Shelter Tails: Money Raised To Bring Dogs Home from Iraq

Shelter Tails: Money Raised To Bring Dogs Home from Iraq

By Mary Esparra
For the Times Herald-Record
Published: 2:00 AM – 04/02/10

Wow. When I wrote the March 12 Shelter Tails, “Troops hope to bring canine pals home from Iraq,” I prayed I would have an update to this great story soon. I never dreamed it would bring tears to my eyes.

The story told of Spc. Theodore Fotopoulis of Middletown and his New York state Army National Guard Unit, the 206th Military Police Company, stationed in Iraq. They had befriended and cared for some puppies and dogs who in turn boosted their morale, giving them a sense of home. The soldiers wanted to return the favor, so they adopted the canines.

With help from Operation Baghdad Pups, a campaign was set in motion to help bring the pups here by the time the unit comes home in June. With $4,000 raised at that point, they needed about $4,000 more to cover the cost of crates and transportation.

Free Training

The day after this story ran in Shelter Tails, I received a generous offer from Shari Forst, a canine behaviorist and trainer of Canine Case Squad Inc. in Orange County.

“When they do get the dogs back here, we will gladly waive our usual $525 fee and conduct a consultation and obedience training program for free. We will extend this offer to any of the soldiers that adopted pups from this litter, if they want to come over to us for the service.”
A War Dog Not Forgotten

Then came the call from Shirley Chaiet of Woodbourne. She was so touched by this story, she e-mailed about 100 of her friends to send donations to help bring these puppies home.

The story, she said, brought back memories of another war dog, King.

The year was 1945. The place was Germany. Shirley’s husband-to-be, Julian Chaiet, was in the U.S. Army Signal Corps when he found King, an Alsatian shepherd.

“Julie and King were together all the time,” she said. “King would accompany Julie when he did security duty, and he slept under his bunk. He was more than just a pet or a dog, he was a buddy.

“There were no organizations at that time that were helping ship dogs home, so Julie did it on his own. King was brought home by a friend on one of the Queen ships two months before Julie, who arrived home on a Liberty ship.”

When the stowaway was later discovered, Julian paid King’s passage.

King then lived with Julian’s family in the Bronx, and then with Shirley and Julian in Mount Vernon before the family moved to Woodbourne.

In the Bronx, “everyone on the block knew King and would

talk to him as they walked by,” said Shirley. “Even the nuns who taught the Catholic school up the block greeted him.”

A family member recalls walking King under the elevated trains. “When the train came by,” said Shirley, “King ducked for cover, reminiscent of his days in Germany. He was so smart, he understood German, Jewish and English.

“There are so many stories of King that we were privileged to, because he came home. He is long gone, but not forgotten.”

Julian Chaiet became an NYC policeman, then detective. He was shot in 1963 in Times Square, received a medal and served 20 years on the force.

“He, too, is now gone,” said Shirley, “and we are sure he met up with King.”

Donations Goal Met

As a result of funds raised among fellow GIs, the Family Readiness Group, an Albany newspaper story and Record readers, “I am pleased to report that we have hit our goal,” reported Gordon Lattey, lead volunteer of the unit’s Family Readiness Group. “Please tell them not to send any more money, just their prayers that everyone gets home safe and healthy.

“The generosity and warmth shown by everyone has been overwhelming. You can assure your readers that 100 percent of the funds are going to bring the pups home.”

Lattey estimates about $1,000 of donations came from Record readers.

Sgt. Kelly Dedrick, of Greene County e-mailed her gratitude to me last week for running their story.

“It made a HUGE difference in our fundraising efforts,” she said.

Dedrick reported that five of the dogs will leave Basra on Wednesday, and two of her friends will pick them up in Washington, D.C., on April 9.

Arrangements to get the remaining dogs home, including Spc. Fotopoulis’ pup, Maddy, are still being worked out.

“The issue is space on the plane that flies them from Baghdad to Kuwait,” said Sgt. Dedrick, but she has been assured by Operation Baghdad Pups that arrangements will be made soon.

“Thank you to all of you for your help in making this happen!”

Sgt. Dedrick reported that “Maddy and Foto are doing great.

“He is currently trying to teach her to walk on a leash, which is hysterical!”

Again, wow. Thanks to all who donated what they could to help end these canines’ tour of duty.

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