Late last year my friend Oephebia and I went to an Animal Charities Day in west London, where we wandered the stalls, feeling heart broken for the countless cases of neglect and cruelty we witnessed on flyers, and through stories at the charity stands, but also heartened that so many wonderful people were putting their heart, soul and energies into helping animals.
We also went to a couple of talks there, and one talk by a man previously unknown to me named Pen Farthing. Pen had been a Segeant in the Royal marines in a small war torn town named Now Zad, in the Helmland Province. His story of how they survived there, under almost constant bombing, attempting to help and protect the local people was truly moving, but it was his tale of how he began to help and befirend the local stray dogs, who were not only caught up in the middle of a human war, but also hungry and unloved.
Pen says: “When we first arrived in the town of Now Zad I broke up a dog fight that was taking place right outside our remote compound. What I didn’t know was that one of those fighting dogs would then befriend me! I couldn’t say no to those big sad eyes, the now very former fighting dog, became my buddy and found himself a name – Nowzad”.
Pen was the first person to show Nowzad kindness and compassion, and soon became his firm buddy for life...
After creating a make shift home for Nowzad in the compound, Pen and the soldiers disocvered Nowzad was telling his pals, as more stray and undernourished dogs were finding their furry way into the supposedly secure army compound!
Soon, the lads were the first Dog Wardens of Now Zad, and Pen risked some daring feats to rescue and save animals from abuse, neglect and starvation.
Deciding that he just couldn't leave the dogs to starvation and bombing when he left Now Zad, Pen pulled nothing short of a miracle, to get the dogs transported to the only dog shelter in Afghanistan, which was a few days drive away.
Pen explains “So the difficult task of persuading a local Afghanistan driver to take the dogs all the way to the rescue in the north – a journey of several days – began. Eventually we found a taxi that would take the dogs some of the way to Lashkar Gar and then they would be exchanged with another driver for the journey to Kandahar and then swapped yet again into another vehicle for the drive to the rescue. We had a few issues with this as we knew that the vehicles would be stopped by the Taliban at road blocks and for that reason the driver wouldn’t let us put the dogs in cages, (a very British thing to do – definitely not an Afghan method of transporting dogs), so we had to tie the dogs up with rope and put the puppies into small crates, (Jena’s puppies went into an old bird cage!), not something we were entirely comfortable with – but what else we were to do?
I knew if the vehicle doors were opened without the driver paying attention then there was a chance one or two of the dogs would escape…”
Pen watched the dogs go, feeling success, tainted with sadness, as it would take a while for him to find out, whether all or any of the dogs made it to the rescue centre.
Finally via a phone call from back home the lads found out the fate of the dogs; Tali, Jena and Nowzad and 13 of the 14 puppies had made the animal rescue. RPG and AK had escaped when the car door was left open. One of the puppies had been stolen.
The Royal Marine's had no idea where RPG and AKwere when they escaped, and had no way of looking for them.
Animal lovers around the world were moved by Pen's efforts and so the charity Nowzad Dogs was formed in May 2007.
'The charity is mostly run by volunteers with the sole aim of improving the welfare of the animals of Afghanistan; especially the dog population. This aim is to be achieved through education of the local people of Afghanistan. Without their support and understanding then we have no hope. Afghanistan is a country full of potential. The Mayhew Animal Home in London supports a vets training scheme for participants from developing countries and the Nowzad Dogs charity fully supports it. Through the fantastic support of donors to Nowzad Dogs we are continually striving to support the many cries for help we receive from servicemen and women that have against orders taken in a stray puppy or rescued a dog or cat from cruelty.' From nowzad.com
Many of the dogs are rehomed and Nowzad and Tali found a forever loving home with Pen and his wife, and their pack of dogs.
There is so much more to the Nowzad story, and Pen's bookes 'One Dog at a time' and 'No Place like Home' are truly inspiring, and will have you gripped!
After Pen's talk last year, both Oephebia and I had used up all the pocket tissues we could find,sobbing our eyes out. What a story! But the story continues, and if Pen can risk his life several times over to rescue animals, I (hopefully!) can run 10K tomorrow morning!
I'd like to say a humungous THANK YOU to everyone that has sponsored me so far! You have made me (andNowzad!) so happy.
If you've yet to sponsor me, please spare whatever you can for this wonderful charity, and help me reach my target. Hopefully, as you can see it truly is a worthwhile cause.
To find out more about the work of Nowzad please visit: www.nowzad.com
Thank you for reading this! xxxxx