VxPoem ID: 26023
Posted: December 16th. 2006 1:55:30 AM
PART SIX /AND END OF SEMPER FIDO
Age Group: Adult
Meanwhile, a man she knew in Iraq, someone I'll call Sam to protect his identity, managed to locate a vet and get Lava all his shots and proper documentation. Before long, Anne had to leave Baghdad, while I was assigned to patrol the Syrian border until leaving for the States. By now, I had learned about Ken Licklider, who owned Vohne Liche Kennels in Indiana. He was a former U.S. Air Force police-dog handler who trained dogs for search-and-seizure work; many of his dogs were used by the military to sniff out bombs in Iraq. There was a chance that Lava could fly out with Ken's dogs and handlers to the United States. "It means putting Lava on a transport with them, " John Van Zante told me.
John, of the Helen Woodward Animal Center in California, and Kris Parlett, with the Iams dog food company, were my link to Ken. Iams had even offered to pay all the transport costs. Now we just had to sneak Lava out of the Red Zone in Baghdad, where he was hiding with journalists, to the military base in the Green Zone, the walled center of the city. John and Kris would take it from there. Me, by e-mail: "Thanks, John."
John: "We may actually put Lava on a plane. I hope this is it!"
Then, a worry. The kennel's overseas program coordinator: "Can you confirm that Lava has all his health and shot papers in order? Recently we ran into a problem with one of our dogs, and the military vet would not allow the dog to leave the country for an extra thirty days. I don't want that to happen to Lava." Neither did I. On top of that, I was leaving soon.
Sure enough, in early March I left Iraq, spent three days in a tent in Kuwait, and then flew to Shannon, Ireland. I was on my way home, but all I could think about as I drank pints with a bunch of other Marines was this: I just didn't see Lava making it to California to be with me. The plan to fly him out seemed too easy. You only get so much luck, my thinking went.
But as the weeks passed, the plan was cemented. In the Green Zone, David Mack (not his real name) reviewed Lava's documentation, including an international health certificate for live animals. Security around the Green Zone was cinched tighter than usual after reports of "irregularities" with the Iraqi elections. Demonstrations raged; mortars were launched.
At the NPR compound in the Red Zone, Lava was smuggled into a vehicle with a cameraman, since no animals were allowed to pass through. The vehicle drove to the first checkpoint. Sam waved goodbye. More mortar rounds were launched into the Green Zone. I sat at home in California and waited for an e-mail. And paced. And worried.
The vehicle sped through the dangerous streets, inching toward the checkpoint line. The driver stared forward. The cameraman counted rolls in the coiled barbed wire outside his window.
A bomb dog circled the vehicle as a guard reached through the window to check the cameraman's pass. The pass was good; it was the bomb dog's possible detection of Lava that was so threatening. But he was in search of only one thing, and when he didn't find it, he was off to the next vehicle. The guard scanned the pass and waved them into the Green Zone where, at that moment, the Iraqi government extended the country's emergency state by an additional 30 days. All of us waited. I paced some more.
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Author's Notes: POSTED BY LADYK
Author's Location: Washington, Washington DC
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