Veteran Finds Long Lost Fur-Friend

When on a tour in Afghanistan in 2019, Kristen St. Pierre, platoon commander for the Georgia Army National Guard, developed a strong bond with her bomb-sniffing dog Chase. She was his handler for the 'guardian angel' missions in Kabul for which St. Pierre was assigned. 

Chase, who was specialized for explosives and narcotics, would lead the thirty-eight soldier platoon on routes and conduct security sweeps prior to meetings. The two were together every day. "It brought so much relief and a piece of humanity to have a dog on base," says St. Pierre. 

St. Pierre's tour soon came to an end, but Chase stayed to continue his assignments. Kristen continued to stay in contact with his new handler and was able to receive daily updates, until Kabul fell. 

On August 15, 2021, the Taliban took control of the country and its capital. Kristen desperately tried to contact Chase's handler for an update. "I heard Chase and other dogs would be on flights to the U.S. and Europe," she says. "The next I heard the dogs weren't allowed on the planes and they were released from the airport with little chance of survival." 

Months passed with no word on Chase. The withdrawal of U.S. troops was difficult and soon food and fuel began to run out. Despite this, for the American founder of Kabul Small Animal Rescue, Charlotte Maxwell-Jones, the work continued.

Maxwell-Jones has lived in Kabul since 2015 working for various non-profits and conducting research. She founded Kabul Small Animal Rescue in 2018 and formalized the organization in 2019. Operating solely on donations, they now run 15 clinics and employee 85 people. 

Charlotte returned to the country before the fall of Kabul to ensure that her work would be able to continue. Because of new rules that do not allow female employees, she has had to switch to an all male staff. Despite this, she has continued to pay her female employees while they flee to nearby Pakistan. Additionally, she has had two female Veterinarians make their way to the United Kingdom.

"The co-ed environment is missed, but we are committed to helping animals and will do it under whatever laws are in place," Maxwell-Jones says. Her organization continues to send cats and dogs back to the U.S. with the help of the Dubai-based organization, Pawsome Pets, which assists rescue groups with relocating abandoned animals to facilitate animal exporting. 

In January, the organization sent eleven dogs. "Ideally we would like to do at least 10-12 per month, but it's hard," says Maxwell-Jones. Susan Chadima, a Maine-based veterinarian, travels to Kabul every few months to give KSAR's team medical training. 

"KSAR became the only organization that stayed, providing care for both owned and street dogs, and helping to facilitate the transport of loved, owned pets to their owners in the West," she says. 

For close to a year, St. Pierre had no word on the status of Chase. This was until a colleague told her about the work of Kabul Small Animal Rescue. At the same time, Maxwell-Jones located Chase at kennels owned by a local mine detection company north of Kabul in late November 2022.

"It was pretty sad, he was in sorry shape," said Maxwell-Jones. The white spaniel with furry brown spots was nervous but affectionate when he was found, she said. Everyday, Kristen looked at the social media pages of the organization, until one day she recognized her long-lost friend. 

"I gasped," says St. Pierre, who said her mother-in-law ran into the kitchen to make sure everything was okay. "I screamed 'Chase! Chase! Chase!' I just couldn't believe he was alive." Together, they were able to piece together the history and Kristen set up a fund-raiser to pay the $3,500 to bring Chase to the U.S.

"Chase is very loved and a lot of people are ready for him to get home," she says. Chase is currently waiting for his transportation logistics to be finalized, and then he will be on his way to a new and loving home!

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