Sean Laidlaw was more than happy to leave war-torn Syria behind when his contract as an independent bomb disposal expert was cancelled in April. The hardest part was saying goodbye to the puppy he rescued and fell in love with during his service.
Now, thanks to a military charity devoted to helping dogs living in Middle Eastern war zones, the pair have been reunited.
On Friday, they visited the set of This Morning where Laidlaw told the remarkable story of the pooch he named Barrie.
Laidlaw is a veteran of the British Army. While working to remove unexploded ordnance and booby traps in Raqqa, Syria, he and his team discovered a demolished school building. At first it seemed there were no signs of life. Then, faint whimpering sounds led them to a tiny puppy amid the rubble. Little Barrie was the only survivor from her litter of seven.
The men slowly won her trust. They brought her food each day, until finally, she allowed herself to be scooped up and brought back to base. From then on, Barrie accompanied Laidlaw and his team on missions, growing ever closer to the contractors who saved her life.
“The lads in Syria loved training her,” Laidlaw told This Morning hosts, Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford. “She was everyone’s plaything. If anyone had a bad day, she was on their lap.”
Three months after rescuing Barrie, Laidlaw headed home for a two-week leave. At the time, he had no idea his contract was about to be abruptly cancelled. Once he realized he would not be heading back to Syria, Laidlaw got in touch with War Paws, an organization dedicated to helping animals in hostile environments and areas of civil conflict in Iraq.
Barrie became the group’s first Syrian rescue, and soon embarked on a 3,000 mile journey to reunite with Laidlaw. War Paws flew her from Syria to Iraq, then to Jordan where she was held in quarantine for three months before being approved for travel to Paris, France.
“…months passed and she’s gone from a puppy to a full-grown dog. That was hard for me, as I worried she was a totally different dog,” Laidlaw told The Telegraph.
As it turns out, his worries were unnecessary. When Barrie finally arrived in the “City of Lights,” Laidlaw was there to greet her. Within minutes, it was as if the pair had never been separated.
“Meeting her at the airport, seeing her in the flesh, was one of the best moments of my life. I’ve never been so happy,” he said.
Like so may military heroes, Laidlaw suffers from PTSD. He credits Barrie with “keeping him sane” during his time in Syria. Now he will have her comforting presence by his side every day.
“I feel like it may come across that I saved Barrie’s life, but I feel like she saved mine,” he said.
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