A Soldier’s Final Wish Comes True

All soldiers wish for two things: Another day and the chance to come home.

Sgt. Peter Neesley had a third wish: He wanted to bring the stray dogs — Mama and Boris — he had befriended in Iraq home with him.

Sgt. Peter Neesley did not get either of his first two wishes.  On Christmas Day, from causes still unexplained, he died.

Today, though, thanks to Best Friends Animal Society, his last wish came true.  

Sgt. Peter Neesley, on his second tour of duty with the U.S. Army, began feeding a mama dog and her two puppies when he patrolled a Baghdad neighborhood. After one of the puppies was hit by a car and killed, Peter built them a red-and-white doghouse – equipped with blankets, a mattress and an Army insignia above the door. He lured the mama dog and her remaining puppy to the doghouse, which he placed just outside the military base wall.


(text and photo courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society, with permission)

When he was still alive, Sgt. Neesley contacted his family back home in Michigan by email, sending them photos of Mama (a black Lab mix) and Boris (her white-and-brown spotted puppy) and told them he wanted to bring them home with him when his deployment was over in late July.

“Our family has always had dogs or cats and other little critters,” says his sister, Carey Neesley. “Peter was always bringing strays home.”

But on Christmas Day, Peter, just 28, died in his sleep in his barracks (no cause of death has been released) before he could send the dogs home. His soldier friends continued to feed Mama and Boris and watch out for them.

Source ~ Best Friends Animal Society

It was my sad duty to write Sgt. Neesley’s IGTNT tribute.  It is here.

Because Sgt. Neesley’s family knew how much Mama and Boris meant to him, they worked with a network of people in Iraq and Michigan to bring them home. On February 6th, thanks to this network — which included Sen. Carl Levin — Mama and Boris left Iraq.  Yesterday, they came home.

Getting them to Michigan was not easy:

The family tried going through official channels and turned to U.S. Senator Carl Levin of Michigan. In the meantime, Kate Schnepel, who works for Best Friends’ Community Programs and Services, learned about the family’s efforts, and that’s when (Best Friends) stepped in to help.

First, (Best Friends) had to find out where the dogs were, then get someone on the ground to look after them, according to Rich Crook, Best Friends’ rapid response manager. After that, (Best Friends) arranged for security, contacted a veterinarian and found an airline. Four weeks later, approval was given and plans were set.

Rich went to Baghdad on a chartered flight and stayed just an hour and a half – long enough to personally pick up the dogs from Threat Management Group (TMG), a security company that rounded them up.

Source ~ Best Friends Animal Society


(photo of Rich Crook, Boris and Mama courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society, with permission; photo by Molly Wald)

Rich Crook’s trip to Baghdad was complicated and dangerous:

He spent 40 hours on airplanes this week and planned to spend more than 10 hours driving from Washington D.C. to deliver the dogs to Michigan.

“After hearing the story and talking to the family there was no question in my mind that we had to do everything we could to pull this off,” Crook said.

His group airlifted 300 animals from Beirut in 2006 after hostilities erupted between Israel and Lebanon. This operation was more difficult, Crook said.

“The challenge of locating and transporting two dogs out of a war zone was formidable, but everyone involved was determined to help fulfill Sgt. Neesley’s strong desire to bring the dogs home to his family,” said Tara Andringa, a spokeswoman for Levin.

Source ~ Detroit News

(You can read about the Beirut Airlift here.)

Once both dogs were in hand, TMG took Mama and Boris to a veterinarian with the Iraqi Society for Animal Welfare. The dogs were vaccinated and examined. After the vet gave them a clean bill of health, he sent them on their way with the proper international paperwork.

Then, with the help of Gryphon Airlines, a charter company that flies in and out of Iraq three times a week, Rich accompanied the dogs out of Iraq, landing with them at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. From there, Rich and the dogs headed by van to Gross Pointe Farms, Michigan, to meet (Sgt. Neesley’s) family.


When the dogs left Iraq, the vet who had cared for them sent the family an e-mail. It reads, in part: “This is my job, this is my passion, this is my love. You cannot imagine what I’m feeling now about these dogs.”

The family was notified of the approval to fly the dogs out of Iraq as they were about to place Peter’s cremated remains. “We had a beautiful ceremony on Friday,” Carey says, “and we were walking from the ceremony to the wall where Peter’s ashes were to go when we got the call from Rich. It was an extraordinary moment.”


What happened to Peter on Christmas day was unexpected, says his mom, Chris Neesley. “Peter always told me he’d be home.”

Even though she and her daughter are hospice social workers, adjusting to the loss has been difficult. “It’s different when it’s your own,” she says.

Now, with the help of Peter’s Iraqi canine companions, the family is coming to terms with losing him. “We’re absolutely thrilled,” Chris says. “Peter adored those dogs.”

Source ~ Best Friends Animal Society

Video from World News Tonight

Thank you, Best Friends Animal Society!

Please consider a donation to this GREAT organization: Best Friends Animal Society.

Donations to help other dogs come to the United States can also be made here:

No Buddy Left Behind.

Thank you, also, to Gryphon Airlines and Sen. Carl Levin.

Bless you, Sgt. Peter Neesley.  At least one wish you had came true.


(photo courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society with permission)


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  1. Welcome home, Mama and Boris.

    • TMC on February 9, 2008 at 17:07

    Maybe Peter can will meet up with my Mulder and take care of him.


  2. the soldiers cared for always gets me the most. It reminds me that our troops at least have not last their ability to care even though our country’s leaders care little for them.  

    • Tigana on February 10, 2008 at 07:15


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