SPCA International does a lot of good for animals around the world. We’ve brought you many of the stories in which they’ve helped animals get out of dire situations and go on to live happier lives. But one of the things that the organization is well known for is its program, Operation Baghdad Pups: Worldwide.
The non-profit organization is dedicated to helping US service members who want to bring home animals from anywhere in the world where they have served. For many US soldiers, this help is a crucial lifeline, as it means they are able to reunite with the furry friends that have stolen their hearts wherever they may have served.
For 22-year-old Patrick Brady, the organization was a big help for him reuniting with his adorable pooch, Marshmallow. Brady and Marshmallow’s friendship dates back serval months when Brady was stationed at a US military base in the country of Georgia, which is located in Eastern Europe.
While there, Brady was conducting an inventory check when someone in his unit alerted him to the presence of a puppy outside. Brady reacted like anyone would – he rushed outside to see the puppy. And that is when he came face to face with little Marshmallow, who was tiny! In fact, the little pup wasn’t any bigger than the soldier’s shoe!
But there was something about the little pup that just struck the solder. As Brady shared with TODAY, it was an instantaneous connection and he fell in love at first sight.
He immediately took her under his care, bathing her and feeding her. He even administered some vaccines. The two were constant buddies, except for the few days that she went missing from the base. Thankfully, after a few days, Marshmallow showed up again – completely caked in mud. Brady joked that he should’ve seen that as a sign, as the pup apparently loved to roll around in the dirty whenever possible.
The inseparable pair were even closer during the COVID-19 pandemic when they were quarantined together on the base. Marshmallow helped him overcome the boredom and isolation of being stuck on base. They did face one challenge, and that was being unable to leave the base in order to buy her dog food. However, that challenge was quickly overcome when Brady chose to share every single one of his meals with her – something that just made their bond together even stronger.
There was no doubt in Brady’s mind that he wanted to adopt Marshmallow and bring her home to live with him in Long Island, New York. Granted, the process to get her stateside wasn’t going to be easy, and with the coronavirus pandemic raging across the globe, it seemed almost impossible.
Brady got in touch with SPCA International at the end of his deployment and asked for their help in getting around all the bureaucracy. They helped him navigate it all, however, there was a hiccup at the airport when officials stated that Marshmallow wasn’t allowed to fly because her crate wasn’t fitted with a specific type of plastic screw. He was desperate as he got in touch with Lori Kalef, the program director at SPCA International.
While he made a last-ditch effort to find the special screws for the crate, Kalef got in touch with airport officials in order to find out if there was an alternative plan they could go with. After several phone calls Kalef did receive good news: they were able to use zip ties to secure the crate instead.
It was a very stressful ordeal to have to experience, especially since Brady had to leave Marshmallow behind at the checkpoint and just trust that everything was going to work out for the best. And it did. Eventually, Brady received the reassuring call from Kalef to let him know that Marshmallow had made it and she was on board his plane. The two of them were going home together. Brady admitted to TODAY that he broke down upon receiving that phone call.
The two buddies eventually made it back to the US, where Brady had to quarantine for two weeks on a North Carolina military base. Luckily for Marshmallow, she was free to go start her new life in America. While she waited for Brady to join her, she stayed with Brady’s parents. During that time she also got spayed. And when it came time for her to reunite with Brady she got so excited that she accidentally popped a couple of her stitches. Fortunately, she made a full recovery from there.
So far, the adorable pup has adjusted quite nicely to her new life with Brady. She even gained a canine sibling in the form of Bear, Brady’s Chow Chow. The two of them spend a lot of their time together playing outdoors. Brady has even said that Marshmallow has re-adjusted to eating dog food again. Although she sometimes still gets the occasional table scraps. Brady has described Marshmallow as being “very happy all the time,” and is extremely grateful to SPCA International for all they did to make sure he was able to bring her home.
The executive director of SPCA International, Meredith Ayan, has stated that the non-profit is deeply committed to the work they do, and they always go above and beyond to make sure that service members are able to bring home the pets they adopt overseas, whether they’re dogs or cats. They even helped get a donkey named Smoke back to the US. Not only that, but they also have another program, Operation Military Pets, which helps active-duty military personnel with relocation expenses for pets.
According to TODAY, Ayan stated, “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. … It’s saving animals, and it’s also an honor for us to be able to do this for the people defending our country.”
What do you think of SPCA International’s mission? What are your thoughts on Marshmallow and Brady’s story? Let us know!