Pen Farthing on his beloved dog Nowzad who inspired his incredible animal charity | TeamDogs
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Pen Farthing on his beloved dog Nowzad who inspired his incredible animal charity

The former British Royal Marines commando chats to Emily Chudy about getting out of Afghanistan, and the dog who first inspired him

Ella Walker

Posted 41d ago

Pen Farthing, a former British Royal Marines commando, is now in Norway after successfully getting 173 dogs and cats out of Afghanistan as part of Operation Ark, following the Taliban’s takeover.  

And even more than that, he’s going to adopt four of the rescued dogs personally, once they’re out of quarantine.

Pen, 52, says they’re set to be his first pets since Nowzad, the stray dog that initially inspired him to start his animal charity of the same name.

“They're still going through their quarantine procedure and health checks from Defra (the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs),” he says. “Once they've been given the all-clear we'll start the re-homing process... we reckon in about two weeks’ time, just to allow us to get the animals who do have homes already, back to those homes, and let the animals settle, because they've been through just as much stress as we have.”


Image: Pen Farthing (Nowzad)


The dogs will be going to a number of animal shelters across the UK, including one in Wales.

“There's two dogs that I rescued, probably two years ago now, from Kabul, one a little puppy basically freezing to death – because my wife [Kaisa is] Norwegian and we found this little puppy in the snow, he's called Ragnar, after Ragnar Lodbrok from the Vikings. Then there was a white puppy found on one of the Afghan military camps.


READ MORE: Pen Farthing angered over response to Afghan dog rescue


“Then we have little Ewok, who's been in the press a little bit. He took to my wife straightaway, so he's coming with us as well,” says Pen.

Pen launched charity Nowzad - which supports animal welfare in Afghanistan - because of a stray he rescued while deployed there in 2006 as a Marine Commando. The charity built the first animal rescue centre in the country and aims to reunite servicemen and women with the animals they rescue and bond with on the front lines. They also work in rabies prevention.

“I was sent to the small town of Nawzad (or Now Zad) in Helmand, and I ended up looking after a stray dog that had been used for dogfighting. His ear was chopped off, his tail was missing, he had scars on the side of his face from all the dogfighting he had been made to take part in,” Pen remembers. “I named him Nowzad after the town and I managed to have him smuggled out of Afghanistan into England back in 2007. He became the legacy or the catalyst for the charity, and the charity formed a few months later in 2007.


Image: Pen Farthing rescuing a dog from a sewage system (Nowzad)


“He lasted for seven years. Back in 2014, he just became too old. I had to do the thing I never wanted to do and say goodbye to him. He made one hell of a legacy, that's for sure.

“He was basically my shadow, whenever I was home he would just follow me around.

“He's gone now, sadly, but I didn't have any more dogs after him because I was always in Afghanistan. When I get out of quarantine and go to England though, I'll have another four little Nowzads that remind me of him.”

Pen said Operation Ark, which has made him a household name, was a “terrifying ordeal”, but notes the rescue won’t be complete until his staff are evacuated too.“We realised the Taliban were going to take over at some point in the future,” he says. “We were listening to the intelligence reports and thought we had at least a month or two to do this, then suddenly the Taliban came up the road the next day, and took everyone by surprise.”

Having the animals evacuated “wasn't such a problem” Pen explains, because they can go in the plane's cargo hold, and paperwork isn’t an issue, but he was held at gunpoint while trying to evacuate his staff.


READ MORE: Volunteer who helped move Pen Farthing’s animals says ‘all dogs just want to be loved’


Image: Nicky the dog (Nowzad)


“We were coming up against battle after battle to get our people the correct paperwork,” he says. “It just became a terrifying ordeal, trying to get into the airfield and convincing the Taliban we had a right to do so. Sadly for the people, it failed at gunpoint.”

He adds: “That's all we're doing now, is not stop trying to get the people out, we're not giving up. The mission is not yet a success until we get those people on the flight.”

Once Nowzad’s staff are safe resettled, Pen says they’ll start looking at ways to keep the charity going. “We will start looking at where Nowzad goes, because right now we don't have a place to operate, that's all gone in Afghanistan.

“We'll look at what we can do in the future, we've got so many ideas, but that's not the focus at the moment.

“The support we got when we first started Operation Ark has just been phenomenal. It's going to take a long time before we can get around to responding to everybody, but I was just blown away by the love and compassion that people have shown.”

Find out more at www.nowzad.com


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