2018-09-27 / Front Page

Dogs of War Founder Gives Talk

By Christopher Allen


Pen with his dog, NOWZAD. Pen with his dog, NOWZAD. There is a cliché among animal lovers about adopting pets: “You don’t save pets. They save you.”

One organization that embodies this is NOWZAD, a nonprofit founded in 2007 by former Royal Marines Sgt. Pen Farthing. While on tour in Afghanistan in 2005, Farthing befriended a stray dog that he had rescued from an arranged dog fight, eventually taking the animal back to his base. When it came time to return home to Britain, Farthing knew that the animal wouldn’t have much chance at survival, so he smuggled the dog back home.

He soon realized that other service members had the same experience and that there was a need to help facilitate the reuniting of them with the stray animals that had momentarily soothed the chaos of war.

Farthing named the dog after the town in which he was found, Nawzad (also known as “Now Zad”), Afghanistan in Helmand Province. NOWZAD has now reunited over 1,200 animals with their military caretakers.


Pup rescued by soldier. Pup rescued by soldier. Farthing will be speaking at the Potter League on Oct. 3 at 5:30 p.m. The talk is titled “Dogs of War,” and precedes a fundraiser on Oct. 4 at Cappy’s Hillside Cafe, located on Memorial Boulevard.

According to Potter League board president Joan Johnson Freese, they hope to net $9,000 for NOWZAD, to help with expenses such as housing, transporting the animals, veterinary costs and running the animal rescue shelter that was created in Kabul, Afghanistan, the first of its kind in that war-torn country.

“The last time that they were here we raised a couple thousand dollars. We are shooting a little higher this time,” Johnson-Freese said, adding that the shelter has monthly expenses of about $3,000.

Johnson-Freese said she facilitated a “sister shelter” relationship with the NOWZAD shelter and that the Potter League has been helping fundraise for the group for years. The upcoming event will be Farthing’s second visit to Middletown.

“The Potter League works with so many different organizations locally and around the state. Well, now we are working with one in Afghanistan,” she said.

Johnson-Freese is familiar with the NOWZAD story, pointing out that the charity is helping to solve a problem that was ingrained in the country’s years-long conflict that no one seemed to be doing anything about.

“Under the Taliban, the Afghans couldn’t have pets. So, there were all of these stray animals,” she said.

The group has expanded the mission to other countries, such as Iraq and Syria. The group now rescues cats, donkeys, horses and even chickens.

Farthing has been recognized internationally, not just for saving the animals from the conflict, but for helping the soldiers who were caring for them. Indeed, some of the animals have returned to work as service companions, assisting their new owners with complications suffered as a result of their tours.

“They say that they relate to the animals because they lived through what they lived through,” Johnson-Freese said.

“[The talk] is not just about animal welfare. It’s [also] to talk about the relationship between people and animals, especially people in the military who are serving in really bad conditions. And these animals become their friends.”

The Cappy’s fundraiser will include raffles, while all of the tips received will go directly to NOWZAD.

To donate to NOWZAD, visit nowzad.com/donate, and to attend the free talk, please RSVP to potterleague.org/event/nowzaddogs of-war.

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