Puppy love

Unique animal rescue brings dogs and cats to US from war ravaged countries
9 May 2012

ST. JOHN VALLEY – Puppy Rescue Mission stands out as an inspiring example of humanitarian and peace building efforts in a warzone, thanks to the hard work and dedication of Anna Cannan of Madawaska, the organization’s founder.


Popular bands Disturbed and Godsmack recently raised $9,000 for the Puppy Rescue Mission. $2,000 of that helped to bring little Aaliyah, shown above with a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan, to her forever home. - Image courtesy of Puppy Rescue Mission

Cannan created the organization primarily to save pets soldiers adopted while they fought on desert and mountain battlefields in far-off countries. The mission of Cannan’s two-year-old Puppy Rescue is to bring these pets home with the returning soldiers to help them adjust to civilian life again, just as the pets helped the service men and women on the battlefield.

The website for Puppy Rescue Mission describes the service these animals provide to their counterparts as “helping to provide a sense of normalcy” for soldiers in the warzone, and in some cases, even saving the lives of service personnel.

In one case, dogs adopted by soldiers at an Afghanistan base attacked a suicide bomber who infiltrated the base and was attempting to enter the barracks. One of the three dogs involved in the attack died as a result and two others were seriously injured, along with several service members. But more than 50 soldiers would have died if the bomber had managed to enter their living quarters, said Cannan.


- Image courtesy of Puppy Rescue Mission

Other dogs, such as Mako, who is currently in Afghanistan, go on air supply drop recovery missions and patrols with their human teammates. Cujo, who lives in Colorado now after arriving in the U.S. a couple of months ago, went on over 21,000 missions and saved countless lives, said Cannan. In his civilian life, he is now a service and therapy dog.

Although some people think money raised would be more effectively spent on the numbers of stray dogs and cats in the U.S. who need homes, these battlefield animals face a short, grim life in Afghanistan if they are left behind when the soldiers move on.

“According to the Afghan culture, if a person is bitten by a dog, the person cannot get to Allah, the god Afghans worship, as dogs are considered to be a disgrace. Animals in Afghanistan are literally treated like trash, used for target practice, blown up, run over and used in fights in the case of many, many dogs,” explains the Puppy Rescue Mission website.

Cannan’s cause is a mission of mercy for both the soldiers and the animals in a warzone where mercy can sometimes kill.

From its humble beginnings in April 2010 with the “Lucky Seven” puppies who returned to the U.S. from Afghanistan with her fiancée Chris Chiasson of Fort Kent, Cannan, her board of directors, and teams of volunteers from all over the U.S. have saved and transported out of Afghanistan approximately 300 dogs and cats for returning service men and women.


- Image courtesy of Puppy Rescue Mission

The inspiration for Puppy Rescue Mission came to Cannan when Chiasson befriended one of the puppies of the dog that died defending the soldiers from the suicide bomber, and he wanted to bring Bear home with him when his tour ended.

Sometimes the animals end up in the U.S. before their companions, especially if their rescue becomes more urgent. It is against military policy for service personnel to befriend animals. A new commanding officer on base might order the dogs be terminated.

Chiasson’s mother, Cecelia Pinter, said, “When my son was stationed [in Afghanistan] and I had his dog, it was like I had a part of him.”

She said her son, back in the U.S., would lose the hardened edge he developed while in the warzone when he was around his Afghanistan pets.

“He looked like he was twelve again,” she said. “The dogs helped him. You can see it.”

She said those who disagree with the organization’s mission fail to understand that it’s more than about rescuing the dogs; it’s about rescuing the soldiers.

“Some of these guys, they come out from doing missions and they’ve lost their buddies. It’s a way for them to unwind.”

In just two years, the organization has grown beyond Cannan’s wildest dreams.

“It’s bigger than I ever could have imagined. It’s gone national. It’s taken over the rescue world.”

Puppy Rescue Mission has almost 30,000 Facebook followers now and has raised over $1.5 million to date. The Oprah Network will feature a section on Chiasson and the Puppy Rescue Mission, to air sometime in June.

