By John Rutherford, Producer, NBC News, Washington
WASHINGTON – This is a story with a heartwarming beginning, a very sad middle, and a happy ending.
It started when two stray dogs were adopted off the streets of Baghdad by a soldier named Peter Neesley. Peter fed them, built them a dog house, and loved them dearly. He named them Boris and Mama.
Now comes the sad part. On Christmas Day, Peter died suddenly in Baghdad. The Army said he died in his sleep of an undetermined cause; his family has ordered a private autopsy.
And here's the happy ending.
In their grief, his family reached out to others for help in bringing Boris and Mama to America.
"Though nothing can bring back Peter, bringing the dogs home would be like getting a little bit of Peter back," Peter's aunt, Julie Dean, wrote me on Jan. 4. (Click here to read my initial story about Boris and Mama.)
|Peter Neesley's dogs arrive in the U.S.|
Many people here and in Iraq offered to help, but complications soon arose. First, attempts by volunteers to enter the military installation where the dogs were located (one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces) were unsuccessful. Then Mama was taken by an Iraqi general and was gone for many days.
Obtaining veterinarian services for the dogs' passage was another major ordeal. But then a courageous veterinarian in Baghdad stepped forward and agreed to give them their shots and certify them for travel.
"This is my job, this is my passion, this is my love," the Iraqi vet wrote. "Its great feeling that these Iraqi dogs will be safe and loved. True it was hard, but now I am feeling a lot more brave and willing to help anyone."
Finally, late last week, Boris and Mama arrived at their new home in Detroit.
"The road to bringing these two stray dogs home certainly has shown how people from all over with caring, perseverance, and commitment can make wonderful things happen," Julie Dean wrote.
Washington Producer John Rutherford is a decorated Vietnam veteran. He posts a weekly tribute to service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan at www.dailynightly.msnbc.com (click on "John Rutherford" under "categories") and also files stories on the military at http://john-rutherford.newsvine.com/.