the 11th September and is the remarkable true story of Wylie, a dog who endured horrific cruelty in Afghanistan and survived against the odds to become top dog at the 2014 Scruffts 'Family Crossbreed of the Year' competition.

This is the incredible and heart-warming story, full of tragedy and triumph, of a dog who never gave up hope.

What are your further plans for the future regarding to Nowzad Dogs?

To continue to promote animal welfare in Afghanistan and educate about the dangers of rabies whilst humanely controlling the stray-dog population. We hope to one day have animal rescue shelters all over Kabul providing desperately needed small animal care.

But to do this we need funding and support and we truly appreciate this opportunity to be promoted through your article – thank you so much.

Interview by Attila Marton