Philly’s No Dog Gets Left Behind reunites soldiers with wartime K-9 companions

For Trish Gohl, the act was a simple one. Having just lost her beloved dog, Ralphie, in 2009—and with a family member deployed overseas—Gohl had set out for a way to honor her departed friend’s memory. Ultimately, in 2010, that way turned into her non-profit animal rescue, No Dog Gets Left Behind

Inspired by the Animal Planet’s No Dog Left Behind documentary, Gohl decided to take on the task of reuniting soldiers with the dogs they tend to bond with when on active duty.

“Local stray dogs tend to stay around or in the camps,” Gohl says. “And it’s a different culture—soldiers are very nice to dogs compared to the abuse they usually suffer.” 

That abuse, Gohl says, sometimes comes in the form of target practice and other horrors. Soldiers, however, routinely trade cigarettes, flashlights, and other gear to locals in order to quell the animal abuse they see. 

“In the soldiers’ minds, these dogs have earned the right to come home,” Gohl says, adding that the bonds established between dog and soldier help to control PTSD symptoms and other stressors.

However, actually getting those dogs home to keep that bond alive is, understandably, a little complicated. But that hasn’t stopped No Dog Gets Left Behind from bringing home some 14 dogs to live with their soldier buddies.

Those rescues, of course, ultimately come down to relationships. NDGLB works with international organizations like the Puppy Rescue Mission to find dogs overseas and get them to the US, which doesn’t sound super complicated at first. However, somewhere along the line from the initial fundraising—each “mission” runs about $4,500—to actual pet transportation, things get a little more complicated.

“As soon as we begin raising funds for a soldier, we work with our partners to have the soldier hire an Afghani to bring the dog to an American-run center in Kabul,” Gohl says.

Dubbed the Afghan Stray Animals League, NDGLB’s partner quarantines new animals for a 30-day period, supplying them with vaccines, paperwork, and the like. From there, ASL gets the dogs on commercial flight to the US, after which point NDGLB takes over to get the pup in their proper home. Often times, the dog will actually make it home before the soldier.

In fact, just two weeks ago, Gohl’s organization brought Kimo—a recently adopted stray from Afghanistan—to Philly to stay with her owner, Sgt. Mark, of Northeast Philly. Kimo and Sgt. Mark served as the first Philly pair to be reunited, and Kimo got here about a month before her owner touched US soil. That, in a phrase, is known as “doing it right.” 

Next up for NDGLB is their annual Valentine’s fundraiser, this time at the DoubleTree on February 22, where reunited dog/soldier pairs will be available for a meet-and-greet. Tickets run $35 at the door, and all proceeds go towards reuniting more warzone-torn friendships between dog and soldier. 

In the meantime, though, you can follow Gohl’s updates on the No Dog Gets Left Behind Facebook page. And, as always, they’re looking for volunteers.