At just 23 years old, Anna Chiasson of Maine found herself asking that question. ‘Would I leave my best friend behind?’ Her resounding answer was no. And that’s when The Puppy Rescue Mission was born.
The Puppy Rescue Mission (TPRM) works to bring home dogs that our military men and women have befriended while serving our country in foreign lands. TPRM volunteers have helped rescue dogs from places like Afghanistsan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Uganda.
“We’ve brought dogs home to the United States from all different areas of the world,” said Anna, the founder and president of TPRM. “There are some (countries) that have me saying ‘we have people serving there?’ We do! We have people everywhere.”
Since its inception in 2010, TPRM has saved nearly 1,600 dogs.
Most of the dogs are strays that end up on U.S. military bases. As for official military dogs, the U.S. government says it now follows its new policy to make sure our working dogs are returned stateside where their handlers can apply to adopt them. It’s crucial for the well-being of our troops that this is happening.
Anna was in college finishing up an internship in her program to become a dietician when she discovered the need for TPRM.
Her then fiancé (now husband), Christopher, was serving in Afghanistan. Stray dogs had saved dozens of his fellow soldiers’ lives from a suicide bomber before he got to his combat outpost. Not only did three of the dogs alert the service members to the intruder, the loyal pups also chased the would-be bomber and attacked him, forcing him to blow himself up prematurely. Sadly, one of the dogs lost her life in the blast.
The remaining dogs and several other strays became tight with the soldiers. Leaving the dogs there just wasn’t an option.
The stories never get old for Anna, who loves hearing about the difference these dogs can make for our brave troops.
“They build a relationship with the soldiers,” said Anna. “They guard the base. They really become almost trained dogs. One soldier told me about his dog who went on mission after mission with the team. He became so trained, he sniffed things out before the unimaginable could happen.”
These dogs, who are often severely abused and tortured in their countries, pay it back tenfold when they are welcomed into the hearts of American service members.
“They are super loyal,” said Anna. “They’re bred to protect. They’re just amazing dogs – guardian dogs.”
And that guardianship can mean so much even after the troops leave the battlefield.
Anna and Christopher brought home and adopted two of the original outpost dogs.
“It’s hard to say what it would have been like without them,” said Anna. “He had a lot of social anxiety and a difficult time in crowds, but having the dogs is like a comfort that’s hard to explain.”
The two have since adopted a third dog from Afghanistan.
“He’s our little boy,” laughed Anna. “The other two are females. We also have three cats – all rescue cats. We have a zoo!”
Our pets are family members.
Anna never forgets that as she juggles caring for the members of her zoo with her full-time job and her charity work. And she’s reminded constantly of the importance of The Puppy Rescue Mission through the service members they’ve helped.
“The gratitude they express is the most rewarding experience,” said Anna. “You can hear it in the emails. Even when we don’t talk on the phone, you can tell how much these dogs mean to them in their words. If they had to leave them behind it would be an emotional hardship.”
It’s takes a whole pack of people to help get these pups home.
“We would not be where we are today without our amazing team members all across the USA and our wonderful executive director, Michelle Smith, who always gets the job done,” said Anna.
The Puppy Rescue Mission recently expanded its efforts. It took a lot of hard work, determination and muddling through bureaucracy but they are now rescuing dogs out of Iraq.
“That’s huge,” explained Anna. “We never had access there until now.”
She credits the help of an incredible rescue organization based in the U.K. called War Paws.
Back home, volunteers with The Puppy Rescue Mission do a lot of work with local animal rescues as well. That’s something Anna wholeheartedly supports. She just hopes that others will understand why TPRM remains necessary.
“We get a lot of backlash for bringing dogs from other countries when there are so many here that need homes,” said Anna. “But if you see the bond between a soldier and their dog, you wouldn’t ask questions. I wouldn’t want to leave my best friend behind so why should they have to.”
Would you like to help reunite a soldier with his or her dog? This month, Fetching Apparel is donating 40% of profits to TPRM. Copy coupon code: PUPPYRESCUEMISSION to show your support and get FREE SHIPPING.
Fetching Apparel is a veteran-owned business. My husband, and Fetching co-owner, Derek Pepin served as a Black Hawk pilot in the United States Army. We also produced a coffee table book, with the help of volunteer writers from around the country, called Faces of Freedom. We donate 100% of profits from the book to Fisher House Foundation. Both our children are named after fallen service members. With our love of the military, it was a natural fit for Fetching Apparel to partner with The Puppy Rescue Mission. We are proud of what they are doing for our troops.