US War Dog Association | National Headquarters

Fluffy, Iraqi Freedom

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“A Fallen Comrade”

 

17 October 2008

 

I have just been informed that K9 Fluffy has died.

 

He was an inspiration to all of us Vietnam era Dog Handlers. I for one will always remember Fluffy. He was the living Memorial to all of our War Dogs who did not return from Vietnam.

 

 

I am one of the lucky one. I will have his bite mark on my left arm forever.  May “Fluffy”  Rest in Peace.Ron Aiello, President, USWDAPlease read Russell Joyce’s email informing me of Fluffy’s death.

 

 

 

Hello to All,

 

 

 

 On 16 Oct. 2008  K920Fluffy (Iraq War vet) died.  He served his country and my family and will be missed dearly! His BIO was best written by Lisa Hoffman and is attached at the end of this letter.

 

 

 

 Fluffy was my Comrade in arms first, then he walked into my heart as my friend and became my buddy then he became part of my family. He was loving to every member of my family. I felt a sense of comfort being thousand of miles away knowing he was there at my house protecting and loving my family when I was not able to due to that job. He comforted my kids when they where hurt or sad, he warmed there hearts and took fear away just by his presence. He comforted my wife, laying in the bed with her when I was20far away from home with no way to contact her. He was a brother to my kids a son to my wife and my best friend. When I call home from over seas I talk to my wife then my girls and then my comrade, my friend my boy, Fluffy.

 

 

 

I have had animals through out my life and I have never had one get so close to my heart! He was here for a purpose! And I will never forget him! He was not a pet! He was a soldier first. During our time in Iraq he checked on me and I checked on him. He was one of the team, he was my battle buddy! If I sat down he would sit no farther than five feet away. If I got up and moved ten feet he would get up and move ten feet. He was my shadow in war and at home. When I was not there he was serving my family! He will always be my shadow. I may not be able to touch his head or scratch his ear but I do feel him in my heart! I only pray that he felt the same amount of love in return.

 

 

 

I am half way around the world once again and was not able to comfort him in his time of need. This is my only regret. I pray that he knew in his heart how much he was loved and respected. I feel he knew how important it was for him to come to America and how important that was for all the Vietnam K9 Handlers. He was a living me morial to so many. He was truly a Hero to many and for many different reasons.

 

 

 

 I thank Fluffy for introducing me to all you wonderful people. With out him we may never have met. So I am thankful for your friendship and support to myself, my comrade and my family. Thank you.

 

 

 

 If anyone would like to do anything for my family or Fluffy please just keep them in your prayers. Do not send anything! Read about what made Fluffy’s mission in life so important! Read about the K9’s used during the Vietnam War and what the Handlers did to make sure that never happens again and what they are doing today! Tell Ron we said hello at www.uswardogs.org and read these other sites:

 

 

 

 

If you are ever at Fort Benning GA “Home of the Infantry” stop by the Museum when it reopens in March 2009 and you will see both on fluffy aswell as other K9’s stories from other Wars and conflict areas. Donate to the building of the K9 Memorials going on there.  For more info you can contact Jessie through the Museum.

 

Stop by your local police station and see if your K9’s who protect you daily need anything! They are generally poorly funded!

 

 

 

Your friends

 

Russell & Fluffy

 

And the entire Fluffy family.

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8 February 2004

 

 

 

Hello To All,
Well I hope the past couple of months have been great for everyone. Please understand that I do not like that everyone knows that I am out of the country. So I have my wife answer my e-mail. During this last trip I was able to have access to my mail, so I did my best to answer your questions, and Bonnie does a great job of answering questions as well. Due to my deployment I am late in starting the judging of the contest. So what we will do is vote today and tomorrow (9th through the 10th of February) and the winner will be announced on the evening of the 11th! I hope this works for everyone!
The next issue is thank yous. I am so proud of so many people for their support of our troops. Ron from the U.S. War Dogs Association in NJ for supporting K-9 and regular troops with care packages and letters. It was Ron who paved the way for Fluffy to return home, as well as all the past Military Veteran Dog Handlers and Search and Rescue handlers,Space Coast War Dogs in FL, who called in support and worked hard on getting fluffy home. Thank’s, each one of you and your K-9’s for your service to our country. Keep up the great job of supporting the present and future dog handlers.  Thanks to all the SF men who used these men and their K-9’s in past and present wars, great job thinking outside the box! We will see you at Rolling Thunder, Washington D.C. 2004.

 

A great big Thank you to Audrey and the Kayla’s Club members in Houston T.X. for their support for our troops through letters to wounded Soldiers and letters to troops that they have adopted! Great work guys, you should be very proud of yourselves. Audrey does so much using animals and animal therapy for kids in need.

 

 

  Thank You to Bonnie for her great work and support of our troops. She spends her own  time and money helping so many others, she donated Fluffy’s site and other
web sites only  to help others.

