Shelter Tails: Iraq Dog Begins New Life In Middletown

Shelter Tails: Iraq Dog Begins New Life In Middletown

By Mary Esparra
For the Times Herald-Record
Published: 2:00 AM – 07/09/10

MIDDLETOWN — It had been a couple of months since Spc. Theodore Fotopoulos had seen his puppy, Maddy.

“The first thing she recognized was the uniform,” said Fotopoulos, “and then she ran right to me.”

Thanks to Record readers’ donations to the SPCA International’s Operation Baghdad Pups program, Maddy has begun a new life at Fotopoulos’ home in Middletown.

Fotopoulos adopted puppy Maddy in Iraq, while stationed there with the 206th Military Police Company’s New York State Army National Guard Unit. While already taking care of three other stray dogs, his unit took in Maddy and her siblings when Iraqi policemen handed them over in a potato sack.

It wasn’t easy caring for dogs in a country that has no canine population control, no spay/neuter programs, no humane societies and no dog food.

“There are dogs just roaming the streets, all hours of the day, with no home or anything,” said Fotopoulos. “The Iraqis don’t like dogs; most of them are afraid of them. They shoot them.”

The soldiers took turns watching over their dogs, protecting them from the unthinkable.

“An Iraqi general threatened to shoot all the dogs in the unit after ripping up his ‘peace garden,'” remembered Fotopoulos. “They would (go) in his garden, and we would have to go out and shovel it up.”

Without dog food, soldiers fed the dogs from their MREs (meals ready to eat). Later, family and friends shipped dog food and treats to the soldiers to feed their pack.

With donations from Record readers and help from SPCA International’s Operation Baghdad Pups, over the last few months Maddy and the other dogs have made their way to their soldiers’ U.S. homes. Maddy arrived in Middletown on May 9, and Fotopoulos arrived a few weeks ago.

Used to living in a military dirt compound, Maddy had a fear of walking on grass when she arrived, but now she digs up the sod between sprints in her fenced-in yard. She feared stairs, but soon became an expert.

At only about 8 months old now, Maddy is in need of training. Eating rocks, chewing slippers and basic obedience are a few issues she needs to address. Thankfully, the Canine Case Squad Inc. is donating its training services to this soldier and his dog.

I asked Fotopoulos what it means to have Maddy home with him.

“We set the goal to bring them home and give them a good life in America, and we did that. Mission accomplished.

“Thank you, everyone, for your support and to whoever sent in donations.”

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