One Dog at a Time: Saving the Strays of Helmand by Pen Farthing
Published by Ebury Press
Out of the strong came something sweet. Judges Ch. 14 v.14
For several years now the news from Afghanistan has all been bad; British soldiers killed and injured, no progress on the political front, destruction of facilities and lack of local will to make progress. At home the number of those questioning our Government's policy grows.
Anyone familiar with Kipling's writings of a century ago may find it all very familiar. Now, here is a "good news" story emerging from the most unlikely of settings.
The reader of romantic fiction might compare the District Compound at Nowzad with Fort Zinderneuf in P C Wren's Beau Geste for it is a small garrison surrounded by hostile territory. Supplied by air and its only communication with the outside world by radio, under daily attack from the Taliban and having little confidence in their allies, the Afghan National Army and Police, Kilo Company of 42 Commando Royal Marines might well have thought that they were at the end of the world. In this environment a story unfolds of love and kindness.
Sergeant "Pen" Farthing is striving hard to maintain the morale of his men in this combat situation. Whilst patrolling in the nearby town he witnesses a dog fight and later finds that one of the dogs involved has entered the Compound. Despite the health risks and with a blind eye attitude from the Company Commander he adopts this dog, adapting the scarce resources in the base to meet its needs. Other dogs find their way in too and Sergeant Farthing then seeks to solve the problem of re-homing these strays. The problems appear to be insurmountable but as HRH The Duke of Edinburgh has remarked, "Nothing is impossible for the Royal Marines".
This is a remarkable tale of how one of the most proverbially tough men of our armed forces is also one of the most compassionate. Out of this situation has come Nowzad Dogs a UK charity which supports soldiers who find themselves looking after Afghan strays and also helps work to relieve the problem at source with education and training. Reading the book not only gave me a warm feeling about one man's relationship with his new friends but it also reinforced my admiration for our servicemen who day by day make the very best of the uncomfortable circumstances in which they find themselves.
John Roll Pickering
One Dog at a Time: Saving the Strays of Helmand (review 2) - by Pen Farthing
Published by Ebury Press
I would strongly advise everyone to read this book because, as it says on the cover, it is "an inspiring true story".
Upon being posted to Afghanistan and the town of Nowzad in Helmand Province, Sergeant Pen Farthing was soon engaged in an unexpected rescue mission for a number of dogs in the area. After breaking up a dog-fight which had been organised by the local people, he later discovered one of the dogs hiding nearby. Naming the dog ‘Nowzad', Sergeant Farthing cared for him and developed an amazing bond with the ex-fighting dog which had, at some point, had his ears and tail cut off, a common practice for fighting dogs in Afghanistan.
Soon word spread amongst the pack of stray dogs and more began to arrive to seek the relative sanctuary of the compound and befriend the marines!
Of course the book focuses on the story of the dogs of Nowzad and the subsequent attempt to take them to a more permanent rescue, including ultimately bringing Nowzad and others to the UK; but it also serves to give a glimpse into the unimaginable conditions British troops face in Afghanistan.
This wonderful story of compassion highlights that even in the most trying of human circumstances, the world has (and needs) those who recognise the suffering of animals and that despite the risks and odds, this suffering must be attended to. As can be expected, there are tear-jerking moments in the book, but the hope is that from now on, "one dog at a time" can be freed from the abuse, war-torn conditions and the fight for survival which they face.