“It’s kind of exciting,” Cannan said.

Up until last week, rescuing a pet for a returning soldier cost the organization approximately $4000 per dog. The operation involves transporting the animal from the warzone to the one shelter in the entire country of Afghanistan, in Kabul. The animal may have to travel 20 to 24 hours just to reach the shelter, said Cannan.

“We bribe a lot of locals,” she said.

Generally, a service man or woman contacts an interpreter who finds a driver for the animal. The money is then wired to Afghanistan. Cannan said to ensure the animal makes it to the shelter, the drivers are paid on delivery. At the shelter, the organization pays to have the animals fed and vaccinated, and they arrange a flight for the animal from Dubai or Pakistan.

“Sometimes we run out of crates. The animals are stuck at the shelter too long. They catch a virus and die,” she said.

Cannan said there is no such thing as “dog food” in Afghanistan, so the shelter has to cook the food at the facility, and the opportunity to transmit a food-borne illness is high.

“This is a country where bleach is hard to come by,” she said. “We’re dealing with a Third World country, so nothing goes smoothly.”

The animals fly from one of the two exit ports to Dallas, Seattle, New York or Houston. There, teams of volunteers pick up the animals and send them to their forever homes.

Last week, Cannan spoke with the owner of Kalitta Air, an international freight airline, who has agreed to partner with the non-profit organization to send the crates to Afghanistan for free.

“We spent $20,000 on crates last year,” said Cannan. “This is a godsend.”

The donation should save Cannan and the organization approximately $3000 per dog.

In addition, Jon Paul DeJoria, the owner of Paul Mitchell hair care products, donated $10,000 to the organization last week. About a month ago, Nancy and Richard Rogers, the executive chairman for Mary Kay Cosmetics, donated $25,000 to the cause.

Cannan is thankful for donations the organization receives, but some donations stand out for her. The family of one of the rescued dogs, Leonidas, was so grateful for the service performed by the organization that they have raised $15,000 to donate to the cause.

“We’ll never turn a rescue away,” said Cannan. The activist said the organization had recently helped rescue an animal in Saudi Arabia for an American serviceman.

“We’re making peace among countries,” she said.

Puppy Rescue Mission helped a Lithuanian soldier and a German soldier rescue their adopted pets.

“They’re so amazed that American people are willing to help even though they’re not American,” she said.

Cannan spends approximately 30 hours per week on this project. This is in addition to her full-time job as a registered dietician for Northern Maine Medical Center in Fort Kent. At the moment, she has five dogs at the shelter in Afghanistan waiting for transport.

For more information on the Puppy Rescue Mission http://www.thepuppyrescuemission.org/. 


What a Crock!

Hmmm, maybe the people at PRM need to do their homework. Nowhere in the Qoran does it state that people bitten by dogs won't go to Allah or heaven. Dog Food is also widely available in Afghanistan. And the rescue of the 7 dogs was actually done by another rescue organisaztion and all PRM did was assist with raising enough money to get the dogs sent home yet PRM have managed to build a whole persona based on the back of another organization. A very ill informed organization that spend a lot of time slating the people of Afghanistan and making out that Afghans are all cruel animal abusers and also spend a lot of time spouting off about the Qoran when I will bet they have never even read it.


It would be sad if a good cause was stained by misinformation.

So, I ask: 1) where does PRM get their information about people getting bitten by dogs not going to Allah? 2) where do you get your information about no dog food in Afghanistan? and finally (at least for PRM) 3) where do you get your information about Afghanistan's treating dogs so poorly?

Now, I also have to ask JoJo 1) where in this article or on the PRM web site did you get the idea that they got the dog biting bit from the Qur'an? or that the Qur'an was even involved? 2) What other rescue organization do you refer to when you mention the rescuing of the 7 dogs?

Just so you know JoJo, Allah is also mentioned in the Hadith. Dogs are mentioned in it as well, but does not mention, PRM, (or that I can find) people bitten by dogs not going to Allah.

