A U.S. soldier was reunited with a stray dog that she rescued and cared for while she was stationed in Iraq. U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Tracy McKithern was stationed in Kurdistan Training Coordination Center as a combat photographer from April 2017 to January 2018 when she met the small stray puppy, which had been wandering around the base for weeks. The young puppy was hungry and covered in scratches and dirt when McKithern first laid eyes on her.
McKithern offered the young puppy some food and started to care for the dog. Other soldiers stationed at the base worked together to care for the dog while she was on patrols. They named her "Erby Kasima, after nearby Erbil, the largest city in northern Iraq, and "Kasima" being the Arabic name for beauty and elegance."
"She loved everyone," said McKithern. "She is the sweetest little soul. She came up to me immediately, probably hungry, but gentle. I think she was looking for love more than anything else."
Whenever soldiers would return from their patrols, Erby would be there waiting for them.
"She ran up to our convoy every day," McKithern recalled. "She was so tiny she would fall and trip all over herself to get to us."
As McKithern's tour in Iraq was coming to an end, she posted a photo of herself and Erby to Facebook, expressing her desire to bring the dog back to the United States with her. Her friends and family saw the post and started working with rescue organizations to find a way to bring the dog to her home in Tampa.
"One night I posted a pic of us on Facebook, with a caption that read something like 'I wish I could take her home,'" McKithern said. "I went to sleep, woke up and my friends and family had posted links to various rescue groups. I reached out to one of them, the non-profit Puppy Rescue Mission, and they responded immediately. We sent them $1,000 and they set up a crowd fund to get the rest. We needed an additional $3,500."
A few weeks before Erby was set to arrive, McKithern was ordered to go to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin for a 67-day mission. She was supposed to report for duty the very same day Erby was scheduled to arrive.
“I couldn’t believe it!” she recalled, “but I’m a soldier first…it killed me that it was going to keep me away from Erby for another two months, but it’s an important mission. It will all be worth it in the end.”
After seven months of waiting, Tracy was finally reunited with Erby at her home in Tampa.