When Sgt. T.J. Homan met a white-and-brown spotted puppy in Afghanistan in 2011, he never expected the canine would become his companion.
He named the dog "Lil B," short for Beethoven because she resembled the St. Bernard from the famous movie. She slept in his cot at night, and he says she served as a reminder that there were other things in the world besides war.
When it was time for him to return home, Homan (pictured right) told his sister he wanted to bring Lil B with him. His sister started looking for ways to make that happen, and she discovered No Dog Gets Left Behind (NDGLB), a nonprofit that helps soldiers reconnect with the dogs they bonded with while overseas.
Philadelphia resident Trish Gohl founded the organization in 2010 after her dog died and her nephew was deployed to Afghanistan. She got the idea from watching the Military Channel documentary "No Dog Left Behind."
"In the soldiers' minds, these dogs have earned the right to come home," Gohl told Life With Dogs.
Getting dogs out of combat zones is costly and complicated, so NDGLB has partnered with international organizations like the Afghan Stray Animals League, which quarantines dogs and supplies them with vaccinations and paperwork, and Puppy Rescue Mission, which helps transport dogs to U.S. soil.
Since its founding Gohl’s nonprofit has raised more than $70,000 to bring 15 dogs to the United States.
It costs about $4,500 to provide one dog with food, vaccines, medical care, boarding and transportation.
Often, the dogs beat their soldiers home. Such was the case with Homan, who arrived at Fort Dix in January 2012 and found Lil B was already there to meet him.
"I was in my uniform still, she smelled me, and she just fell right at my knees, pushed her whole body against me," he told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Related on MNN:
- 10 tear-jerking reunions between soldiers and their dogs
- Army policy makes it harder for soldiers to obtain service dogs
- Dogs become new treatment for a war that never ends