A homeless dog that brought comfort to soldiers overseas is being transported to America to live with one of those soldiers.
Duke, a three-year-old mixed breed, became like family to Sergeant Kelsey (an alias) and his US Army unit in Kosovo in 2021, after they found him looking for food around their base.
His visits and wagging tail soon became the highlight of their days, bringing them comfort far from home.
Sgt. Kelsey in particular bonded with the pooch and wanted to get him to a better life, out of danger.
Staff at New York-based organization Paws of War committed to help bring Duke to the U.S., so he and the sergeant could be together once more.
The organization helps reunite veterans with dogs and cats they have befriended while stationed in foreign warzones.
“Everyone is thinking of our troops serving overseas right now and they want to help in some way,” said Dereck Cartright, a disabled veteran who is the stateside logistics coordinator for Paws of War.
“Being able to lift their spirits is a great way to help.”
But before Duke could find his forever home in the US, disaster struck.
He stopped showing up at the base, soldiers searched for him for several days, had no luck and feared the worst.
When they finally found him cowering under a table they discovered he had been shot, was bleeding badly and was severely dehydrated.
Paws of War sent out an emergency vet team to save Duke’s life.
Vets discovered the bullet had shattered a bone in Duke’s leg and he needed extensive surgery. He was also suffering from a painful skin condition.
Paws of War’s long-time overseas rescue partner, The Alamal Foundation, provided a medical placement for Duke while he healed, as he was in no shape to travel.
The pup spent about six months recovering while the soldiers wished for his well-being.
Duke eventually rebuilt his muscle strength, to the point he was able to stand again.
Soon he was able to play with other dogs and take walks again.
Now, he is healthy enough to travel to the U.S. and to his forever home with Sgt. Kelsey.
“We are thrilled to be able to tell you that after months of healing and rehabilitation, Duke has made a tremendous recovery. He is ready for the next part of his journey,” said Cartright.
Duke is projected to be reunited with Sgt. Kelsey within the next month.
“The entire Army unit is so excited that Duke is coming home,” said Sgt. Kelsey.
“This is the moment we’ve prayed for.”
Staff at The Alamal Foundation threw Duke a farewell party, attended by everyone who assisted in his rehabilitation.
Paws of War has now launched a campaign to help cover the cost of Duke’s flight to the U.S, as well as his lifetime medical care.
Cartwright said it would give the soldiers a morale boost and “one less thing to worry about.”
He added: “We absolutely want to help put a smile on their faces and ensure they don’t have to worry about Duke surviving.
“We are happy to help them with this mission and hope that many people in the community will want to support it as well. We can’t do it without their support.”
To donate, visit: pawsofwar.networkforgood.com/projects/138866-help-save-duke