 


 

   Thank you to Ms. Gaffok, Mrs. Portnaj and the members of Heritage High school for their letters and packages to our troops. Thank you to Ms. Sweger and the members of the JR Beta Club, Irwin Middle school of Fort Bragg, N.C. for your letters to our troops and your efforts to thank soldiers. Thank you to Mrs. Byham and the Ridge Avenue Elementary School for your letters to our K-9 troops. These guys get over looked at times and they are very thankful for your letters! So, to all of these people, clubs and members thank you for taking a part in our military and America! 

 

Thanks to Woody and the members of the FDNY for their support and gifts to our military!  And thank you to Lem and the Fayetteville Fire Departments for their support. Thank you all for your friendship and your service to our country! Keep up the great work.

 

I hope the actions of these fine people sparks an interest in all who read this to make an effort to support our troops. To support our Firemen and women, Policemen and women and all who are active in the goal help others make America the greatest place to live! Remember we are free people, but at the cost of so many at home and abroad.

 

Your Friends, the Fluffy Family

 

8 February 2004
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K-9 Fluffy and Russell Joyce, Photo by K. Bakerjian
September 11, 2003                  

 

 

Search & Rescue and Service Dog Day

 

at the USS Intrepid, New York, NY,

 

 

I would like to thank so many people for this past weekend’s visit to NY and the USS Intrepid.  First is Scott Shields. What a great man! He seems to give so much to so many all the time. I am proud to call him my friend. He and the people around him work very hard to help others in their time of need. Never Forget that NY! Thank you Scott and Nancy. Great Book!

   Next, to the Crew and staff of the USS Intrepid, what a great welcome you gave myself and Fluffy, even though Fluffy was very wound up because of all the other dogs that attended.  These men and woman made Fluffy and myself feel at home. I am truly honored to have met all of you. Thank you for your hard work during this event. Thank you.

   Next is a great big Thank You to the US War Dogs Association and all of their support from Vietnam till today and into the future. These men fought in Vietnam and came home to a nation in turmoil. They never received a welcome home. But every time other troops have returned home from serving our country these vets have been there to say “Welcome Home and Great Job.” Well I am honored to know you and welcome home to you! Thank you for your friendship and service to our country. Thanks to Ron, Don, Tom, Bob, Frank, John, Al and so many others. If you have the means to donate to the memorial fund please do. This will honor so many who have given all!

   I would like to also thank so many Americans who support our troops and our country. It’s a tough job being in the military. We miss so many things in our own life that most people take for granted. The birth of our children, first steps, proms, etc… but our hearts are warmed by the sites of American flags flying all over in our hometowns. (If you do not have one, get one and show your pride 365 days a year.)  And opening a letter of thanks from all the Americans who take the time to write! Thank You.

   I would also like to thank all the service men and women lying in a hospital bed, wounded during their service to our country. Thank you for all that you have given. Please get well soon.  And to anyone who would like to write to a serviceman here are two hospitals:
  A wounded Soldier, Airman, Marine or sailor
  Bethesda Naval Hospital
  8901 Wisconsin Ave
  Bethesda, MD 20814
Or
   A wounded Soldier, Airman, Marine or sailor
   Walter Reed Army Medical Center
   6900 Georgia Ave
   NW Washington, DC 20307-5001

Thank you for those who take the time to write. My kids and I send 10 get well/ great job cards each every other weekend. Please find time to send at least one. Thank you.

And a Very Special Thanks to Bonnie Buckley who is the Web Designer of the k9fluffy.com web site. This site is donated by her and she spends many hours of her own time helping others. Its because of her kindness you get these updates. And  She spends all her free time thanking troops. Take the time to thank her aswell.

Remember all the Americans who went to work 2 years ago today and never returned home. Never Forget! God Bless America!!!

Thank you all so much,
Russell and Fluffy

 

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Russell Joyce, Fluffy and Ron Aiello
“Fluffy’s Story”  by: Russell Joyce

 

 

 

