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With help from a Puyallup doggie, author discusses effort to rescue strays in Afghanistan

Post by Debby Abe on Oct. 15, 2010 at 8:16 pm |
October 15, 2010 9:30 pm
Phil Bourrillion, left, and Pen Farthing pose with Oso after Farthing's talk at the Moore Library in Tacoma.

Scottish author Pen Farthing and a furry four-footed transplant from Afghanistan drew a full house Wednesday night at the Moore Library in Tacoma’s South End.

Farthing wrote the recently published, “One Dog at a Time: Saving the Strays of Afghanistan.” It’s a nonfiction work relating how he wound up rescuing stray dogs in Afghanistan when he was stationed there as a sergeant with the Royal Marines. The rescue effort has since evolved into a nonprofit group called Nowzad.

One of the dogs Nowzad helped save, Oso, was at the event. So were her owners Phil and Lena Bourrillion of Puyallup. Phil, an active-duty sergeant in the US Army befriended Oso when she was a pup in Afghanistan last year. Aided by Nowzad and countless volunteers, Phil and Lena arranged for Oso’s rescue and trip to Puyallup. You can read about it here.

Oso is one laidback lassie. As Phil talked about Oso’s journey, the dog sat quietly and lolled on the carpeted floor. Later, she gently nudged her way through the rows of listeners who eagerly stroked her soft coat and patted her head.

Pen Farthing showed the crowd slides of the stark desert compound where he and his “lads,” as he called his fellow soldiers, camped in the Helmand province in Afghanistan.

For me, the glimpse of their camp life and the Afghan police and people they encountered were just as fascinating as the images of the stray dogs the men befriended. The presentation offered a gritty, ground-level view of the soldiers’ experience in that faraway land.

The crowd of some 55 people oooed and ahhhed in unison at Farthing’s slides of the big-eyed dogs and adorable kitties that soldiers from the U.K., U.S.A. and other coalition countries befriended, and in many cases, helped rescue.

Pen Farthing, by the way, is a pen name that the author has assumed because of the danger for people involved in the Nowzad rescue effort. The Taliban aren’t dog-lovers nor do they like the Coalition soldiers and local people who try to assist them.

Yet while many of the Afghanis don’t like dogs either, Farthing noted that some locals do enjoy their company. Unfortunately, the country is so poor, money is lacking to vaccinate against rabies so many dogs carry the disease. And since one bite could cause death in a country with so few medical resources, many parents fear the dogs and pass that fear to their children.

Tacoma was Farthing’s last stop on a brief book tour in the U.S. The Wednesday event was sponsored by the Tacoma Public Libray.

You can read lots more about Nowzad and the animals the group has rescued at: www.nowzad.com and www.sacfund.com.

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