At the moment the temperature in Iraq where we are, is plus of 40 Degrees, very little water and hardly any food is available, for a dog it’s a hard life many don’t survive the trauma of being born in such a violent desolate cruel and inhabitable place.
The desert dogs who mainly come from European breeding stock have crossed bred over the last 100 years and are now Heinz 57 variety, every one of them an individual, every one of them full of character and every one of them are loving trusting animals. once you have gained there trust you have a friend for life.
I work on a Rig and move from area to area, every time we set up base in the desert for around 2 to 3 weeks its becomes like an oasis’s for the animals especially the dogs, we try and feed them, water them, and if injured and allowed to approach, help them with the medicines and treatments provided by the Worldwide Veterinary Service and you, our supporters. As the Chairman for War Paws in Iraq it gives me great pride in knowing that we have you !!!
The story I want to tell is Roses story, it’s not a unique story as unfortunately this happens out here every day.
Once we set up the rig location in South Rumaila Iraq which is a vast open expanse of desert, degassing stations and oil facilities, the chefs in the kitchens start cooking the evening meal, the smell travels on the wind for miles and every hound in the vicinity vectors in on the camp site, unfortunately the Site is protected for good reason by a two meter deep and 2 meter wide anti vehicle ditch, with a 2 meter high berm surrounding the site, internally after that there is an inner anti climb fence with barbwire on the top which surround the encampment, there is only one way in and one way out, and an emergency gate to evacuate the site in the event of a car bomb or other attack onto the rig.
The dogs are driven crazy by the smell of cooking, however the chefs who come from India, Nepal, Pakistan and various other places show sympathy towards these poor creatures by hurling scraps over the fence to the dominant pack who has won the right to call this area their own but only after vicious dog fights which leave various animals maimed for life, this is where it gets nasty because there is a pecking order and the Alpha male feeds first followed by the next strongest animal until whatever remains is devoured by the weaker animals and mums who have just had a litter.
I have grown up with dogs all my life and they are my passion, so I do it slightly differently, I will get left overs from the kitchen, hoard food from breakfast lunch and dinner and once its dark leave the rig, walk not far from my Rig site about a 100 meters or so into the desert minefields depending and whistle, all the dogs in ear shot of me make their way to me wagging their tails and some skipping for joy as they know each and every one of them will be fed, I have been doing it this way for the last 5 years, I take out a chunk of meat and with it still in my hand offer it to a dog who gently timidly takes it from my hand carefully, remember these animals are wild they have very little contact with humans and mostly not a very happy encounter when they do, but I gain there trust, even the Alpha male will except food from me and wait his turn and if anything he is gentler than most stretching his head forwards and taking the offered food into his mouth just using his bottom and top teeth as if passing food to a small puppy.
We also look after the mums with vitamins and ensure there is water available, however there are times when the pack will head off to another area and leave the puppies in a secluded spot, one day whilst out patrolling I could hear the sound of tiny little yaps and to my surprise I came across a nest of 4 puppies who used an old pipe to hide in whilst mum was away, they automatically became my burden, and when mum returned I approached her and the puppies with water and food for mum so that she could produce milk for her babies, this old girl would wag her tail chase her tail and jump back and forth when she seen me coming
I fed her away from the pups and other dogs so no predator would smell the area around her den, as other dogs would actually eat the puppies.
There were a few technical difficulties with the drilling rig so we had an extended stay in the same location which let me watch the puppies flourish over a 6 week period, there was an albino pup, a chocolate pup and one the same color as rosy, all equally beautiful and equally playful.
As the puppies grew mum spent more time away from them, sometimes only returning at night to let them suckle, then one day as I was doing my rounds on the rig I could smell the scent of death in the air something I grew accustomed to in Afghan after IED strikes and human flesh cooked in 55 degree heat, I recognized it straight away, and something which will be with me forever, I opened the emergency gate and made my way over the berm into the desert where the puppies were, I found one dead pup, who looked like it was trying to crawl towards our location for help and died on the way, another two were dead in the pipe, all the corpses were disintegrating a clear sign of snake strike and the fact that carrion had not taken the bodies, the only puppy alive was our Desert Rose AKA Rosy trembling with fright, crying but too scared to come to me as we tried to keep our distance from the pups so they would not get too use to humans for obvious reasons.
However rosy now retreated into the pipe where we could not reach her, the stench from the dead bodies of the puppies was over powering and rosy did not want to leave her brothers even though they were dead, it took a few days to gain her trust and slowly but surely she began to come around, we left water for her and all my guards would keep an eye on her at night until we could catch the poor thing, as rosy mother was nowhere to be seen and had not been anywhere near the rig in days.
So what we had was a lone survivor and an abandoned pup, one of my guards managed to catch her and bring her to me, she is living in my cabin on the rig, and if anyone finds out I will be fired as the policy is no dogs on site and there is nowhere for animals like rosy in the oilfields to go, however she is staying with me sleeping under my bed until she is fit and strong, I wanted to bring her back to the UK but one of my Iraqi guards the one who caught her has fallen in love with her character and has offered her a home on his small farm where he has two other female dogs.
She has been treated for fleas and dewormed and War Paws have promised to get her spayed and vaccinated when she gets older which is the agreement I have with the ex-Iraqi soldier who works with me as one of my guards, she walks with me at night and never leaves my side and yes I am going to find it hard tomorrow when she leaves, but I know it’s the right decision she will have a good home with other dogs on a farm so it’s a new beginning for our Desert Rose .