Posted 2 months ago
By Jilly Beattie
A message dropped into my Facebook this week. It just read, ‘Jilly, help. Pls.’
Directed to a post from a charity I’ve supported for years, I could feel panic brushing the edges as I read about Paul 'Pen' Farthing and the team at his animal rescue in Kabul.
Trapped, scared for their lives and shouting into the wind for help, they’re desperate to get out but unwilling to go alone, no person and no dog, no cat to be left behind. I stopped in my tracks.
I was being asked to tell the public that these scraggy dogs and scrawny cats are important, just as important as the humans who’ve worked to save them from the punishing streets, fix them and love them. My heart boomed ‘yes’. My head whispered .. ‘well now you’ll find out who your friends are'.
Nowzad vet at work with a dog rescued from the street
So I called for help too, I called on people I know and trust, I asked them to back me as I stepped into the abyss where I assumed I’d drop like a stone in a public argument over the value of human life versus animal life. I thought I’d hear shouts to leave the dogs behind, get abuse for being too soft over cats, impractical, stupid, ridiculous.
But it didn’t happen.
Nowzad had employed Afghan locals to run the sanctuary and has reunited more than 1,600 soldiers with dogs and cats they bonded with while on tour in Afghanistan (Image: Nowzad)
And in a world where keyboard warriors love a good scrap, not one mocked or scolded the notion that all life is precious.
US Military dogs have been evacuated from Kabul. Image: @PSFAERO/Twitter
Instead, the cavalry appeared in the form of politicians, friends, colleagues and animal groups, measured in tone, desperate to help and right by my side. They too responded to the reports and called for action, many donating to the fund to try to break these good people and their animals at the Nowzad charity out of the country.
The Taliban death-cult have literally moved next to their compound, the airport’s in chaos, Taliban loyalists are delivering horrors door-to-door and everyone is terrified, not trusting the ever-so-humble claims that Afghanistan is a safe haven for all.
Nowzad dog, Remo was injured after being hit by a car and one of his legs had to be amputated.
Today as confusion continues, thousands more are stuck to the spot, unable to even reach the airport with Taliban thugs ruling the road networks. There are men, women and children, girls and boys, old and young, professional, uneducated, some with families, some alone. And there are Pen’s animals too.
Bobo, saved by Nowzad
The world is screaming for action, panicked and upset at the desperation that has pushed people to take incredible risks such as clinging to the undercarriage of a plane, clinging onto hope over sense sentenced to certain death. Pen Farthing, the former Royal Marine Commando who served in Afghanistan and stayed to set up his animal charity, is in the midst of this madness.
And his dedication to doing right has reminded us that ALL life is precious. His gut-wrenching video appeal makes no difference between his friends, the people and the animals. He knows better than most that a cult that degrades, abuses and murders women is not going to care for a stray dog.
A cult that deals in drugs and thuggery is not going to nurture a bundle of abandoned kittens.
Where Pen values all life, the Taliban it seems, values none.
They will though set their sights on the country’s first female vets and the charity’s women-led management team, and it doesn’t bear thinking about their plans for those women. Pen’s plea triggered hashtags #nowzad #nowzadark #nowzadairlift trending, and today the world is watching as he delivers updates.
The veterinary care goes on..quietly
Safe houses are filled to the rafters with people waiting in near silence. Work at the charity to care for the animals continues in a tip-toe fashion, gentle ear rubs and shushing, no one wanting noise to attract their new neighbours to the door. Nowzad has applied to the UK government to get visas for its 71 members of staff.
And the Royal Veterinary College has offered to house and train Nowzad’s Afghan vets once they’re in the UK.
The NOWZAD charity helped Afghan women train and work as the first female vets in the country (Image: Nowzad)
The humans will be evacuated on a military plane, the animals on a cargo plane already chartered in the UK and awaiting permission to land in Kabul. Offers of rooms and homes have been plentiful for all and with the charity not wanting anything they do to be a burden on the taxpayer, they have wept as they watched the donations build.
Paul 'Pen' Farthing with Now Zad the dog who prompted the foundation of his charity in Kabul
My fears about falling into the abyss were unfounded.
I just needed to take the step and when I did, I found, like Pen, there are people willing to hold on tight and help out. The simple truth is that all life does matter, animal and human. What matters more is that we care enough not to look away when we are asked for help.
If you would like to help the Nowzad charity, you can click here.
Little Asal when he was lifted from the streets by Nowzad
And here he is now..