LifeZette

The Dog Who Made It Out of a War Zone — and the Heroes Who Saved Her

From Afghanistan to Pakistan to London to JFK to LAX, this girl finally arrived home, thanks to a dedicated rescue group

Bandit was the first dog that D.E.L.T.A. Rescue brought home to the United States from the war in Afghanistan in 2009. When she arrived at the group’s veterinary hospital in California, Leo Grillo, D.E.L.T.A. Rescue’s founder and president, was overcome with joy.

And when Bandit stepped out of her kennel carrier, it was like meeting the most famous celebrity ever, he felt. Until that moment, she had been a few pictures on Grillo’s computer and hundreds of emails helping him see her every move halfway around the world.

Here is Chaos as a young girl in Afghanistan, in 2009, foraging for something to eat.

“I was so glad that many months of after-midnight emails were over,” said Grillo. “I was exhausted, worn out by the mission and also from little sleep, constantly worrying about getting Bandit out of the line of fire.”

The very next day, after he happily reported that Bandit was safely with his group, Grillo received an email from this secret base in response … with the picture of Chaos (shown at the top of this article and in additional photos throughout this piece). Here was this six-month-old pup who was being fed by government “contractors,” sharing their own food on their little patch of ground half an hour in front of the troops.

This forward operating base (FOB) was in a dangerous place, with Taliban all around them. Chaos had run onto the base to get away from the Afghans, some of whom committed bloody atrocities against their many stray dogs.

Rescuing Bandit and getting her to Kabul from down south burned bridges and got some people in trouble. How could D.E.L.T.A. Rescue do it again?

For about five years, D.E.L.T.A. ran a rescue in Kabul, which took in dogs who would be flown back to the United States with their soldier benefactors. The group had 17 employees there.

This dog was on her way to a brand-new life … thanks to a remarkable group of people.

They would care for Chaos as they did Bandit and fly her to Pakistan. She would then be held up at a veterinary clinic before boarding a flight to London, then be boarded on a plane to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City. From there, she would travel to Los Angeles Airport (LAX).

But how to get Chaos to Kabul? To make this more complicated, there were also four feral cats living with the guys at the FOB. And, to make matters even worse, word came down that there was going to be strict enforcement of General Order #1 ,and a kill order was issued by the new commander of the U.S. Army Base … meaning that all of these animals, including Chaos and the cats, would be horribly shot and burned in a pit.

There was a lot of drama with these precious animals, not to mention a war. “I do not have enough pages to tell you the half of it here. But the guys built crates for Chaos and the four cats,” said Grillo.

To make a donation to D.E.L.T.A. — and to learn more about the extraordinary work this animal-focused organization is doing — please click here

The crates were standing by as the kill order loomed overhead like the sword of Damocles.

Now they had to round up four feral cats, without traps — but they did.

Once the cats were safely in their crates and fed military rations, the other half of the puzzle came together. The contractors found a local Afghan driver to carry the crates across this war-torn country … with many Taliban checkpoints … to a shelter in Kabul.

This driver would be paid well, since this was a dangerous mission. If the Taliban stopped him and checked his cellphone, they would shoot him on the spot for being a collaborator.

Here is Chaos in Pakistan, tied at the vet clinic for weeks while awaiting transport to London.

Once Chaos and the cats were off to Kabul, “we lost contact with the driver for three days,” said Grillo. “He hid his phone so the enemy would not find him out. It was a hair-raising time. I don’t think I ate for days.”

But finally they all arrived at the shelter in Kabul.

Two other dogs besides Bandit also made it through this wartime web. Maxine was flown to D.E.L.T.A. by British commandos, who carried her on missions for six months. And Shadow was sent home by a soldier whose family refused to keep her. “Of course we took her the next day. I keep thinking of the movie ‘Casablanca’ when I relive this!” said Grillo.

Once in Pakistan, the cats and Chaos were kept at a “primitive” (by D.E.L.T.A.’s standards) veterinary clinic while they awaited a fight to New York. There is a rule in Pakistan that if a soldier’s body is flying on the plane, no animals can be transported on the same flight. So it took weeks for an opening.

