Philanthropist extends his reach to Afghanistan dogs and military friends
Charlie is one lucky dog. Born under a building on a U.S. military base in Afghanistan, he is now enjoying regular belly rubs, chasing cows and curling up in bed with Spc. Sheila Schaffer of the Iowa National Guard. She helped evacuate Charlie and his six litter mates to a shelter during her deployment.
“He’s spoiled rotten,” says Schaffer of Brighton, Iowa.
Charlie is one of 14 dogs and one cat reunited with soldier friends in New York last November. Nowzad Dogs, which rescues animals in Afghanistan and ships pets home to their military companions, arranged the trip with the help of Delray Beach businessman Arthur Benjamin.
“It was the best day of my life,” says Benjamin, founder of the non-profit American Dog Rescue. “To see a 270-pound, solid-muscle soldier with tears dripping down his face…That’s what my dogs mean to me. We dog people are crazy.”
Benjamin, managing partner of Stone Mountain Investments and vice chair of American Institutes (with colleges in Orlando and Margate), is also working with Nowzad to fund spay and neuter services at the charity’s shelter in Kabul. Through American Dog Rescue he is providing a conduit for Americans to make tax-deductible donations to the British charity. The need is great, he says, because dogs in Afghanistan are left to fend for themselves and often abused. It’s yet another project for Benjamin, who has worked to save and expand shelters, rescue animals after disasters and close puppy mills.
Nowzad founder Pen Farthing plans to name the group’s first major vet clinic in Afghanistan after Benjamin in gratitude for his “unique enthusiasm and drive to promote the importance of rescuing the dogs that have bonded with our brave soldiers,” Farthing says.
Schaffer is also grateful to the man she says has an oversized heart. She will never forget the day she reconnected with her four-legged friend.
“I got very teary when I saw Charlie,” she says. “He’s been in the same place we [soldiers] have. At the end of your long day [in Afghanistan] when you see the puppies, it’s like Christmas morning.”
Now Charlie gets to bring Christmas morning to Schaffer every day.
American Dog Rescue, www.americandogrescue.org, Nowzad Dogs,