A STRAY dog adopted by British soldiers serving in Kabul was released from quarantine this week to begin his new life in a new home in Britain writes Nick Mays.
Tiger, a maremma-cross was adopted by Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant Graeme Smith and his deputy, Sgt Mick Hart, members of the 216 Signals Squadron after being found in at a ruined wine factory on the outskirts of Kabul where they had set up their camp.
"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. At one stage there were fears for Tigers health as he was becoming overweight withal the treats he was given, so a strict regime of limited treats was swiftly introduced.
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.
The dog 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.
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 were being paid by the newspaper. After the newspaper published Tigers story, over 400 people wanted to adopt him.
In March, 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 told OUR DOGS at that time that 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."
Because the Regiment is based in Colchester, not far form Par Air kennels, Tiger was never short if visitors during his stay in quarantine. Soon after he lande4d, the army authority selected Paul and Margaret Watson who works at the barracks as his new owners. The Watsons visited Tiger every day and watched him grow from 42lb to 75 lb and develop even more striking tiger-like stripes on his body.
Tiger was released form quarantine last week and was delighted to settle in his new home, after being treated to a lavish send-off by the kennel staff with biscuits and presents.
Kennelmaid Terry Johnson said: "I am really going to miss him. He doesnt have a mean bone in his body."
Tiger had to adjust to another new experience upon his release from quarantine walking on a lead. Mrs Watson said that she had arranged a series of obedience lessons for Tiger.
"I will definitely have him at work with me and all those soldiers who knew him in Afghanistan will have a chance to see him regularly. Im just a bit worried about him getting too fat and spoilt."