In response

As a Board Member of Puppy Rescue Mission, I would like to take this opportunity to address JoJo's and snowdogHERA's concerns. PRM actually got it information about the local Afghani culture concerning dogs from a Soldier stationed in Afghanistan who was given this information from a local interpreter that had lived in Aghanistan all his life. This Soldier wrote an article about these Afghani's stray dogs. See http://www.mccookgazette.com/story/1613398.html Army Medic Young writes, "Dogs in the country of Afghanistan, according to an interpreter who has lived here his whole life and now works for the U.S. Army, are considered unclean animals and treated as such. Dogs are shot, beaten, have rocks and sticks and anything else inhabitants of this land can get their hands on, thrown at them. Local custom has it that if you are bitten by a dog, you cannot get into heaven. That might have something to do with their (lack of) popularity." Those thoughts also come directly from multiple soldiers who have been stationed in Afghanistan, the abuse and neglect of the animals is evident in PRM's rescues where many dog's have had their ears and tails both cut off, where many of these rescues are removed by our Service Men and Women from people stoning these innocent animals and where many are picked up on the side of the road injured and malnourished. Concerning dog food, in a third world country where sanitation is a problem, obtaining quality/safe dogfood can not be counted on. With the increased use of military working dogs, they are even finding it difficult to supply their dogs and certainly don't use local products, if available, for this. A supply contractor for Afghanistan notes "Because of the surge there is more need for working dogs. But one of my main problems is getting dog food," he said. "It's hard to convince people sometimes that it's a priority, but it's a necessity if we are to keep these dogs working." See http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2010/jan/23/dog-surge-along-with-troop-su.... Afghanistan is a warzone and has been for many generations. There are several different entites that rescue Afghani animals, some are individuals and some are organizations. PRM has assisted both in the past with fundraising. The Lucky 7 were rescued by another organization as PRM was just a facebook page at the time trying to raise money for the Soldiers and their dogs. PRM sent the money, several thousands of dollars, to that organization that they raised through donations from their PRM's facebook page and monies collected from yard sales, selling candles and Mary Kay cosmetics to rescue the initial 7 dogs. PRM currently works collaboratively with another rescue organization based in Afghanistan. Puppy Rescue Mission became its own entity in December 2011 as an official 501c3 nonproft. We pay boarding in Afghanistan to the ASAL, Afghan Stray Animal League,and to vaccinate the dogs prior to flying. After a request is received from one of our Men or Women in Uniform, Puppy Rescue Mission will conduct the rescue mission from start to finish. SUPPORT OUR TROOPS and their 4 footed Battle Buddies!!! Soldiers saving puppies...puppies saving Soldiers!!

Well, I would like to think

Well, I would like to think my time is more valuable than this but emotions can get the best of me sometimes. Oh JoJo....you are a "glass half empty type" arent you? Took the time to read this article and at the end all you could manage was a re-enactment scene from the exorcist. Ok...real quick cause I know I am wasting time.....are you from or have you been to Afghanistan? Because I have. I've covered about 30% of it and the only dog food I ever saw came off my plate. The information about how dogs are treated over there, I dont know if you are aware of something I am not. But I am aware of how little dogs can survive on, how well they can scavenge to survive, their resilience to thrown rocks, and their will to survive even in these harsh conditions can take more than one bullet to break. I am not calling all of them cruel animal abusers, but what I mentioned above I saw regularly. And yes.....the lucky seven. All PRM did was raise the money for those seven dogs. Thats all. At about $4000/dog. Do the math. But they just "assisted" right? This "very ill informed" organization has gone on to "assist" how many soldiers/dogs since then? PRM focuses on these rescues and takes no stand on slating the people of Afghanistan or disrespecting the Qur'an. Afterall, the real backbone are the Afghans involved in each rescue. Without them, none of this is possible. Now for the real crock. Its nice and easy to make accusations and try to demoralize anything on the internet. Sitting behind your computer, all comfortable in your own element. Hide behind a screen name and no one knows you. Well JoJo, name's Chris Chiasson.

Thanks Cessie

Cessie, thank you very much for explaining where the information came from.