Animal News Desk / Cathy Kangas
American Airlines has a heart bigger than its entire fleet. I was thrilled to be part of an event at John F. Kennedy International Airport when American Airlines brought together our brave soldiers from Afghanistan with the dogs they befriended while deployed overseas.
Two of my favorite charities, Nowzad Dogs, which has brought more than 250 dogs home to their soldiers, and American Dog Rescue, which got American Airlines involved, were part of the fun at JFK, where 10 dogs were reunited with their soldiers.
It was quite a scene as dogs and their soldiers joyfully came together at the American Airlines terminal.
"Bringing their pets home to them from overseas is an important way to recognize the sacrifices made by our soldiers, and American Airlines is glad to be able to help make it happen," said Captain Steve Blankenship, managing director -- veterans and military initiatives for American Airlines.
I have five rescued dogs, but would have scooped up any of these Afghanistan dogs in a minute. I particularly loved Gus, a husky/collie mix who came home to Petty Officer Second Class Zach Henning. Officer Henning was emotional when he talked about how these dogs took the soldiers' minds off the war.
"They did so much for us when we were overseas, now it is important to give them a good home here in the States," he said.
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While the military doesn't permit soldiers to have pets, they wisely look the other way when these dogs become a unit's mascot. Nowzad Dogs has more than 100 dogs in a shelter in Kabul, Afghanistan, just waiting to be transported to the States. It costs nearly $4,000 to bring a dog home. Through his organization, American Dog Rescue, my friend Arthur Benjamin is working tirelessly to raise money so more dogs can enjoy a new life in the United States with the soldiers who adopted them.
"This is a vitally important part of our mission," he said. "Soldiers don't want to leave their dogs behind and we believe that it is our duty to bring them together again, considering the enormous sacrifices these servicemen and women make every day in Afghanistan."
In the midst of speeches and enthusiastic barking, my friend Sarah, the Duchess of York, arrived to lend her support, particularly to Pen Farthing, a former British Royal Marine, who founded Nowzad Dogs. With military precision, Pen arranged to transport all of the dogs on American Airlines to the United States.
Some of the dogs he brought over to the U.S. are still waiting for their soldiers to finish their tours of duty in Afghanistan, so Pen is driving around the country taking these dogs to families who miss their son, daughter, father or mother -- and now have his or her dog. We pray that all these soldiers will return home safely.
I hope that you will consider supporting Nowzad Dogs by going to the American Dog Rescue website (www.americandogrescue.org) and donating even a small amount. We want to bring all of these wonderful dogs home to live a life away from war and turmoil. They have made a difference and so can we with just the click of your mouse -- making you part of thanking our troops and saving these valiant dogs
New Canaan resident Cathy Kangas is a member of the Humane Society of the United States' National Council. As the owner of PRAI Beauty Inc., an international skincare company, she started Beauty with a Cause, and commits a percentage of her company's profits to help animal welfare organizations around the world.