January 2009 Issue

No Kitty Left Behind: Operation Baghdad Pups

Here's how to help the animals that are providing companionship to our troops in Iraq.

Operation Baghdad Pups, an SPCA International initiative, helps Americans serving in Iraq bring home the animals they’ve befriended while on duty. Though at first glance, it might appear that Operation Baghdad Pups is limited to canines, roughly ten percent of the pets in the program are cats. The first cat to come "home" to the states through the program was a small, calico kitten that had been hiding in a truck’s engine compartment. Bruce, an American contractor working in Northern Iraq, estimates the kitten was riding in the engine for more than 30 km before she jumped out from under the hood. Alarmed by the kitten’s serious injuries to one of her front legs, Bruce and a security medic liaison officer treated her "in the field." When she didn’t improve after a few days, Bruce took the kitten to the site emergency medical doctor, who gave her further medical treatment. Bruce relates that in an environment in which he had little social contact and spent every waking hour installing "important basic infrastructure" to the local people in Northern Iraq, the little kitten "Hope" filled a void in his life. When the kitten was well enough to venture outside, she quickly befriended the rest of the camp and became a well-loved, affectionate mascot. The day came, of course, when it was time for Bruce to head home; however, he couldn’t bear the thought of leaving "Hope" behind. She lacked all survival skills of a feral cat, he explains, and with the emotional attachment he had made during the six months the two had been together, "It would be like me abandoning my own child."

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