Carey Neesley loved her brother Peter beyond measure and wanted to find a way to grant one of his wishes. An Army sergeant serving in Iraq, he died in Bagdad on Christmas 2007. During his time there he’d rescued a stray dog and her pup and wanted to bring them back to Detroit when his tour ended in July 2008.
Today Mama and Boris, who’s named after Peter’s fallen comrade, live with Carey. She was able to cut through the red tape with the help of another Detroiter, Rich Crooks. Then living in Utah, Rich heard the family’s story and decided to help. Working for an animal rescue organization and having been a firefighter, he had a unique and extensive background in animal recovery. Two of Rick’s more notable rescue missions were during the war-torn Beirut conflict and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Rich contacted Carey offering his “trouble-shooting” expertise to help bring Peter’s dogs back to the family. Working together they spent months finding ways to remove roadblocks and ultimately brought the dogs home to live with Carey.
“We are so fortunate to have them, and so grateful to everyone who played a part down to the soldiers who were caring for them making sure they were safe and fed until we could get them,” Carey told National Public Radio. “Part of what we have learned from all of this is there are so many good, kind people in the world – there really are.”
Today Rich has moved back to New Hudson in the Detroit area and he and Carey are a “hometown” two-person SWAT team when it comes to helping soldiers and their families bring home battlefield pets and VIPs (Very Important Pooches). Their trouble-shooting efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan have significantly contributed to an unofficial roadmap that is being continuously improved upon and used by other volunteers and animal rescue organizations helping American soldiers desperate to bring home their battlefront pets.
Animal rescue efforts for U.S. soldiers are extremely difficult primarily because U.S. military policy does not condone pets. They are not permitted on base and there is no infrastructure for taking care of animals in war. Fortunately, strays don’t follow military policy. They follow their instincts and have a clear sense of a soldier’s love and companionship. All these strays are hoping for is a little food and water and occasional pat on the head or belly-rub. In return they give soldiers comfort and a periodic sense of normalcy in an extremely intense environment.
Although their successful rescue for Peter’s cause was almost four years ago, Carey and Rick still respond to requests from individuals and organizations looking for advice and assistance to help them bring home a soldier’s special friend. Most recently, they helped solders in Afghanistan recover a dozen homeless Sage Koochee dogs – the breed of Central Asian nomads. Not only did they share information and contacts to replicate their Iraq experience, they also served as the U.S.-based eyes and ears for this Afghan animal rescue mission. Carey even contributed money from her brother’s life insurance to help offset costs for travel, vets, crates and food. She also traveled to Dubai to escort one of the pups back to the States and ended up adopting one of the dogs, now named Razia, who is living happily with Mama and Boris.
I recently had the good fortune to visit with Carey, Rich and the dogs at Carey’s home in Grosse Pointe Farms. The dogs looked great. They had lots of energy, are extremely friendly and very healthy. Despite being slight in build and size … about 35 pounds … five-year-old Mama is clearly the head of Carey’s pack. Four-year-old Boris tips the scales at 95 pounds, is really laid back and covets Carey’s couch. Afghan-born and two-year old Razia weighs 45 pounds and she is closer to Mama in physical characteristics and energy.
Carey and Rich say they would be happy to help (as best they can) any of the Hub’s readers who might have friends or relatives in the armed forces who want bring home a pet that became a special part of their life.
Carey makes occasional public appearances, along with Razia, at local fundraising events for the Puppy Rescue Mission, which is dedicated to “bringing furry friends home from war.” She is planning to write a book and is looking for an author to help her write about her experience. If there are any authors out there who might be interested, please let us know. We’d love to bring you guys together to create a best seller.
Rick runs Grass Roots Emergency Animal Rescue, a nonprofit organization focused on minimizing animal suffering and to promote interaction with humans. Rich consults with the Michigan Humane Society and Detroit Animal Control and hopes to develop a humane and caring city-wide animal control program.