One Dog at a Time: Saving the Strays of Afghanistan

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9781250001955: One Dog at a Time: Saving the Strays of Afghanistan
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The remarkable true story of one man's fight to save the stray dogs of Afghanistan in the spirit of From Baghdad, With Love

In the remote outpost of Now Zad, Afghanistan, Pen Farthing and his troop of young Royal Marines survive frequent engagements with the Taliban and forge links with the local community. Appalled by the horrors of local dog fighting, Pen has no choice but to intervene. Then one of the dogs he frees finds his way into the Marine compound―and into Pen's heart. Soon other strays are drawn into the sanctuary provided by the makeshift pound, including one young mother who crawls under the compound fence carrying her newborn pups to safety. As his tour of duty draws to an end, Pen cannot leave the dogs of Now Zad to their fates. He begins hatching plans to help them escape to a better life.

One Dog at a Time is the gripping account of one man's courage and humanity, and his fight to make a difference in the most hostile and dangerous environments, one dog at a time.

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About the Author:

A passion for the outdoors and a love of doing everything the hard way found an 18 year old PEN FARTHING visiting a Royal Marine careers office asking to take on the toughest infantry training in the world. 30 weeks later and Pen had earned the coveted Green Beret of the Commandos. His military career, which has included tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, lasted over twenty years. Since publication of One Dog at a Time, Pen has left the Marines to run his charity Nowzad and - when time allows - an outdoor adventure company. Pen walks his Afghan / Iraqi pack (Tali, Patchdog and Maxchat) in two shifts and won the 2014 CNN Hero for his work promoting animal welfare in Afghanistan.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