The story of how Fluffy came to the United States is an interesting and very improbable one.  It all began in northern Iraq where I had been stationed during “Operation Enduring Freedom”.  The Special Forces team that I was with requested that we get a dog for sentry and guard duties.  The team said that they had used dogs while stationed in Afghanistan and they proved to be a very useful deterrent against people entering the compound. This request came during the beginning of the ground war.
In an attempt to fulfill the team’s request for a dog, we enlisted the help of the Kurdish people with whom we were working with in the north.  A man by the name of Kordo said that he might know of where to obtain a dog. He knew of a German Shepherd and a Rottwieler that may suit our needs.  I have had Dobermans my whole life and was ready to try another breed, and they can be hard to handle at times. So I went with the Shepherd.
A few days later, the Kurds brought an underweight German Shepherd who was obviously been neglected and abused. The dog was very scared and nervous, presumably from the long and frightening journey that it had made.  From what we understand the dog was previously in the care of the Iraqi. He had been beaten and we could see the obvious scares over his face and front legs.
The dog is considered to be an unclean animal and therefore is not treated in the way that we, as Americans, are accustom to.  Dogs are not considered pets or companions.  The only two purposes for a dog in the country of Iraq are for sheep herding or as a guard dog.  The Iraqi people try to refrain from touching a dog with their hands and will only permit themselves to touch the animal with their feet if they absolutely need to.
The first night that the dog was with us in our compound, he didn’t bark or make a sound at all, he only coward in the shadows.  The team expressed their displeasure with the dog for not being a very good guard dog.  I, however, felt that so many Kurds had worked very hard to find and bring us a dog that we had to give him a chance. I knew that the dog had been through some obvious trauma and that it would take him a while to get used to his new surroundings.  A couple of nights later, the dog did nothing but bark because there were a group of stray dogs outside of the fence looking for a few scraps of food.  This may be a good time to mention that there is no dog food to be found in the country of Iraq. The dogs are fed only scraps from the families’ food.  Anyway, the next couple of mornings the team again expressed their disappointment in the dog because he had barked all night long.
It soon became obvious to me that the responsibility of training and taking care of the dog would be on my shoulders.  I found this rather ironic, since I was the one who was against getting a dog.
I had even initially tried to talk the team out of it, but they were so adamant that a dog could be a great asset and this was my first mission with this team, so I felt they must know what they were talking about.  Although I had been to dog training classes in the past for Doberman Pincers, when I was younger, and some classes with the military, but I was fully ready to admit that I had little experience training a dog for military duties.  I figured that my first step would be to gain the trust of the dog and what better way to do that then to start feeding him some of my own food. Out of all the dogs I have worked with in the past the reward program seemed to work the best. At this time his name was Tera Kazez. I called him Terror for short.
Terror seemed to learn things very fast. In only two weeks he could correctly walk patrol, meaning he stayed on my left and would stop when I stopped and he would look at the direction I pointed to. He was even becoming very protective of the Americans. I had some help with him in these early weeks. When I had to leave on patrols, my friends who were in the rear would help take care of him. They would echo the commands that I used so he would learn English.
As we went south he went with us. By this time Fluffy had lived through two shootings. His name should have been Lucky, but after talking to my team, I made a joke about changing his name to Fluffy and when I said Fluffy, he looked right at me. That’s when it hit me that he seemed to like the name and my kids would love it as well. So I changed his name to Fluffy. The team was not happy with a guard dog named Fluffy! But I liked it and so did he!
Fluffy and I worked together the rest of the time. I think he knew I was his best friend and he was mine. And about 4 weeks before I was to return home, I found out about a regulation that the Vietnam vets had worked on for years. The regulation permitted war dogs to return home from combat. The second part of the regulation stated that the handler gets first option to adopt the animal. So I spent the rest of my time getting Fluffy reclassified as a military working dog. He was at no time considered a pet or a mascot.
Two weeks before my return home I thought I had my T’s crossed and my I’s doted.  Boy was I wrong! I got ready to board the plane when I was told Fluffy could not go. So I scrambled to find my friends in the 506th K-9 unit. I asked them to hold him for me until I could work out the problem with the paperwork. I was told they could only hold him for three days since they were expecting another K9 to arrive to their unit. I was given the name of two men who could possibly help. So I got on the plane and returned home.After landing I saw my wife and kids who where expecting to meet Fluffy and me. So I told them of the problem with the paperwork. The ride home was a scary one. I was not sure what would happen to Fluffy. I just felt like I had let him down. He worked very hard to keep us safe and now his fate rested in my hands.I returned home at 3:00 in the morning. I awoke at 9:00 and started trying to find the regulation number that covered this. I contacted some Government agencies and was given the name of a few prior military dog handlers. Ron Aeillo and Monty Moore, I called and wrote to them. It is now noon on Sunday and I was no closer to getting him home. The next three days seemed to last a year. The letters that I had sent to 3 people some how got sent into cyber space and sent to thousands! I tried to slow down the fury, but it was moving at a speed in which I could not match. I never meant for this much press on the situation. But I never thought I would wake a sleeping Giant, The Vietnam dog handlers! And rescue groups!The military systems seems to work slow but they where working on it. Now my phone would not stop ringing. It was filled with support from Vietnam vets and their stories. It would also ring with stories of mothers and fathers who had sons and daughters over in Iraq. They wanted to help me in any way they could. It was filled with rescues that just wanted to help and say thank you for our service to our country. It was filled with Senators and military officials whom received overwhelming calls in support of Fluffy. My phone was filled with Americans fighting for Americans. Suddenly this was much bigger than Fluffy or myself.
The fight for Fluffy lasted 3 weeks. So many people in the military where fighting to support this mission. Fluffy was not a rescue, he was a sentry dog and that is how he was used. That’s what made this different. This has never been done before, I mean taking a dog from your enemies and making him work for you.People wrote calling me and Fluffy heroes, but we where not the heroes at all. It is the people who made this a fight for America. The military dog handlers who serve and protect others. It’s the search and rescues that find lost kids, or attempted to rescue survivors from September 11th. Or the police k-9 teams who put their lives on the line to protect us. It’s the fire fighters and medical people who work all hours to help you.  It’s the men and women of the armed services who leave their families to go off to foreign lands to free others. It’s the families who are left behind to continue their lives while their spouse is away. It’s the men and women who did not return or will not return. It’s every American who owns an American flag and flies it with pride. And most of all its all the Vietnam War vets who never got a welcome home and were forced to leave behind their dogs that saved so many American lives. These are the American heroes. So if you fit this profile than smile and go do the best job you can because someone’s life will change due to your good deeds. Mine Has!

