Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Rebecca’s War Dog of the Week: Making the case for strays on base

By Rebecca Frankel Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent There’s some good news on our campaign to life the “don’t pet, don’t feed” ban — even if it’s not official … yet. Stars and Stripes reports that military bases in Afghanistan are “going to the dogs — and cats.” It seems, the number of soldiers “smuggling” ...

BOB STRONG/AFP/Getty Images
BOB STRONG/AFP/Getty Images
BOB STRONG/AFP/Getty Images

By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

There's some good news on our campaign to life the "don't pet, don't feed" ban -- even if it's not official … yet. Stars and Stripes reports that military bases in Afghanistan are "going to the dogs -- and cats."

It seems, the number of soldiers "smuggling" stray animals into their bases to "adopt and spoil" is on the rise. According to S&S reporter, Jon Rabinoff, despite strict regulations against adopting pets or "mascots" one could "pick any U.S. military base in Afghanistan and find yourself a heartwarming pet story worthy of an 'Animal Planet' feature."

By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

There’s some good news on our campaign to life the “don’t pet, don’t feed” ban — even if it’s not official … yet. Stars and Stripes reports that military bases in Afghanistan are “going to the dogs — and cats.”

It seems, the number of soldiers “smuggling” stray animals into their bases to “adopt and spoil” is on the rise. According to S&S reporter, Jon Rabinoff, despite strict regulations against adopting pets or “mascots” one could “pick any U.S. military base in Afghanistan and find yourself a heartwarming pet story worthy of an ‘Animal Planet’ feature.”

These dogs and kittens who have been smuggled in by soldiers and given names such as Bacon, Butterscotch, and Momma — all are cared for and coddled by the soldiers around them, including having dog/cat houses and dining on eggs, tuna, and chocolate milk. (The six-picture gallery is definitely worth viewing.)

One soldier told S&S: “”I can honestly speak for everybody else — it definitely boosts our morale and gives us another bit of responsibility. It keeps our energy positive, playing with them and spending time with them.” But Best Defense readers know that calling these strays “pets” or “mascots” is a misrepresentation of the invaluable contribution the offer. Not only are these stray dogs helping to protect and sustain soldiers on base, but they’re going out on foot patrol — a dangerous job for a mere “pet.” Two of the dogs, Thumper and George, who rolled with troops at a combat outpost in the Arghandab district were killed after accidentally setting off an IED.

But the official military lines and rules still stand — no indigenous pets allowed on base — but it looks like even the higher ups are starting to consider the weight of the benefits against protocol — letting this rule bend out of sight entirely.

Lt. Col. Matthew Reid told S&S, “he has a lot more important things to worry about in the life-and-death world of a war zone than who might be sneaking a puppy or kitten into their bunk at night. ‘I really haven’t given it too much thought, to be honest,’ adding that he was aware of cats employed on some bases to address rodent concerns. “My focus is usually elsewhere…'”

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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