Some West Michigan Marines deployed overseas will be bringing home a little piece of Afghanistan to Michigan. They found two puppies and with the help of loved ones back home, they raised enough money for vet bills and the long trip back home to Michigan.
Hayden Gort is currently deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan. His team found a puppy going through their garbage a few weeks ago. Another platoon found a different puppy on the side of the road while out on patrol. They've been taking care of them ever since and soon they'll be on a plane back to West Michigan.
It all started three weeks ago.
"Me and my team were taking the trash out in the morning as we do every morning," said Gort. "We saw one of the trash bags moving and was somewhat empty. There was a puppy laying in it trying to dig through the trash to find food."
That's when they found the puppy they would name Sabula.
"We tried to walk up to her and she was very skiddish at first and nervous to see us," said Gort. "After a couple of minutes talking to her and trying to show her love and get her attention she finally let us touch her and pick her up. We brought her back to our base and just kind of loved on her and gave her some food. From there we just fell in love with her."
They named her Sabula after a local Afghan girl that lives near their base. Just a few weeks before they found Sabula, other Marines from the Grand Rapids area found another dog they would name Nala.
"They were out on a patrol and found her on the side of the road kind of doing the same thing looking for food, said Gort.
Hayden says they couldn't leave the dogs alone.
"When you first saw her you could just tell she needed some help," said Gort. "She had a pretty bad cut on the side of her which is now just fully healing," said Gort. "She has a scar there. She was really limping on her back-left leg and it seemed like she got kicked by one of the nationals. The people here do not treat dogs very well, so we just wanted to come feed her and show her some love and show her what she could be getting and she just wouldn't leave."
The Marines made fundraising pages to help bring the dogs back to Michigan. They needed almost $4,000 for veterinary care, vaccines and the trip home. They would raise that money in less than a week.
"We have to fly these puppies in a helicopter to Kabul where they will spend 30 to 45 days in quarantine to make sure that these Afghan puppies don't have any animal diseases that they could bring home to American dogs," said Gort. "They'll see a vet there, get all of their vaccinations and stuff there and then this company will send the puppies over to Detroit where our families will go and pick them up from there."
In the meantime, Hayden says the puppies keep them going.
"It definitely keeps our morale much higher," said Gort. "Being here in Helmand Province, it's not the greatest place to be. there's threats all over us, so having this little bit of freedom and happiness around definitely helps us a lot. We go through the days and anything could happen. It's nice getting back from a mission or back from work and having that little bit of happiness to come home to."
Hayden says he can't wait to get home and have Sabula by his side.
"It'll be a good reminder of how there are good things that can come out of this country," said Gort. "There's a lot of bad stigma about this country I feel like. There's a lot of people here that are good people. It'll be weird having her home, but it'll be a good reminder of what we're doing over here and how we're helping."
Hayden says he should be home sometime before the start of summer. Sabula and Nala should arrive in Michigan sometime in February.