 

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Fluffy’s first visit to Washington, DC

 

SFC Russell Joyce, “Fluffy” and Ron Aiello

 

Pay tribute to our fallen comrades by visiting

 

“The Vietnam Veterans Memorial” 

 

 Washington, DC

 

28 June 2003

6/01/03  Fluffy’s first Trip

Fluffy’s first site seeing trip will be to Washington, DC and a visit to the Wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial this coming weekend. SFC Joyce and Fluffy will be in Washington, DC from Friday June 6th through Sunday June 8th


5/31/03 Fluffy Is Home with the Joyce’s.

From: Ron Aiello

Sent: May 31, 2003 10:45 PM

Subject: Great News of an Update:

The Joyce’s family are all together now. SFC Joyce and Fluffy have arrived home safely and I can tell you they are both very happy to be together again. Bless them both.


5/31/03: Fluffy has arrived and they are on their way to Fort Bragg.

From: Ron Aiello

Sent: May 31, 2003 8:21 PM

Subject: Another UPDATE on Fluffy

I have been notified that SFC Russell Joyce has Fluffy with him and the two are on there way back to Ft. Bragg.


5/31/03 Fluffy is on plane heading to AFB in SC.

From: Ron Aiello

Sent: Sat May 31, 2003 4:28 pm

Subject: NEW UPDATE

Everything has changed. SFC Russell Joyce is at this time waiting at the CHARLESTON AFB, S.C. for Fluffy’s plane to land, which should be in 30 minutes, 5PM, Sat. May 31, 3002. Fluffy is almost here.


5/28/03: Good News Fluffy is on his way to the USA.

From: Ron Aiello

Sent: May 28, 2003 3:24 PM

Subject: Fluffy Update

Great News: Fluffy is on his way to the USA. He left this morning on a flight out of Iraq with Major Pompano his offical military escort. He should be arriving in the USA on Saturday , May 31, 2003.


5/24/03: Update

May 24, 2003

Ron Aiello, President

United States War Dogs Association

Fluffy Update:

Here is the scenario for Fluffy coming to the United States.

Fluffy will be coming to the United States through the Military?s Adoption Program (H.R. 5314:). The first step will be for Fluffy to be put into the military system at Lackland, AFB, Texas, as a Military War Dog. Then arrangements will be made to have Fluffy put on a military transport with an escort. Once Fluffy arrives in the United States he will be retired through the Military Adoption Program. Once Fluffy is retired he will be adopted by Sgt. 1st. class Russell Joyce and his family.

The above sequent of events will start following the Memorial Day weekend.

 


Message from Major Gary M. Kolb, Public Relations, Ft. Bragg

——-Original Message——-
Date: Friday, May 16, 2003 
Subject: Fluffy update

I have also faxed this same letter to you.
Here is the latest information I have regarding SFC Joyce and Fluffy.
The approval process for Fluffy to be transported to the U.S. is beingcompleted by those officials that
have the authority to grant a waiver for Fluffy to travel on military aircraft. We expect that Fluffy will be
reunited with SFC Joyce in the near future. Once we have a confirmed date we will pass that on to everyone
that has shown interest in Fluffy.

SFC Joyce is free to talk about Fluffy and this whole situation. It is never our policy to implement any
kind of gag orders. We ask that everyone understand that sometimes we can’t answer all the inquiries 
immediately because of the overwhelming volume of calls regarding Fluffy.SFC Joyce has not done anything wrong and therefore is not in any kind of trouble. He will continue
to serve very honorably in 3rd Special Forces Group.We are confident that Fluffy will be a welcome addition to SFC Joyce and his family when they are eventually reunited.
We appreciate everyone’s concern over Fluffy and ask for everyone’s understanding while we complete the approval
 process to return Fluffy to SFC Joyce. In the meantime Fluffy is being well taken care of by soldiers and airmen in Iraq.Sincerely,MAJ Gary Kolb
Chief, Public Affairs
U.S. Army Special Operations CommandMAJ Gary Kolb
Chief, Public Affairs
US Army Special Operations Command
SCAMPI 239-3383/DSN: 239-3383 STE/COMM: (910) 432-3383kolbg@usasoc.socom.smil.mil/
.

