Nine months have passed since Sgt. Tracy McKithern fell in love with a pitiful pup while deployed to Iraq.
After caring for her overseas and battling to bring her home to the United States, McKithern’s efforts finally paid off this week with an emotional airport reunion.
McKithern is a combat photographer and a major dog lover. After arriving in Erbil, Iraq in April 2017, she caught sight of a filthy white pup sniffing around the camp. McKithern learned from fellow soldiers that the dog’s mother had a litter of three, but by the time she arrived, two of the pups had disappeared.
Street dogs are often the targets of abuse in Iraq, and McKithern learned the mama dog and her puppy had been kicked and pelted with rocks by locals. Despite her prior treatment by humans, the scrawny, filthy puppy instantly responded to the officers.
“She loved everyone,” McKithern told the Army Defense Media. “She is the sweetest little soul. She came up to me immediately, probably hungry, but gentle. I think she was looking for love more than anything else.”
The soldiers at camp named her Erby Kaisma. Erby, for the city of Erbil, and Kaisma which means “beauty and elegance” in Arabic.
Erby became the team’s unofficial mascot, waiting patiently for them when they returned to base.
“She ran up to our convoy every day,” McKithern said. “She was so tiny she would fall and trip all over herself to get to us.”
Erby and her mom soon healed from their wounds and grew strong thanks to the food they received from the soldiers. Erby formed an especially tight bond with McKithern, sleeping on the steps outside her quarters at night.
As the end of her deployment approached, McKithern began to dread leaving her little friend behind.
“One night I posted a pic of us on Facebook, with a caption that read something like ‘I wish I could take her home,’” McKithern said. “I went to sleep, woke up and my friends and family had posted links to various rescue groups. I reached out to one of them, the non-profit Puppy Rescue Mission, and they responded immediately. We sent them $1,000 and they set up a crowd fund to get the rest. We needed an additional $3,500.”
The rest of the money was raised in a snap with generous donations from friends, family and perfect strangers. With the help of some of the officers she met in Iraq, McKithern had Erby vaccinated, prepared her documents, and made travel arrangements.
Erby arrived in Florida just a few weeks behind McKithern!
However, fate placed one more obstacle in their path. McKithern was sent off on a 67-day mission to Wisconsin on March 11 – the day before Erby landed in Florida!
On May 17, after two months in the care of McKithern’s husband, Erby returned to the airport to greet her overseas pal and finally embark on their new life together!
Erby’s mother is still in Iraq where the other soldiers at camp are caring for her. McKithern hopes that she will also be adopted, despite the high cost.
H/T to DVIDSHub.net