Shortly after 1st Lt. Robert Wade befriended two scraggly dogs while serving with the U.S. Army in southern Iraq, he decided to make his four-legged war-time companions a permanent part of his life.“I just wasn’t going to leave them there,” he said. “They brought so much comfort to me and the platoon. They just gave you a sense of normalcy.”Originally from Michigan, Wade, 40, has lived in the Lake Norman area seven years. He and his exuberant yet frail-looking mutts, Mama and Sadie, have been home for about a year.“Mama, is blind in one eye and has a few scars,” Wade said. “I was told by the vet that she also had a broken leg at some point. Sadie is her daughter. She is the only pup out of Mama’s litter that was left when I got to (our base). I was told by a soldier that the Iraqis poisoned Mama’s litter of puppies and Sadie was the only one that survived.” Mama and Sadie were quarantined for weeks and given vaccinations before making the plane ride home. Sadie, who was pregnant, was held an additional two months before reuniting with Wade and Mama. Each of her six puppies were adopted by soldiers in Wade’s platoon or by family members of the soldiers. Wade and his family and friends also raised hundreds of dollars to help pay to get the dogs to the U.S. with help from Operation Baghdad Pups. The Concord-based Cabarrus Spay & Neuter Clinic, which has provided a low-cost spay/neuter option for cats, dogs and rabbits since 2005, donated its services to spay both dogs.Candace McMahen, 28, the office manager at the clinic, said Wade’s story helps spread awareness about local spaying/neutering efforts, as the nonprofit looks to expand, re-locate and become a no-cost clinic.“The dogs and the soldier came such a long way and their story is very heartwarming, so we did both surgeries for free as a way to say thanks for his service,” said McMahen. “I just thought it was awesome that someone bonded with these two dogs. It was a really cool experience and the dogs are just so well taken care of now.”Mark McGeough, the dogs’ veterinarian at Birkdale Animal Hospital in Huntersville, recommended the Cabarrus clinic to get the dogs spayed.Comfort on the frontlinesWade served in Iraq as platoon leader of nearly 50 soldiers in the 805th MP Company. The reserve unit based in Cary, was attached to Company C., ‘Crazyhorse’, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.He was deployed to Basrah, Iraq, in 2011 and was part of the last convoy to leave the country in December 2011. While there, one of his men, Daniel Lucas Elliott, was killed and several were wounded, including three who were sent home and a few who stayed despite serious concussions and injuries from shrapnel.They were stationed at a small patrol base just outside the city and there were wild dogs everywhere. “Most (wild dogs) you stayed away from, or they stayed away from you, but eventually Mama and Sadie would let me give them water and any left over scraps of food I could get together,” Wade said. “When I first saw them, there was no interaction. But these two hung out in our parking lot and would lay under our trucks to stay out of the heat. It took them a little while to trust coming up to me.”Then, friends and family began to send dog treats.“When the dogs would see me either coming to the trucks to leave on a patrol or getting out of the truck coming back from a patrol, they would run right up to me shaking their butts and wagging their tails – because they knew whatever I had on me I would give to them,” said Wade. “Every time I would get back from patrol, come through the gate and head to the parking lot, I think my first instinct was to look around for the dogs.”The brief stints he shared with the dogs served as a way to decompress, he said. He would pet them, pull off ticks and just chat with them.“They would lay down, roll on their backs and let me pet their belly or rub their paws,” said Wade. “I always felt sad walking back into the compound hoping they would be there the next day. You just never knew with how the dogs lived over there if they would be alive from one day to the next. They literally did what they had to do to survive.” Part of the packMama and Sadie brought comfort to the entire platoon but everyone knew Wade considered them his dogs. One day, during an hour-long patrol of the perimeter of the base, Mama followed closely behind the soldiers as if part of the group.“That would have to be my favorite memory,” Wade said. “I would turn around and look behind me every now and then and she’d always be there, just tagging along. They would come up to some other guys in the platoon but they knew once they saw me that they were going to get something.”He often cut open water bottles to let them drink, or shared some of his MRE, Meal Ready-to-Eat. Though, he never knew if he’d see them from one day to the next.Wade got help transporting the dogs from Operation Baghdad Pups, which is part of SPCA International, a global animal rescue group founded in the U.S. in 2006. Operation Baghdad Pups provides veterinary care and coordinates the logistics and transportation requirements of reuniting pets from Iraq and Afghanistan with their owners, service men and women in the U.S.Soldiers who’ve worked with the organizations say the animals helped them cope while serving in a war zone and adjust to life after combat.Wade’s favorite memory since being back was reuniting with Mama, after about three months apart, during a homecoming event in January at the reserve unit’s base in Cary. Wade’s family brought the dog and all the soldiers in the platoon were glad to see her, despite the dog’s apprehension to the large crowd. “Everyone was petting her and hugging her,” Wade said. “She was really nervous but she still let people hold her and pet her. Anybody in my platoon who lives nearby, they still love to come and see the dogs.”
Monday, Dec. 17, 2012
Soldier brings home two four-legged companions from Iraq
Cabarrus Spay & Neuter Clinic donates services to honor soldier
First Lt. Robert Wade was deployed to Basrah, Iraq in 2011, where he served as a platoon leader in the U.S. Army and befriended two dogs, Mama (left) and Sadie. He brought them both to the U.S. with help from Operation Baghdad Pups. COURTESY 1ST LT. ROBERT WADE
Sadie, and her puppies, in Iraq. All of the dogs eventually were brought to the U.S. and adopted by 1st Lt. Robert Wade and family and friends of members of his platoon.
First Lt. Robert Wade and his dogs, Sadie (left) and Mama at the Cabarrus Spay & Neuter Clinic in Concord. The clinic donated its services to spay both dogs, which were brought to the U.S. from Iraq.
Learn more: What: The Cabarrus Spay and Neuter Clinic has provided low-cost sterilization services for dogs, cats and rabbits since 2005. When: Open 7 a.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays. Closing time depends on scheduled surgeries. Where: 413 Church St. N., Concord. Cost: Rabbit, $60; female cat, $84; male cat, $59; female dog less than 70 pounds, $109; female dog more than 70 pounds, $129; male dogs, $89. Prices include pain medication. Details: 704-784-6304 or cabarrusspayneuter.org. For more about Operation Baghdad Pups, visit http://bit.ly/W9g1AB.