Mothers Day, May 11, 2003: Ron Aiello

I first learned of Fluffy’s plight on Mothers Day, May 11, 2003 when Russell Joyce phoned me and told me a story about Fluffy in Iraq and how Russell had to leave Fluffy behind.

 

Russell was concerned for Fluffy’s safety and asked me to help him with trying to get Fluffy to the United States. What I heard in Russell voice was something that I had heard hundreds up hundreds of times from former canine handlers who had served in Vietnam.

I heard the love that Russell had for this canine and I could tell that a bond had formed between the two of them.

 

I myself like thousands of handlers who served in Vietnam had to leave my canine Stormy behind in Vietnam and I felt I owed it to Stormy to help Fluffy get out of Iraq and to the United States.

 

I told Russell that I would do what ever I could to help him to get Fluffy to the United States. I had also received an email from Russell which confirmed what we had talked about on the telephone


Email From: SFC Russell Joyce

To whom it may concern:
I’m in 3rd group Special Forces out of Fort Bragg, NC.  I have just returned
from Iraq today.  While in Iraq, my team requested a dog for operational
purposes.  The Kurds brought us a German Shepard breed that had obviously
been abused and neglected by the Iraqi military.  I became the handler for
this dog and grew very attached to him.  This dog was used in many combat
operations in Northern Iraq and proved to be a wonderful “soldier.”  It was
my team that took control over the mountain north of Mosul (Maclube
mountain).  Anyway, I obtained all of the proper paperwork to have the dog
shipped to the US so that I could adopt it but at the last minute there was
some problem with politics.  The dog meets all requirements to be shipped to
the US.  I only have 72 hours to find some way to get the dog released for
travel and cut through this red tape or the dog will be destroyed.  I have
personally trained this dog for special military use and now the dog does not
like Kurds or Iraqi persons, therefore, they will not be able to handle him.
All I need is some help in getting this animal here to the states, I will
handle all of the expenses that it takes to get him here.  I have a copy of
all medical records, vaccinations, and orders for the dog.  I can send a copy
of this paperwork to anyone that can help me.  I am a prior Ranger and
currently a Special Forces soldier and our motto is “Never leave a fallen
comrade”.  The military asked for this dog to serve, this dog lived through 2
shootings, mine fields, and all military actions in the North.  Now, they are
ready to discard him, I can’t let that happen and I’m hoping that he can live
his retirement with me here in the US.  Please contact me if you can help or
know of anyone who can.My 72 hours started on May 11 at 12 noon.

Thank you again,
SFC Russell W. Joyce
Fort Bragg, NC

A mission to reunite Fluffy the war dog with his human

By LISA HOFFMAN
Scripps Howard News Service
May 16, 2003

– He’s an adopted commando dog with the improbable name of Fluffy, a fast learner who served nobly during combat in northern Iraq.

Now, his best friend is battling to bring the war dog home to the country for which he fought.

“This dog was used in many combat operations in northern Iraq and proved to be a wonderful ‘soldier,’ ” U.S. Sgt. 1st Class Russell Joyce, an Army special forces soldier, wrote in a plea for help with his mission to have Iraq-born Fluffy “live his retirement with me here in the U.S.”

Air Force and Army officials are sympathetic, but it is proving neither a quick nor easy thing to approve Joyce’s unconventional request. There are strict rules – military, health, customs and others – about bringing animals into the United States, and the fact that Fluffy, in effect, enlisted on the battlefield just complicates matters more.

“We are trying to work something out,” Maj. Gary Kolb, a spokesman for the U.S. Special Operations Command in Fort Bragg, N.C., said Thursday. On Friday, the unofficial word was that the two might be reunited sometime “in the near future.”

Fluffy’s still-unfolding saga began when Joyce’s unit, working behind-the-scenes in the Mosul area, needed a canine to provide security for the soldiers and otherwise help them in their battle to oust Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Trained to improvise on the battlefield, these elite troops didn’t requisition an Army working dog; instead, they asked their local allies, the ethnic Kurds, to find them one. The Kurds brought back a malnourished German shepherd who apparently had been maltreated by the Iraqi army.

Assigned to be the dog’s handler, Joyce, 35, gave the young animal his irreverent name, set to teaching him English as his second language and added pounds to the scrawny dog’s frame and trust to his heart.

