On a U.S. Military base in Georgia, Eastern Europe, service member Patrick Brady was routinely reviewing an inventory list when his life changed forever. A fellow service member noticed a tiny ball of fluff outside: a little stray puppy no bigger than a pair of boots. Brady fell in love the moment he met her. He bathed her, had her vaccinated, and gave her an appropriate name: Marshmallow.
An independent girl from the start, Marshmallow tended to wander. She even disappeared from the base for several days. But eventually, she returned to the person who cared about her. Of course, she tracked in a bit of dirt with her when she came back, Brady noted.
“I guess she liked where she was on the base so she came back to us, thank God. She was completely filthy — covered in mud — which was probably foreshadowing because later on, I found out she just loved to get dirty whenever she possibly could.”
Marshmallow not only made a perfect companion to Brady, she boosted morale around the base. When the coronavirus pandemic required isolation, Marshmallow and a few other strays helped keep everyone’s spirits up with cuddles and play time.
However, the pandemic that brought Marshmallow and Brady closer also made their return to Brady’s hometown of Long Island more complicated.
Getting Marshmallow Into The U.S.
Frustratingly, rescuing his newly bonded pal wasn’t as simple as you’d think. At the end of Brady’s deployment in September, he contacted SPCA International. Through their program Operation Baghdad Pups: Worldwide, military members can bring home dogs they meet and fall in love with abroad. The nonprofit helps these people navigate all the red tape so they can focus on getting home with their new pet.
Eventually, Marshmallow was cleared to fly with Brady. But on the day of their scheduled flights, airport officials deemed Marshmallow ineligible to fly because her crate didn’t have a particular type of plastic screw. Panicked, Brady called Lori Kalef, program director at SPCA International, for help.
As he headed to the security checkpoint, worried, Kalef made some phone calls on the duo’s behalf. Fortunately, the airport eventually approved using zip ties on the crate instead of screws.
“I got a phone call from Lori saying, ‘She’s on the plane; she’s on the plane.’ As uncharacteristic as it might sound, we both broke down and started to cry a little bit because it was so stressful. After all these months of uncertainty and everything, finally just seeing her board the plane, I couldn’t explain the kind of feeling that I had. It was just the happiest feeling.”
Marshmallow Transitions Into Her New Life
Now with her forever person, Marshmallow lives a happy, healthy life. She’s since been spayed (and was even so excited to see Brady after he finished quarantining, she popped a stitch!) She has grandparents to look after her and plenty of toys.
One issue that needed minor correction was Marshmallow’s preference for human food. Brady explained:
“When it was chow time for us, it was chow time for her. She ate the same things as us.”
Eventually, Marshmallow started to figure out the difference between table food and bowl food, though Brady’s dad sneaks her some scraps now and then. This dog, a former stray, now has an extended family of people who love her (including other fur siblings.)
“She just seems very happy all the time. SPCA International is an amazing organization with amazing people.”
This dog changed Brady’s life for the better, and noble missions like the SPCA International’s to keep them together are so important!
Why Keeping Dog/Person Pairs Bonded Abroad Together Matters
SPCA International has helped more than 1,000 service members like Brady reunite with the animals they’ve met while serving overseas. The nonprofit has also helped more than 2,000 military families through Operation Military Pets, helping cover relocation expenses for active-duty service members who deploy or transfer to another base.
Meredith Ayan, executive director of SPCA International, told TODAY the organization continues to commit its time and efforts to these military men and women and their dogs.
“It’s so important to us because, while none of us civilians can understand what these servicemen and women are going through, I think we can understand on some level that they’re away from their family; they’re in incredibly stressful situations. They are living, basically, on a knife’s edge at all times. And these animals bring them so much comfort and joy and a little bit of a respite from that.”
This work supports the people who protect our country, not just the strays they rescue.
“It’s saving animals, and it’s also an honor for us to be able to do this for the people defending our country.”
Marshmallow and Brady are all set to have a wonderful life together now.