Soldier trades cigarettes for maimed, hungry dog

Wednesday May 23rd, 2012

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Nick B and rescued Afghan dog, Bodhi

Army Sergeant Nick B. took unusual action against cruelty he witnessed serving in Afghanistan. When he encountered a tied-up, skinny Shepherd mix covered in mud, ears and tail hacked away, Nick asked the people living nearby if he could have him. But the owners, who were planning to use the dog for gruesome "entertainment" purposes, were only willing to give him up in return for cigarettes. The soldier happily traded.

Nick won the dog’s trust by approaching him gently and offering bits of beef jerky. And Bodhi, as he’s now known, eventually won the hearts of Nick’s entire unit. With the help of an organization called Puppy Rescue Mission, Nick was able to ensure that Bodhi would be flown to the U.S. when the soldier's tour was finished. On Saturday, the two were reunited in Pensacola, Fla.

To hear Nick talk about Bodhi and what his rescue has meant to him almost restores one’s faith in humanity. Almost. I want to hug them both and personally thank the sergeant for making the world a kinder place for a dog discovered half the world away. In my book, that alone makes you a hero, no matter how bravely you performed in your other soldierly duties. Readers seem to agree.

What’s interesting is that the story of another, once ill-fated puppy, received a much cooler reception. Last week we reported that Pamela Anderson adopted a stray she found struggling on the streets of Mumbai, India. Most of the comments expressed anger she hadn’t adopted here at home — or accused her of simply doing it for publicity.

Is there a difference in the two rescues? Sure, the sergeant was stationed in Afghanistan — but I’m not sure he would call it home. And certainly he knew that when he returned to the U.S., there would be plenty of deserving dogs waiting for adoption. So why the kudos for him and the hostility toward Anderson?

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Reunited in Pensacola, FL

I’m not a Pamela Anderson aficionado nor am I an expert in publicity stunts. I have no idea how pure her motivations were, but I can’t help but think there are flashier, more effective ways for the woman to get her name in the news. And while Nick’s actions are surely praiseworthy, there’s a good chance Anderson’s will have an even further-reaching positive effect: Both rescued a dog from a hostile, even torturous, environment, and both left behind many animals who face abject suffering. But will Anderson’s celebrity status actually inspire other Indians to follow her lead and reach out to a needy stray (as she said she hopes it will)? Crazier things have happened.

The point of this post is not to deify Pamela Anderson. It’s to defend anyone doing the right thing for animals, no matter where in the world they happen to be, no matter what moves them in a particular instance to act compassionately.

Too many humans act barbarically toward other species. Many more humans stand by and do nothing. Let’s rally behind those who do take action — and commit to making kindness and respect the new norm the world over.