Soldiers' adopted dogs shipped to Fairbanks

AFGHANISTAN: 6 hours on pets website raised enough money to pay their way.

Fairbanks Daily News-MinerOctober 16, 2011 

Brittney Doyle, right, and friend Carol Falcetta lead Apollo and Thor, a pair of rescued puppies from Afghanistan, to Doyle's truck after picking them up at Fairbanks International Airport Oct. 15, 2011.

JOHN WAGNER / FAIRBANKS DAILY NEWS-MINER

FAIRBANKS -- They arrived at 10 p.m. Saturday from the cargo hold of an Alaska Airlines flight after a couple of days of flying.

One's snout is black and the other's is brown, but they are brother puppies that have made an identically impressive journey to the United States from Afghanistan.

Their names are Apollo and Thor, and when Sgt. Conan Doyle's unit first found them, they were hungry and neglected in an Afghanistan police outpost.

Doyle's unit -- part of the 1st Battalion, 25th Infantry Regiment of Fort Wainwright's Stryker Brigade -- took the puppies into their care, feeding them rice and ground beef from the chow hall before dog food arrived. Doyle and Sgt. Jerry Francis decided they wanted to adopt the dogs -- not just in Afghanistan, but all the way to home in Fairbanks.

A PLEA GOES VIRAL

It wasn't hard for Doyle to convince his wife, Brittney Doyle, to find a way to get the dogs home.

Every morning, the couple uses Yahoo Messenger to chat. Doyle had mentioned the dogs several times to Brittney, and when he said he wanted to adopt them, her original thought was, "Oh, that's great, they'll keep you entertained in Afghanistan."

Then he told her that he wanted to get the dogs to America. Brittney had no idea where to start, but Doyle said there had to be people who helped finance such things.

So as soon as he signed off from the instant messaging service, Brittney went to work. She found several different rescue outfits and emailed them all. The Puppy Rescue Mission responded to her right away.

"I never expected to hear anything back, I really didn't," she said.

The mission told her to get her husband to put the puppies' story together so they could post it on a fundraising website.

"We need your help to get them back to the United States and into a better home," Doyle wrote. "If we don't do this they will have a low survival chance here with the heat, the locals who hate dogs, and the shortage on water and food."

Just six hours after the story and pictures were posted online, the goal of $5,400 was reached with donations.

"I started crying," Brittney said. She was in disbelief.

ON A MISSION

Michelle Smith is treasurer of the mission, which was created in the spring of 2010. The mission posts the dogs' stories online and collects donations from around the world to help get the animals to the States via air cargo.

Smith always tells the new owners the rescued dogs aren't like an average American rescued dog. She said people notice the difference right off the bat.

"They're special," Smith said. "They have a different look to them in their eyes. They've seen a war. They've seen life in a different way."

Smith said the dogs are a huge coping tool for soldiers overseas returning home.

"What makes it so incredible ... the dogs actually help when they come back from Afghanistan," she said. "You pretty much become a soft, warm, loving person (when you're with the dogs)."

A NEW HOME

Outside the Fairbanks International Airport terminal, Brittney and Carol Falcetta tried to guide the excited puppies to Brittney's truck in a hurry. Brittney had left her 1-year-old daughter at home with a babysitter and was trying to get home quickly. Falcetta was there to help get the puppies to the truck.

Apollo and Thor tried to soak up as much of the fresh air as they could as fast as they could. Their two curly tails bounced around as they sniffed the pavement, grass and poles.

The had grown since their pictures were taken for The Puppy Rescue Mission. Getting Apollo and Thor into the truck wasn't a breeze for Brittney. Now that they're here, though, Brittney said she expects them to fit right in.

"My husband and I have big hearts for animals," she said.

She expects Apollo to receive much love at the Francis household, and Thor will be joining the Doyles' one-dog, two-cats and one-baby home. Brittney said the brother dogs will still get to see each other often.

Doyle will be home in just a couple of days for leave, just in time to help Thor adapt to his new lifestyle.

"I'm really, really stoked," Brittney said.

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