An Army Reserve soldier and the little dog she rescued from a combat mission in Iraq were reunited, and to see them both, you know it felt so good!
United States Army Reserve Sgt. Tracy McKithern was deployed to Iraq in 2017. She is a combat photographer, and while deployed, one day a little puppy and its mother were sniffing around the base.
Stray dogs are rampant in war zones, and sadly, cultural norms are not kind to them. McKithern says that the dogs were abused by the locals and clearly hungry and sick, and the puppy at one time had two siblings that disappeared and she feared dead. She said the puppy and her mama were dirty and covered in scratches and yet–when she reached out to her, the puppy gently came to her.
Sgt. McKithern said that she believed the puppy was mostly looking for kind attention, and she and coalition soldiers from Germany and Italy cared for the puppy and mama, naming the puppy Erby Kasima. Erby came from the largest city in Northern Iraq, Erbil, while Kasima is the Arabic word for ‘beauty and elegance.’
When the soldiers would go out on a mission, they’d always return to see the pair waiting happily for their new human friends, and it wasn’t long before the attachment between Erby and McKithern was apparent. Erby would sleep right near McKithern’s quarters and McKithern realized she was head over heels for the pup.
As her deployment neared its end, she posted a picture of her and the dog on her Facebook page, telling friends she wished she could somehow bring the puppy home. She went to sleep, sadly hoping for a solution, and said when she woke up, there were tons of links for various organizations that may be able to help make that dream happen.
She reached out to one, Puppy Rescue Mission, who said they’d do what they could, and after sending the organization $1000 to start the process, McKithern began hoping to raise the rest of the funds from friends and family.
She was overwhelmed with the responses–she said they raised most of the money within the first few days and she couldn’t believe that a complete stranger donated $1000. She needed a total of $3500 and the Rescue mission also helped pitch in, but time was racing to get the necessary paperwork and vaccinations to make the trip happen.
Again, her coalition friends stepped in, saying that they’d do what they could to ensure Erby got what she needed to go ‘home,’ and so they did, with Erby being set to become a U.S. pup on March 11, 2018. As luck would have it, though, McKithern had been given a 67-day mission to Wisconsin and she was set to leave on–you guessed it–March 11.
Heartbroken, but ever the committed soldier, she went on her mission while her husband met Erby at the airport and brought her back to their Tampa, Florida home to wait for her mama.
We love a good soldier homecoming reunion! This one is between U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Tracy McKithern and her dog Erby whom she rescued while deployed in Iraq. Erby was flown from Iraq to Tampa while Tracy was deployed again so it’s been a long seven months since they’ve been together. Welcome to Tampa, Erby, and welcome home, Sgt. Tracy McKithern!
The wait finally has come to an end, and McKithern says that their reunion feels like a miracle that she can’t even believe is happening. Erby was thrilled to see her mama again, and the feeling is very mutual.
Erby’s mama is still in Iraq, in good hands on the base, but McKithern would love to have her adopted as well. It costs several thousands of dollars to make adoptions like Erby’s happen, but McKithern has faith that it can be done–and Erby is living proof.
Welcome home, Erby!