During those weeks, the mother of the feral litter died, even with the D.E.L.T.A. vet in the U.S. talking to their vet over there — all because he either refused to use, or did not have, 10 cents’ worth of antibiotics for a simple cold.

“Chaos was our dog now,” said Grillo, “and leaving her in the hands of such careless people was nerve-wracking.”

The poor girl had no idea she was being rescued. Her short life had been hiding from explosions and gunfire — and looking for food. Thanks to some caring contractors who defied orders and hid her, and who found a driver to take her to Kabul, she was finally on her way to the good people of D.E.L.T.A.

Look at this beauty! “She did not want to let us go once she arrived here,” said Leo Grillo.

Her stay at London’s Heathrow airport was brief, but Chaos and the cats were in JFK quarantine for days. “They thought I was nuts, and they still talk about it, but I insisted that the Pakistani vet send us the frozen body of the mother cat, and she was cremated in New York so her cremains could fly with the rest of her family to us here,” said Grillo.

Once at D.E.L.T.A.’s veterinary hospital, Chaos came out of her kennel cab like Bandit did months before. She was a new rescue to the staff there — but she was so much more than that to Grillo.

“Grown fighting men in Afghanistan wept when they got the pictures of Chaos here at our sanctuary,” he said.

“After hugs from me, and kisses back from Chaos, she went through our protocol of a warm bath, food and chart making.”

One can only imagine her thoughts. From being a war refugee to being treated like a star … was it a dream or would it last? Thanks to D.E.L.T.A.’s donors, it has lasted, and it will last for Chaos and others for a long, long time as long as people continue to care.

“My daughter was 10 years old back then. She greeted Chaos upon arrival, too, and she took Chaos for her first walk on U.S. soil!” said Grillo. And Chaos would not let her go.

Almost as if she knew she was on special ground, Chaos rubbed in it. There was worry on her face, but the attention, the food and treats, and the love all have made her feel very secure since then.

To make a donation to D.E.L.T.A. — and to learn more about the extraordinary work this animal-focused organization is doing — please click here

There is no grass where Chaos came from, only dry desert. Here she is discovering this strange “green hair” growing out of the ground!

When she arrived, Chaos had an infection that the D.E.L.T.A. team cleared up quickly. That’s just more proof that medicine in other parts of the world is still primitive. “I hope to do something about that someday, with the help of D.E.L.T.A.’s donors,” said Grillo.

“You might wonder why I haven’t told you about our war dogs until now,” he also said.

“Well, it was for these animals’ security during wartime. You never know in this crazy world if someone would try to harm them.”

He and the team at D.E.L.T.A. were given a special honor for helping rescue these remarkable animals. An American flag was flown over the FOB during Operation Enduring Freedom in honor of D.E.L.T.A. Rescue — and it was presented to them by these brave men.

“We have quietly worked in other countries as well, with special donors contributing to our efforts there,” said Grillo.

Happy and healthy today, Chaos has made a fantastic comeback!

Please send a gift today to D.E.L.T.A. Rescue so this remarkable group can continue the miracles. And also plan your very best legacy gift to continue, and even expand, this mission well into the future.

A gift to D.E.L.T.A. Rescue today can help save animals like Bandit, Chaos — and so many others who need love and care forever.

About D.E.L.T.A. Rescue
This remarkable facility is home to up to 1,500 animals that had once been abandoned in the wild. The largest no-kill, care-for-life animal sanctuary of its kind in the world, D.E.L.T.A. Rescue is a 115-acre mountaintop haven located in the high desert area of Los Angeles. Set amid rolling hills with meticulous landscaping, the idyllic home for once-abandoned animals is as inspiring as it is vast.

D.E.L.T.A. stands for “Dedication and Everlasting Love To Animals.” Leo Grillo has never strayed from that promise — nor does he intend to, ever. His rescue receives no government funding. It is solely supported by private donors and everyday people from all over the country — and it desperately needs help to keep its mission going.

To make a donation to D.E.L.T.A. Rescue right now, click here for more information