By Joyce’s account, the dog – who he estimates is no older than 2 years – took to his new life with enthusiasm and performed admirably as Joyce’s team fought for control of a mountain north of Mosul. Joyce said he and Fluffy went through several “shootings and a minefield” together.

When it came time for Joyce to come home, he scrambled for permission for Fluffy to accompany him. He had the dog immunized and checked out by Army veterinarians, and got initial Army permission for the dog to leave.

But bureaucratic roadblocks developed, and Joyce had to come home alone. He found temporary quarters for Fluffy with the Army’s 506th Security Force Squadron, a dog-handling team now based in Kirkuk.

That unit, however, couldn’t keep Fluffy for long. Joyce feared the dog would be euthanized within days, or simply turned back to the Iraqis, whom Fluffy had been trained by Joyce to dislike.

So from virtually the moment he returned home to Fort Bragg last Sunday, Joyce, who is married and the father of two, mounted a frantic effort to find a way to cut through the red tape and bring Fluffy over via Air Force transport. He offered to foot the travel bill himself.

For help, he contacted the U.S. War Dogs Association, a group of former GI dog handlers familiar with the deep devotion that grows between dogs and soldiers in combat, as well as with the pain of leaving their canine comrades behind.

“He was so upset. You could hear the desperation,” said group president Ron Aiello, who walked “point” on patrol in Vietnam for 13 months with his beloved Stormy, who he said saved his life countless times.

While the U.S. armed forces have used combat canines since World War I, it was in Vietnam that they really earned their stripes. More than 4,000 dogs served in that long, jungle war, where they are believed to have saved 10,000 U.S. soldiers, and were so effective that the Viet Cong offered a $20,000 bounty for their capture – twice as much the reward paid for a GI, according to war-dog histories.

But at the end of the war, barely 200 of those four-legged troops were brought home to the United States. Thousands were deemed surplus “equipment” by the Pentagon and either euthanized by the U.S. military, turned over to the South Vietnamese army or simply abandoned.

That fate still gnaws at the veterans who, to a man, say they owe their lives to their dogs and found leaving them behind the hardest thing they have ever done.

“As a Vietnam veteran, I don’t want that to happen again,” George Augustine, of Sarasota, Fla., wrote in an e-mail this week, one of thousands of messages from veterans and animal advocates that flooded the in-boxes of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on down this week.

“I think that the origin of the dog is irrelevant,” Augustine wrote. “The dog served the Army and now I think he should be reunited with his trainer.”

 


 

Iraqi war dog gets to retire with SF handler

by Staff Sgt. Marcia Triggs

 

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 20, 2003) — An Iraqi-born German shepherd, who put his life on the line to guard U.S. Special Forces, escaped euthanasia and will soon travel to the United States to retire.

Sgt. 1st Class Russell Joyce, the Special Forces soldier from Fort Bragg, N.C., nursed the malnourished and abused dog from northern Iraq back to health and trained him. The dog guarded Special Forces soldiers who accomplished missions like taking control of Maqlub mountain, and removing the last of Mosul’s defenses.

Upon arriving back to Fort Bragg, Joyce frantically sent out two e-mails to friends and family asking for help to get the faithful guard dog, Fluffy, shipped to the United States.

Those e-mails somehow traveled through cyberspace and reached numerous war dog associations and members of congress, who are lobbying to get Fluffy a ticket to the States.

An Air force Squadron at Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq, is currently taking care of Fluffy. However, as soon as the Department of Agriculture and the Office of the Secretary of Defense approves Fluffy’s flight, he will begin his journey to the states, officials said. Approval is practically guaranteed as agencies from the Department of Defense, Army, Air Force and the consultant to the Army surgeon general for Veterinary Clinical Medicine scurry to expedite Fluffy’s retirement.

Fluffy’s fate was first in question May 11. He wasn’t allowed to board the homeward-bound plane with the Special Forces soldiers.

“We purchased him from the Kurds to perform military operations, but the officer in charge of loading said that since he didn’t originate in the States, and wasn’t on order, he was not authorized to travel to the U.S.,” Joyce said.

“Myself, and other people on my team, tried to explain that an Army veterinarian said Fluffy was fit for travel, and that I had the proper paperwork to prove it.”

Joyce left Fluffy with an Air Force K-9 unit, but he was told that the unit could only hold onto the Shepherd for 72 hours.

“As his handler, I grew attached to him, but the reason I really wanted to see him in the States was because he supported us the whole time we were in Iraq,” Joyce said.

“He walked guard with every American soldier in our compound, all night long. He chased stray dogs away. He never ran at the sound of bullets, and we were safe because he was there,” Joyce said. “He was a deterrer, and that’s an immeasurable success.”

Fluffy joined Joyce’s team with visible scars on his head and legs, weighing about 31 pounds and missing his front two bottom teeth. The full-breed shepherd spent his first night with the Special Forces so scared that he didn’t move, Joyce said.

