WIU Student Serving in Afghanistan Raising Funds to Bring Puppies to U.S.
July 24, 2014
Editor's Note — July 25 Update: Through the Puppy Rescue Mission, Garrett Rogers was able to raise $3,800; however, he still required to raise $1,000 on his own. You can donate at www.youcaring.com/nonprofits/anastasia-soldiers-companion/207545.
MACOMB, IL — Western Illinois University senior Garrett Rogers (Lindenhurst, IL), who is currently serving in the U.S. Navy in Afghanistan, is looking to have a furry friend in tow when he returns stateside later this year. Rogers, a law enforcement and justice administration major, was called to active duty in January and will be returning to Western to take classes in Spring 2015. A few weeks into his latest deployment, he met Anastasia, "Anna" for short, a mixed-breed puppy, who is living with her family (two sisters, one brother and her mother) in a "makeshift shelter on the side of a dusty little road" outside the camp where Rogers and his fellow sailors are serving.
"I have always been an animal lover and currently own a cat I adopted from a shelter in 2010 after my first Afghan deployment," Rogers explained. "I began visiting the pups every few days just to bring them food and water, and I quickly grew attached. It actually took me close to two months before I finally decided to adopt Anna. My supervisor knew of someone else on camp who had used the Puppy Rescue Mission to adopt another dog several months prior, and he recommended that I contact them."
With the help of the Puppy Rescue Mission organization, Rogers has started an online fundraiser, through which he is taking donations to help bring Anna and her whole family back to the United States. On the fundraising website he noted, "They have been a simple blessing that has helped us to decompress after long hot days on the job."
"Anna and her family have helped us tremendously," he added. "There are numerous studies and reports detailing the benefits animals have on humans, specifically in reducing stress and anxiety. Both of which there are plenty of here. Our daily interactions gave us a chance to shut out work, shut out our problems and just focus for a bit on something else. They gave us a chance to let go of stress and allow us to feel positive emotions (i.e., joy, love, compassion), which are often lacking in a place like this. We took care of this little family. We got to see them grow, and while we helped them, they helped us."
Although Rogers knows there are many shelter and rescue dogs here in the U.S. in need of homes, after becoming attached to Anna and her family, he decided to move forward with the effort to try and bring them home.
"I was back and forth with this decision, but it finally came down to whether or not I could pass up the opportunity to make a difference in this pup's life. Once I get on that plane and come home, there's no reversing that decision. That just didn't set well with me. While there are many dogs in shelters in America more than deserving of good homes, I just believe the best place for Anna is with me and my family. Afghanistan is an unforgiving country, especially for a dog. The vast majority of people here strongly disapprove of dogs as pets. Mistreatment and abuse is rampant."
According to Rogers' post on the online fundraising webpage, Anna has had a particularly rough start.
"Anna was the smallest and weakest of the group, and for a long time [she] would barely venture outside of the shelter. Before long, it was apparent that she was having difficulty walking, and was abnormally lethargic compared to the rest of her siblings. Upon further investigation, I noticed a large dirt-encrusted wound on her left hind leg that was badly infected. With the help of one of my teammates, I was able to expose the wound, which required cutting chunks of dirt from the fur, and relieve the buildup of fluid. The wound was a bad one, and went all the way down to the bone. Stiches would generally have been called for in a case like this, but my medical skillset is limited. I was able to wash and wrap the leg with antibiotic ointment and a clean dressing," he explained.
Since treating her, Rogers noted that Anna has made a full recovery and is "every bit as rambunctious as her brother."
The online fundraising campaign has brought Rogers close to his goal of raising the $3,800 to bring Anna and her siblings to the U.S. He said all four puppies have been spoken for, and they will have "good homes and live full lives back home." He added he has hopes that two other dogs living in the shelter, Lana (Anna's mother) and Ginger, will both find deserving homes, as well.
"The pups are just starting out and have seen some hard times," he said. "They are long overdue for some comfort and easy days thrown their way."
To read more and/or to donate, visit Rogers' fundraising webpage at www.youcaring.com/nonprofits/anastasia/206732.