If you know anything about me, you know I’m an avid dog lover. In January, I had the pleasure of being involved in an incredible journey. Not mine. The story belongs to a sweet little dog named Honey. Honey brought comfort to one soldier in particular, serving his country, overseas. Honey’s story is not unique. There are many other furry friends out there, helping warm the hearts of service folks far from their loved ones. And many of them are in need of a little assistance to get home to their new families. Recently...Honey made it home!
History is laden with stories of dogs involved in war time activities, as well as peace-keeping missions. Many are official military dogs. These incredible creatures endure grueling training to become the extended eyes, ears and noses of military, security, and service personnel, around the world. They help keep humans safe and, many times, these war hero dogs, give their lives doing so.
But there are other animals who perform a wonderful service to folks serving their country. Dogs and cats you rarely hear about. Little, homeless puppies. Animals…lost, hungry, alone and scared…running in fear for their lives in the middle of a war zone! One such dog was Honey.
Honey was being beaten with sticks by kids in a city in the middle east.
Seeing what was happening, a local woman ran to Honey's rescue. She brought the battered dog to a clinic where a US Army veterinarian examined and cared for her, later performing a routine spay surgery, Worse, to find she was in late term pregnancy. (As far as we know, the pups didn't survive.) A US Soldier became smitten with this little dog, who he named Honey; and kept her under his wing to keep her safe.
Honey remained with the soldier after she recovered and found comfort with him. Little did Honey know that she was bringing so much comfort to this soldier and his unit, as well…by sharing her unconditional love and covering them with sloppy kisses of affection. Away from their loved ones, dogs like Honey provide a much needed connection to home and bring comfort to those serving their country in a foreign land.
Unfortunately, not being a certified military dog means that they have no official status and cannot go home with their soldiers. At least, not via sanctioned avenues. Enter caring and compassionate folks who donate time, money, logistics and medical care to help these animals make it home to the soldiers who have come to love them and their families who want to give these love starved animals a better life.
Soldiers hoping to rescue their newly found furry friends are put in contact with amazing people, like Bonnie Buckley. Web sites like her Military Mascots site help soldiers find the information and connections they need to start the process of getting their friends cared for so they can begin the long journey to a new home.
Honey is just one, of the many dogs and cats who are hoping to leave their chaotic existence behind and become a loving pal to their newly adopted families in a safer environment.
Caring folks, wishing to help, donated money, time and talents to Honey to help her make the journey. Her soldier gave her hugs and she returned the favor with a face-full of wet kisses…kisses she would take back to his family in the states. Anxiously, he handed his new best friend over and hoped that she would have a safe journey back to his waiting family. He—concerned for Honey, but excited to be sending back a little piece of himself. His family—anxiously waiting to welcome the animal who has given him comfort and love while he’s been away.
After enduring all the medical procedures to deem her healthy and fit to travel to the US, Honey was put into a crate to face the unknown. She left the middle east and eventually made it to the UK, where she was required to hang out for a time. She needed to, again, be medically approved to continue her trip into the US.
While Honey was dealing with her leg of the journey, overseas, Bonnie and many volunteers were busy passing emails back and forth, setting up the logistics to get Honey from point A to point B. Volunteer runners, along the route, would drive her to the next location in her journey from Chicago to Kentucky.
Thanks to technology and the unwavering efforts of so many caring people—who want to return the favor to our service men and woman, as well as help provide a better life to one deserving animal at a time—the plans were now in place. All that was required was for Honey to arrive in the states.
Tamara Messina, a volunteer runner for Honey’s team, anxiously waited at the airport for Honey’s arrival. Greg Chapman, a pilot, had volunteered to save Honey the anxiety of being passed from one runner to another by flying her in his Cessna to her soldier’s family in Kentucky. Greg removed the passenger seats from the plane to make way for Honey’s rather large crate. He mapped out his flight path and passed the info to the runners, in case the impending weather forced him down. This would allow others to take Honey on the rest of her journey, if he could not.
Mother Nature did not cooperate! A winter storm moved into the Midwest just in time to greet Honey’s arrival at the airport.