 One Dog at a Time
CHAPTER ONENo Going BackSix months earlier
 As I reached up high with my left hand, the tiny gritcovered edge my fingers grasped didn’t really feel that solid. Even if it was strong enough, I didn’t think I could hold my full body weight on just the fingertips of my left hand.I looked down again at the small wire that I had placed in the rock face two feet below me, as protection should I fall off. The wire was connected to a piece of solid aluminium I’d jammed into a half-inch-wide crack in the rock face and clipped on to the rope that was tied securely into my climbing harness. It didn’t look big enough to stop a falling 13-stone marine. But I knew it would.As I weighed up my next move, I knew that there was no going back once I left the secure hand- and footholds I was finely balanced on at the moment. Once I committed to my left hand I would have to push upwards and go for the top of the rock wall. It was all or nothing.I was preparing myself to make the move when I heard a voice shouting up at me from 50 feet below.‘Get up there, climbing ninja. It gets dark in a few hours.’I looked down nervously, followed the way-too-thin-looking climbing rope as it snaked its way back down the steep rock wall, and saw Lisa at the end of it. She was staring up at me with her normal encouraging smile while holding the device that would lock the rope and stop me hitting the ground, should I fall.That’s the problem with being married to a WREN, I thought. They have the same sense of humour as Royal Marines; they are, like us, firm believers in encouragement through taking the mick.‘Lisa – I am trying to figure out the moves. Do you mind?’ I shouted back.‘It looks easy – just reach for the left-hand hold and go,’ she replied, matter-of-factly, as if it was the easiest thing in the world. And then Beamer Boy, our completely daft springer spaniel, started barking up in my direction. It was his familiar ‘get up there so I can run around some more’ bark.That only set off Fizz, our Rottweiler, who, like Beamer, was tied to the base of an oak tree. Soon the pair of them were joining in a chorus of barking encouragement.‘OK, everybody shut up. I’m going,’ I said, closing my eyes and taking a deep breath as I turned back to face the rock, my nose only centimetres from the sharp granite.Without really thinking I launched myself upwards. My left hand gripped the hold, I smeared my feet against the cool granite rock face and pushed upwards, reaching for the ‘thank God holds’ at the top of the climb. I pulled my body clear of the edge, rolled on to the open ledge that signalled the finish of the climb and looked down to where Lisa, Beamer Boy and Fizz Dog were standing.Lisa was looking up at me with an expression that said: I told you it was easy, why didn’t you do that half an hour ago? The dogs were hopping around excitedly because they knew their tied-to-a-tree duty was almost over and we would soon be on the move.It really was good to be on summer leave.For the last four months all I had done was eat, sleep and breathe the preparations for my six-month tour to Afghanistan and the day I would be thrust into the fight against the Taliban. With the 20 or so young lads who made up 5 Troop of Kilo Company 42 Commando Royal Marines I had spent my days and nights on exercise all over the country, with little or no time for a personal life. We’d spent endless hours on the wet miserable rifle ranges in the north-east. We’d also endured long days in the vast rolling countryside of the Thetford Army training areas, taking part in Afghan-based scenarios designed to help us deal with potential situations we might face once out there.At times it was hard and eye-opening but the lads had taken it all in their stride. I had watched them mature into Royal Marines with pride.After all the hard work we’d put in, I should have been excited by the prospect of going to Afghanistan.It was, after all, what I’d dreamed of as a kid back in my home town on the south-east coast of England, where all my mates and I wanted to do was play at soldiers down in the marshes. Back then we would set up make-believe ambushes in the woods behind my nan’s house, using water bombs as our ammunition, dreaming of the day we would be in a helicopter on an SAS-style mission to kill the bad guys. Now, it was going to be for real.But with the daily reports of the constant battles from the army units we were due to replace I was beginning to have niggling doubts. What if we weren’t ready? What if I forgot what to do?Since starting my leave, however, I had tried really hard to concentrate on having three weeks of non-marine time. The dogs had played their part in helping me; they were a great way of getting my mind off things. Fizz and Beamer Boy were a great pair of companions and loved going on Dartmoor for walks, which worked out well, given my passion for rock climbing on its testing granite tors.Fizz was your typical Rottweiler, with her distinctive black-and-tan coat and docked tail. Now aged six, she had come to us as a puppy from a breeder in Manchester. Lisa had picked the most active-looking of the nine or so fluff-balls we’d found scampering around the floor next to their worn-out-looking mum. For Lisa it was love at first sight and to this day Fizz is still Lisa’s dog.We’d had our fair share of abuse from passers-by over the years, people who didn’t have a clue as to the difference between a sausage dog and a St Bernard, but were convinced none the less that all Rottweilers belonged to the devil. But I was adamant then and still am now that it’s the way you bring a Rottweiler up that counts. Apart from the times when she was indulging her passion for chasing cats or squirrels, Fizz was the softest dog on the planet. Although, it has to be said, if someone was aggressive towards her she would snap back at them, which I thought she had every right to do. If somebody punched me I would punch them back. Of course, I still wouldn’t leave Fizz alone with just anybody and we normally kept her on a lead.Beamer, our black-and-white springer, was just hyper, so hyper in fact it sometimes got really annoying. But you couldn’t ever blame him for that. His passion was for anything that was wet and dirty. For instance, he loved nothing more than floating around in the smelliest cattle trough he could find, with only his head and eyes showing above the water. He would normally do this, of course, when we were out on a long walk, didn’t have any towels in the van to dry him and when we had a long journey home. We had got him from an animal rescue centre in Somerset. After buying Fizz we’d decided that if we got another dog it would be a rescue; there were far too many of them that needed good homes. Picking Beamer up from the centre I knew we had made a good decision. I don’t think his fluffed-up tail has ever stopped wagging since. Our only regret that afternoon in the rescue kennel was seeing row after row of other dogs, wagging their tails, barking away, just wanting to be loved. If we could have we’d have taken them all with us. We were just heartbroken at having to leave them in their runs.We’d had to lie slightly to the people at the animal rescue home before being allowed to take Beamer. They’d wanted us to prove that the dogs would be living in a stable home, that Lisa and I would not spend too much time travelling between our various work venues and that Beamer would spend no more than four hours or so on his own every day.Our way of life in the military meant that we did everything but stay at home. But we also knew that Beamer would adapt just as Fizz had and that they would both have a fantastic lifestyle. In fact, I doubt that many dogs would refuse the lifestyle that our two hounds now enjoyed.A couple of years on and the pair were now absolutely inseparable. We couldn’t even take one of them to the vet on its own, they both had to go, which always amused the vet. It was the same if I was in camp in Plymouth for the day. The two of them would have to come with me, as if they were afraid one of them would miss out on the fun. It was amazing how many well hard marines would knock feebly on the door of the gym asking to be let in when Fizz was propped against the see-through glass door, on self-appointed sentry watch. I would just shake my head and tell them not to be so scared. They always looked visibly relieved when they opened the door and tentatively walked past Fizz, who didn’t even bat an eyelid.Both dogs loved travelling, too. All I had to do was ask who wanted to go for a drive and both would immediately tear down the garden path towards our waiting van. They would sit on the rear seat and stare out of the window at the passing countryside for hours on end. The previous summer, en route to a climbing trip to the Alps, Fizz had happily propped herself up against the rear side window for nine hours.I had met Lisa ten years earlier in North Wales. She had just passed her course to become a Physical Training Instructor for the Navy and was studying at the Military centre where I worked as a rock-climbing instructor for the marines.We had got on well and stayed in touch but it had taken a lucky phone call to get our romance going the following year. By chance we realised that we were both going to be in the same place one weekend, and from there the relationship that was to be my life soon began.We had a lot in common from the start. My friends were already Lisa’s friends, and I could joke around wit...

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