Like many American soldiers in Afghanistan, a National Guard unit from New York on tour there adopted a battlefield dog. The members named her Sheba. She was 65-pound mixed breed, who became their mascot after she was found wandering around their base last January. She sometimes joined them on patrol, chasing away other dogs that might threaten the unit, according to the Associated Press.
In March, Sheba gave birth to a litter of puppies. The soldiers nursed Sheba back to heath with beef jerky and military meals, then got relatives to send over dog food. Sheba and her puppies were a part of their lives, mascots for the unit, providing comfort and protection.
“They really became part of the family to us,” 1st Lt. Joseph LaPenta of Staten Island said. “It really broke our hearts that we might have to leave them there.”
Yep, as part of the of the U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan, the soldiers learned their base would be closing — and Sheba and her puppies would have to be left behind.
That didn’t sit well with them.
Staff Sgt. Edwin Caba of Long Beach acted first, contacting an old high school teacher who in turn contacted a Long Island group called Guardians of Rescue, which rescues dogs from combat zones. Sheba and her litter became the group’s next project.
“We won’t turn our back on the servicemen, and we won’t turn our back on the dogs,” Guardians of Rescue President Robert Misseri told the Associated Press. The group began fundraising efforts and quickly neared the goal, and the rescue got under way.
Soon, the dogs were stateside, airlifted out of the combat zone, all eight of them, Sheba the combat dog and her seven puppies — now six months old — born on the battlefield.
And on Wednesday, they were reunited with their servicemen at the Save-a-Pet animal shelter on Long Island. What’s more, the seven dogs — Cadence, Rocky, Sarah, Jack, Buckeye, Breezy, and Harris — are being adopted by the solders. Two are taking home two dogs each, and three others are adopting one each.
“We just a built a bond you can’t even describe,” said Caba, who has just completed his third tour of duty in Afghanistan. “It’s nice to have something to pass the time, get rid of the stress.”
As for Sheba, she’s still being assessed, according to Dori Scofield, vice president of Guardians of Rescue, but the group would like her to become a service dog to work with veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The dog is staying at the group’s Port Jefferson Station animal shelter.
“For this to happen now, leashes in their hands, they’re kissing their faces,” Misseri said of the reunion. “This is what we do.”