With plans temporarily put on hold, due to the weather, Tamara took Honey home, gave her a bath, dinner, and provided all the comforts and freedoms afforded loved pets in the US. Still a little nervous, Honey humbly accepted what was given. More emails flew as Tamara passed along updates and photos of her time spent with the dog.
Bonnie, a former animal control officer with a passion for dogs and cats, kept a close eye on the impending game plan. Spending countless hours at her computer, she made sure everyone was still in place for the rest of the adventure. She also kept Honey’s soldier apprised of her progress, as he anxiously awaited final word of Honey's safe arrival with his family.
Greg was still watching the weather. But it appeared the flight would have to be canceled, as visibility was now not approved for take-off. Disappointed and unwilling to give up, Greg informed the team that he would just drive Honey home in his truck. Having family in Ohio, Greg was familiar with most of the route and had taken it many times back and forth with our own dogs as companions. We had the safety harnesses to spare. This would allow Honey a more peaceful journey without having to be passed around any further.
Saturday morning, after taking one of our dogs, Cassy, on her obligatory coffee run in daddy’s truck, Greg headed off to meet Tamara and Honey. All the folks on Honey’s team were appreciative of Greg for taking on the task himself and freely offered up their homes along the route, as rest stops and havens for a warm meal, if needed.
Greg met up with Tamara at the assigned location. The timid and friendly pooch was carefully handed over to Greg. He was greeted by Honey with a face-full of gracious kisses! After a few checks to confirm the route—they were off.
As explained by my vet, dogs tend to shed wildly when they are nervous. And, although Honey took to Greg and easily moved into his truck, the fur was soon flying as Honey anxiously watched to see where this journey would take her next!
Honey proved that she was a pleasant companion, as she kept to herself and patiently waited further instructions from Greg as they traveled along. Encountering a bit of a white-out snow storm around Lake Michigan, the traffic flow slowed as they carefully carried on.
Once away from the lake, the skies cleared. Time for a little rest stop and a chance for Greg to get all the salts washed off his truck so he could clearly see out his windows. Although ever weary of her surroundings, having come from a life of chaos and cruelty, Honey enjoyed her walks and found grass to be quite intriguing!
Unfortunately, Greg didn’t realize how the noise of a car wash would affect the dog. As they moved through it, poor Honey became frightened and jumped into the back seat to hide from the noise of the water jets hitting the outside of the truck!
Greg tried to assure her that it was okay and soon Honey was, again, relaxed as she snoozed in the back seat of the truck for most of the rest of the journey. Only occasionally popping her head up to get some strange new sniffies through the cracked windows.
As Greg and Honey made their way to meet up with her new mom, Greg would stop to make update calls, which were quickly conveyed to the rest of the team, via email. They were all anxiously going along for the virtual ride.
The trip went well; uneventful for the most part. Greg pulled up to the meeting location with Honey’s new mom. He wished Honey well and took a last goodbye picture of her before he passed her on to her soldier’s family; then turned around to make the return trip back to his own home.
The soldier's family was thrilled to have Honey home with them! And Honey, being a good little soldier in her own right, passed along those kisses she’d been carrying with her…from her soldier…and gave them to his wife, who happily accepted each and every one of them!
That sweet, little dog, Honey, who shared her unconditional love with soldiers in Iraq, and who was subsequently rescued from a brutal life to come live here in the states, is thriving and has become the fun-loving queen of all she surveys!
As you can imagine, she had a little adjusting to take to her new lifestyle and freedom. And there were those moments of concern where her soldier hoped she would adjust okay. She needed to learn to trust people, as well as realize that she didn't need to defend her food any longer. And there were also those lessons about dog-equette, "No, the cat is NOT a toy, nor is she lunch!"
But with some love, kindness and training, her soldier says she's become a fantastic pal. He's thrilled with her adjustment and very happy to have her around. He also says that she's the fastest dog he's ever seen! On their walks around their farmland, she is a riot to watch as she happily bounds through the tall grass like a deer...with a doggy smile that says it all, "I love this country!"