The soldiers only had two weeks to prepare Fluffy for duty, but he impressed the team by catching onto the commands very quickly and warming up to his new owners. He was trained to guard and be a pursuit dog. Upon release from his handler, he could chase and bring down a perpetrator.

“There’s no dog food in Iraq,” Joyce said. “So we all shared our food with him, and fed him out of the palm of our hands. He was never aggressive toward us, and his first name, Tariq Aziz, was not befitting of his character.”

Tariq Aziz is the name of Saddam Hussein’s foreign minister and is the eight of spades in the Iraqi leaders most wanted deck of cards. Aziz was the longest serving member of Hussein’s regime but was captured April 25.

“I wanted a name for him that wasn’t too macho, and didn’t have so many syllables,” Joyce said. “The first thing that came to mind was Fluffy, and eventually everyone started calling him by that name.”

Fluffy traveled from the most northern part of Iraq, to the south, past the front lines, onto the edge of Mosul guarding his team members wherever they laid their heads.

The reason Fluffy will be allowed to travel to the United States is not based on a sympathetic military that feels for a soldier who was at risk of losing his dog. A U.S. military working dog about to be euthanized at the end of his useful life may be adopted by his former handler according to a law established by Congress Nov. 6, 2000, said Air Force Col. Fred Pribble, the special assistant for International and Security Affairs.

Not only is Joyce and his family anxiously awaiting the arrival of Fluffy, but also are veteran dog handlers who remember having to leave their four-legged comrades behind.

“I spend all night answering e-mails and phone calls from veterans who have fought in past wars,” Joyce said.

“Bringing Fluffy to the States isn’t about me,” Joyce said. “It’s about the men who weep on the phone while they talk about the relationship they had with the dogs who served with them in war.”

 


 

Air Force helps Iraqi dog immigrate

6/3/2003 – CHARLESTON AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. (AFPN)  — A German shepherd of Iraqi descent arrived here May 30 aboard a C-17 Globemaster III after putting his life on the line to guard U.S. special forces.

Fluffy, a dog from northern Iraq with visible scars, will retire at Fort Bragg, N.C., as an honorary military working dog.

When Fluffy first joined Sgt. 1st Class Russell Joyce, a special forces soldier and Fluffy’s trainer, he weighed about 31 pounds and was missing his front two bottom teeth. But after only two weeks, he was put to work.

Fluffy, who takes no apparent offense to his unlikely name, was an “immeasurable success” as a military working dog.

“I asked the Kurdish (fighters) if we could have a dog,” said Joyce. The Kurds brought him “Tariq Aziz,” named after Iraq’s deputy prime minister, but the name did not last long.

“I was joking around, and I said, ‘you know what, I’m going to call him Fluffy. My dog’s name is Fluffy,’” said Joyce. “One person started calling him that, myself, and two people started calling him that; it just stuck.”

The full-breed shepherd began his career learning a few simple commands before becoming a guard and pursuit dog.

“Having a person on roving patrol is a great thing, but adding the sense of smell and the sense of hearing that a dog has really heightened the sense of awareness to early detection,” said Joyce.

“He’s been in harm’s way and shot at more times than anyone on my team,” Joyce said. “He proved himself to be a worthy asset. He means a lot to me because we definitely went through a lot over there together.”

Eager for retirement, Fluffy arrived in the United States escorted by Maj. Jim Pompano from the 615th Air Mobility Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., who happened to be returning home from the area.

Pompano was able to make sure the dog’s transition went smoothly.

“We waited until all the t’s were crossed and the i’s were dotted and we had the proper paperwork, then we got the dog home,” Pompano said. “I just happened to be leaving at the same time, so I decided the best thing I could do was just escort Fluffy (to the United States).”

Although Fluffy did not like the takeoff or landing much, Pompano said he did pretty well on the flight home.

“I talked to Fluffy just like I would talk to anyone else,” he said. “He was pretty well trained, and I didn’t have any problems there.”

Fluffy was greeted on the flightline by his supporters who sent hundreds of e-mails, letters and made phone calls supporting his safe immigration to the United States.

“I think that America as a whole had a big hand in this, and it’s really a gift from the United States to me and a gift to Fluffy to be able to come home,” said Joyce. “This dog really gets the opportunity for a fresh start here.” (Staff Sgt. Marcia Triggs, Army News Service, also contributed to this story.)

By Audrey Schwartz Rivers

“This has never been done before…taking a dog from your enemies and making him work for you. Fluffy was not a rescue; he was a sentry dog,” Fluffy’s handler Sgt. First Class Russell Joyce recently e-mailed me about his Army buddy.

Joyce planned to bring his Army buddy home with him after their tour. In the past, a veteran war dog’s return to civilian life would have been impossible; they were either “abandoned in place” or euthanized. In 2000, President Clinton signed the Military Working Dog Adoption Act, which allowed retired military dogs to be adopted by their handlers.

