Soldier in Afghanistan tries to get puppy out of war zone

? About a month ago, a tiny mixed-breed puppy wandered onto Sgt. Lucas May’s camp in Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan.

Knowing it was against military rules to keep local animals as pets, May hesitated to feed or pet the pup. But her brown eyes and floppy ears were hard to resist.

A few days later, May, a member of the Kansas Army National Guard, called his wife in Valley Center.

“He said, ‘We found this dog, and we want to see if we can get permission to rescue her,'” Amanda May said. “He loves dogs, and he knows how much I love dogs.

“I told him, ‘We’ll do everything we can to bring her home.'”

Lucas May began by writing a letter to his commanders:

“We have all been witness firsthand to the mistreatment and neglect that Afghan animals endure,” he wrote.

“Our hearts break constantly… As our tour here ends, we feel that in some small way we owe it to the animals of Afghanistan to save at least one.”

The soldiers didn’t name the puppy for fear that she wouldn’t be allowed to stay on base. “She will be called Dog for our purposes,” May wrote, “until we have a definitive answer as to her future.”

The answer was yes: May could rescue the puppy. But it wouldn’t be cheap.

Army regulations don’t allow dogs to travel with troops. So, like other U.S. soldiers who have adopted stray animals overseas, Lucas May and his wife are raising money to bring the puppy, now named Bella, home to Kansas.

They estimate it will cost about $2,500 to fly Bella from Afghanistan to Wichita.

The puppy is in quarantine at a shelter in Kabul, where Pam Constable, a foreign correspondent for the Washington Post, runs a project to help stray dogs and cats get veterinary care and find adoptive homes.

Amanda May, who is fundraising director for the Sedgwick County Animal Response Team, says Bella’s future would be bleak in Afghanistan.

“Over there, she really doesn’t have a chance at all,” she said. “There are dogs everywhere. Most just wander the countryside and starve or get killed.

“My thing is, I wish we could rescue all the dogs. But if we could help just one, that’s worth it.”

The fawn-colored pup instantly lifted the spirits of Lucas May and his fellow soldiers, who have been stationed in Afghanistan since April. They are part of the National Guard’s agriculture development team, promoting sustainable farming practices throughout the region.

So far Amanda May has collected about $500. If donations exceed the $2,500 goal, she and her husband say they’ll donate the extra funds to the Afghan shelter to help other animals reunite with their adoptive soldiers.