Leeu: Out of Iraq
by Carie Broecker
Leeu, a yellow Labrador Retriever, lived a dangerous life of service. He was born in South Africa and was trained to detect explosives. At the age of eighteen months, he traveled to Iraq with Reed Security to do the life-saving work he was bred for and destined to do.
Reed is a security contractor that provides services such as explosives detection and mine clearing for contractors, business men, humanitarian projects, and post-war reconstruction efforts in high-risk countries like Iraq.
Leeu worked in Iraq for two years using his specialized skills and calm intelligence to save countless lives. At the age of three and a half, Leeu developed epilepsy, a condition that Labrador Retrievers can be genetically disposed to.
Leeu was retired from his duties, but what to do with him? He was in a war zone and his options for a different life were limited. Reed Security provided the medication needed to manage Leeu’s condition, but he was still having an average of three seizures a week. He was living in the kennels where all the working dogs lived, and the excitement any time a dog or person came in or left would often trigger another seizure for Leeu. He needed a quieter life.
Leeu lived for another two and a half years in the Reed kennels before Terri Crisp laid eyes on him. Terri works for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Animal International (SPCAI)
Terri travels to Iraq regularly, heading up the SPCAI’s “Operation Baghdad Pups” Program. She is tasked with transporting and reuniting dogs and cats from Iraq with the service men and women who have cared for them and bonded with them during their tour of duty. Terri wrote about her experience with Operation Baghdad Pups in her book, No Buddy Left Behind, which was published in 2011.
Reed Security is a key component to Operation Baghdad Pups. SPCAI hired the security company to go into the war zones to pick up the dogs and cats being sent to the U.S. and bring them to the staging area to prepare for their flight out of Iraq.
Terri noticed Leeu the first time she went to Reed Security’s working-dog kennels. He is hard to miss. He is adorable and well mannered, but it was his eyes that caught her attention. She looked into his eyes and saw so much love.
Terri asked Reed Security what their plans were for Leeu. They didn’t have one, so she asked if she could take him back to the U.S. and find him a home. They were elated by the offer.
Terri would be in Iraq for another five months coordinating Operation Baghdad Pups, so Leeu went to live with her in Erbil. Terri took the opportunity to do some humane education in Iraqi schools. Ninety-five percent of the children she met had never touched a dog. They had never been in a situation where they could safely interact with a dog. Most of the dogs they saw were feral strays or military dogs. The children who met Leeu were amazed at how clean and friendly he was. He has a calm presence and nothing spooks or startles him. He is “bomb-proof” in the most literal sense of the term. The perfect dog to alleviate any apprehension the children had.
With a little coaxing, the children got close to Leeu, petted him, and were soon hugging him. They could not get enough of this gentle, loving soul. For weeks after Leeu’s visit, the children would ask, “Can Leeu come to school today?”
Once Terri got Leeu back to her home in California, she knew he was meant to be part of her family. Leeu’s epilepsy has improved due to his low-stress life and new medications. Terri’s work still takes her all over the world, and she has been back to Iraq several dozen times. Leeu is happy to stay home with Terri’s husband and their puppy, Victory, another Iraqi transplant. He has a story too, but that is for another time.
SPCA International was founded in the U.S. in 2006. Their mission is simple but vast: to advance the safety and well being of animals. SPCAI has reunited 311 dogs, 79 cats and one donkey with the soldiers who made them part of their family. They have also brought 15 retired working dogs from Iraq to the U.S. and five mine-detection dogs. For more information visit www.spcai.org.