“Two weeks before my return home, I thought I had my T’s crossed and my I’s dotted. I got ready to board the plane home when I was told Fluffy could not go. I scrambled to find another K-9 unit and asked them to hold him for me until I could work out the problem. They could only hold him for three days. The ride home was a scary one. I was not sure what would happen to Fluffy. I just felt like I had let him down,” Joyce wrote.

Animals have been conscripted into human warfare since ancient times. Elephants, the world’s first “tanks,” helped Hannibal crush the Romans. During World War II, pachyderms replaced bulldozers in the jungles, and in war-torn Germany, zoo elephants plowed fields. Oxen, cows, mules, camels and even reindeer have been enlisted as pack animals. Horses supported calvary, infantry and supply lines throughout history until armored vehicles offered more horse power. Still today, special American and Northern Alliance forces on horseback chase Taliban across rugged Afghanistan mountains.

Before the Air Force came the “pigeon force” to provide communication and chemical detection. During World War I, “pigeon-cam” (pigeons outfitted with cameras) enabled aerial surveillance of enemy troops. The U.S. Army Air Corps considered unleashing squadrons of kamikaze bats rigged with fire bombs against the Japanese, but that idea never flew.

For ages, cats sailed ships and prowled trenches to kill disease-laden rats. Rodents, too, performed their duty by chewing Nazi wires. Industrious spiders spun fine silk used as cross hairs for Allied bomber sites. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, dolphins locate underwater mines and escort ships safely to port. Sea lions patrol offshore for intruders and can chase enemy divers on to shore.

But no animal has served its country as loyally as man’s best friend. Throughout history dogs have functioned as guards, messengers, scouts, transports, medics, rescuers, sled-pullers or offensive weapons for their military handlers. Greeks and Romans equipped dogs with spiked collars and sent them against advancing troops. Middle Age knights outfitted both dogs and horses in armor during campaigns.

The U.S. Army first officially used hounds during the 1835 Seminole War to track Indians and runaway slaves. During WWI, all combatants, except Americans, employed specially-trained guard, messenger and medic dogs.

Thank the “dog show” crowd for championing the use of military dogs during WWII. Dog breeders, handlers and the American Kennel Club started “Dogs for Defense” and rallied America’s dog owners to loan their pets for patriotic purposes. More than 18,000 pets were donated, but only half passed muster. After the war, the donated dogs were “deprogrammed” and returned to their civilian families.

Military dogs proved most effective in the jungles of the Pacific and Vietnam. Dense tropical foliage allowed enemies to easily infiltrate behind American lines, except where

dogs patrolled. With their hypersensitive noses and hearing, dogs not only lessened the risks of ambush, they allowed patrols to cover greater distances and boosted soldiers’ morale. Unfortunately, of the 4,000 war dogs who served in Vietnam, only 200 returned. Considered expendable equipment, the rest were left behind to unknown fates.

Fluffy also awaited an unknown fate. Back in the States, Joyce campaigned to bring Fluffy home. He contacted the U.S. War Dog Association for assistance.

“The letters that I had sent to three people somehow got on cyberspace and were sent to thousands!” Joyce said. “I never thought I would wake a sleeping giant – the Vietnam dog handlers!”

The Vietnam dog handlers, who were powerless to rescue their own wartime companions, mobilized to save Fluffy. Soon, Joyce’s phone rang constantly, as did the phones of Senators, the Pentagon and the White House. Three weeks later, Fluffy and Joyce reunited. Since settling with the Joyce family and pets at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, Fluffy visits veterans, lawmakers, animal rescue groups and others who promoted “Operation Free Fluffy.”

“People wrote calling me and Fluffy heroes, but we were not the heroes at all,” wrote Joyce. “It’s the military dog handlers who serve and protect others. It’s the search-and-rescue teams that find lost kids, or attempted to rescue survivors on September 11. Or the police K-9 teams who put their lives on the line to protect us. It’s the men and women of the armed forces who leave their families to go off to foreign lands to free others. And, most of all, it’s all the

Vietnam War vets who never got to a welcome home and were forced to leave behind their dogs that saved so many American lives. These are the heroes.”

Some critics condemn the use of animals in warfare. Animals, they say, do not have a choice to fight. But neither do young people who deploy around the world at a moment’s notice, nor do their worried families glued to TV news back home. Perhaps dolphins, seals, elephants and other wild creatures should not be used in battle. But dogs choose. Time and time again, dogs like Fluffy, Stubby, Chips and Nemo willingly risk their lives to protect their humans when they instinctively could flee. Humans and nations may fight each other because of greed, hatred or politics, but dogs defend their human companions simply out of devotion. That’s what makes war dogs heroes. And that’s why so many strangers fought so hard to bring Fluffy home.