You probably know that Arabic culture is not overly fond of dogs; rednecks like me love them indeed. Being pet deprived for a year, anytime I saw any animal that was the least bit friendly I would try to give it a pat (if I thought it was safe). I think the whole time in Iraq, I probably saw less than 10 dogs. The Arabs probably had a hard time understanding why that crazy soldier would want to pat that scraggly unclean stray mutt. If they had asked, I would have told them that even soldiers need some affection now and then.
One of the weirder and unfortunate animal stories from Iraq concerns Uday’s tiger. Uday had a zoo on the grounds of the Abu Ghraib Palace. Unconfirmed stories circulate that one way to dispose of political opponents was to feed the tiger. A confirmed story from OIF I, is that the Civil Affairs lads were brought into deal with the zoos animals in the aftermath of invasion. One young soldier decided to taunt the tiger and learned that a tiger is quick enough to catch someone foolish enough to stand next to the cage and make fun of him. The Soldier survived the attack, the tiger didn’t. Turns out this soldier was assigned to one of the CA Battalions a friend of mine commanded during the original invasion (in fact he had been in my 354TH Civil Affairs Brigade). Of course Pravda ran this is a front page story.
Another interesting creature over there was the jackal. These remind me a lot of coyotes (size, coloring, behavior). I would run into these rascals after dark slinking around our hooch. I used to run almost every day usually starting before dawn. Every now and then I
would come across a pack of these beasts. It was very interesting watching them decide whether I was a tasty enough morsel. As a result, I ran with a side-arm in a shoulder holster just in case. These beasties were smart, if I started to draw they scattered and
reholstering encouraged them. I found the best way to get by them was to maintain eye contact and they would not ever let me get too close (and vice versa). Brave in packs, cowards when alone.
The last animal story was about one of my veterinarian buddies, Col Mac. Now Col Mac is one tough customer – back in the 60s he was a 3-tour SF qualified / scroll Ranger E-6 in Vietnam. He got out of the Army, went to vet school, practiced for 10 years, and then came back to the Army. He retired as a BGEN and volunteered to come back as bird colonel to replace one of the vets who was KIA. So big ole strapping COL Mac went down to Basra and participated in a VETOP to treat local children’s pets (amongst other things on that trip). Most of the customers were adolescent boys who brought their pet goats, donkeys, birds, etc. in the morning for some TLC. At the lunch break, those boys kept begging the soldiers to give them their gear. When they wouldn’t they started stoning the soldiers. Now my buddy said it took great control not to start throwing stones back while they ran for cover. He pointed out to me that armor may indeed do a good job of stopping bullets, but a great big rock can leave one hell of a bruise. That pretty much ended VETOP doings in Basra.
Iraq is a land of donkey carts, sheep, mixed with 20th century cars and buildings – quite the dichotomy. I even read about one DBIED (Donkey-borne Improvised Explosive Device) while I was there.
P.S. I only saw one camel in Baghdad!
Glad to be back in the land of Plott Hounds