2/1/2010 11:07:00 PM Column: 'Operation Puppy Freedom' brings dog from Iraq to Prescott
Army Lt. Morgan Lerette holds Diyala.
Lt. Lerette's sister, Lindsay Winfrey, helped bring Diyala to Prescott from Iraq.
Jerry Jackson Courier columnist
Following is a true story from actual life focusing on a soldier. And puppy love.
The soldier is Army Lt. Morgan Lerette, who is stationed in Iraq, whereas the puppy is an adorable fuzzball and native of Iraq who was born this past November and answers to the name Diyala.
As of late last month, Diyala became a naturalized citizen of the United States and has landed a home in Prescott, Ariz. This came about after her rescue by Lerette, with able aid from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (International), or ASPCA. Another catalyst in the transition is the lieutenant's sister, Lindsay Winfrey, a resident of Prescott Valley.
Lerette, a former Air Force military policeman before gravitating to the Army, is now serving as a multi-function team (MFT) leader and is on his third deployment to the war zone. He will have served with the military in the Mideast for approximately 36 months when he returns to the states in October.
But back to Diyala, who comes from a large family. She was one of 10 siblings but was the runt of the litter who, noted Lerette in an e-mail, he chose "because she was the one that got beat up on by her litter mates. She had scratches on her ears and stomach where she was beaten on," when he rescued her, he said, and "probably wouldn't have made it" had the rescue not taken place. But "my MFT came together and helped out. Before I decided to do this, Staff Sgt. Pervan fed those puppies every day. I just went over and loved on them once in a while because I didn't want to get attached." But "once I actually saw Diyala I knew it was all over and I needed to do something." It was at that point that he started looking into what it would take to rescue her, and it was then that Terri Crisp, an ASPCA representative, told him that "we could have her out in four days and it all came together."
Actually, it was a close call that prevented what probably would have been an unhappy ending for Diyala because the Ugandan guards who had been hired to handle base security (it's all contracted now, Lerette noted) experienced a problem with members of the litter. You see, the Ugandans "sleep in another part of the combat outpost," Lerette said, "and leave their boots outside at night." And "on a few occasions the puppies were seen carrying them off and the boots were never seen again."
But another reason that the pups subsequently were banished from the base - and this is the poop, the whole poop and nothing but the poop - was because "they were near the chow hall and the contract of the American Iraqi Security Group states that animals can't be near the chow hall because they poop everywhere," Lerette pointed out. And "10 puppies pooping is not a good thing near where food is prepared." Yes indeed, such mess hall messes are messy. And unsanitary.
Consequently, banishment became the only logical alternative. "One was taken by someone (on the base) as a pet," Lerette said. "I hear the little bugger when I run in the mornings. One died and eight were taken off base. Three of them were not seen again. These guys were pretty small and there are a number of stray dogs running around here, so they likely met their demise that first night exploring. Diyala had actually gone exploring but was found by the guys who banished them about 400 meters from the abandoned house they put them in. She definitely got lucky."
Incidentally, Diyala is not the pup's original name. That is the name of a town in Iraq, and Lerette said "it sounds a bit more feminine than the first name choice," which was Osiraq (pronounced "Oz-uh-rack"). Lerette said that Osiraq is the moniker attached to a light-water nuclear materials testing reactor that was supplied to Iraq by the French in the early 1970s. Also, he mused that sister Lindsay said that Osiraq "sounded like a dinosaur, so the name had to be changed. I agree. I guess we could have named her Apple, like Gwyneth Paltrow."
Be that as it may, I think that Diyala, nee Osiraq, has a leg up over Orphan Annie's trusty canine companion, Sandy. ("Leg up" may be a misleading reference, in that she is a girl dog and isn't into that annoying habit exhibited by her male counterparts.) Also, she has pupils in her eyes. Those of you who are old enough to remember the comic strip will no doubt recall that Annie, Sandy and Daddy Warbucks were all pupil-less. They had circles for eyes and just stared at you blankly from the printed page. But Diyala is definitely equipped with pupils.
She speaks the same language as Sandy, though. As a legal immigrant entering the good ol' U.S. of A., the immigration authorities asked her to recite the preamble to the Constitution and she answered with a hearty "ARF!" which was also the extent of Sandy's vocabulary. She was too cute for the authorities to turn down, though, so they waived the requirement and passed her on through.
So that's the nuts and bolts behind Operation Puppy Freedom. The ASPCA saw to putting Diyala on a plane and, following a stopover in Washington, D.C., for her rabies shot, she arrived at Sky Harbor on Monday, Jan. 25, where Lindsay and her mom picked her up. She will be quarantined temporarily at Lindsay's home prior to transferring her to her permanent home with Prescott friends Jana and Steve Franklin.
The whole process, based on required shots, transportation to the U.S. and the like, has been an expensive one, and Lindsay - who owns and operates a hair salon in Prescott - is planning to conduct a donation-only event on March 28 in which she will provide haircuts for men and children to help defray the expenses involved. But that's fodder for a future column prior to that undertaking, so stay tuned for all the details in that regard.