A STRAY dog adopted by British soldiers when they arrived in Kabul to set up the International Security Assistance Force has been flown back with them because they could not bear to see him made homeless again.
Tiger was adopted by Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant Graeme Smith and his deputy, Sgt Mick Hart, at an old wine factory on the outskirts of Kabul where they had set up their camp. The two soldiers are from 216 Signals Squadron, based in Colchester.
"Mick and I just came across this little puppy," said RQMS Smith, 36, from Irvine, Ayrshire. "He was scrawny, undernourished and scared stiff of anyone he saw. So we fed him and he started tagging along." As more soldiers poured into the new camp, they too began petting and feeding Tiger. "Everyone looked after the dog," said RQMS Smith. "I was the first one he met so he was just loyal to me."
Tiger insisted on sleeping in the soldier's tent. "It was quite an austere environment but we got hold of an Afghan rug we bought in town as a sort of home improvement and he slept on that." added RQMS Smith.
So much attention was lavished on Tiger that there was concern that it might affect the dog's health.
"We had to control his feeding, because everyone was sharing their lunch with him and he was getting fat," said Major Alex Dick.
The animal even received attention from Jamie Darling, presenter of BBC television's Animal Hospital. Darling, a 35-year-old Australian vet, was in Kabul working alongside the World Society for the Protection of Animals to check out Kabul's zoo animals.
None of the experts was sure what mix of breeds had produced Tiger. He looks like a cross between a Collie and a Labrador although all agreed he was more likely to be from a long line of mongrels.
Soldiers were soon expressing concern over what might happen to Tiger when they left. "They made me promise at gunpoint that I'd find a home for the animal if they could get him to Britain," Darling said.
The Daily Telegraph publicised Tigers story in the hope of finding him a good home, at the personal intervention of Editor Charles Moore who met Tiger during a visit to Kabul in January. The dogs quarantine fees are being paid by the newspaper.
Last Thursday, the dog flew back to Britain on an Antonov transport aircraft hired to bring home the remnants of 16 Air Assault Brigade and was taken to the Par Air kennels at Stanway, near Colchester.
Owner Mike Parrish said he was delighted to be helping Tiger on the first stage of his rehabilitation in the UK. "Hes doing well, hes very friendly and he gets a lot of attention," said Mr Parrish. "He wasnt too keen on having a bath when he arrived, because he does rather like rolling in the mud, but he looks super now."
Tiger's first visitor was RQMS Smith. "I went to see him on Friday and again yesterday," he said. "He's fine."
But he and his girlfriend Sharon live in a small flat with no garden so they cannot keep him.
"He is quite an independent dog," said RQMS Smith. "We are really looking for someone who lives out in the country to come forward and offer to look after him. We want to find him an owner soon so they can begin bonding with him while he is still in the kennels."