By Christine Valdez
Web Production Assistant
While serving overseas with the military, soldiers spend most of their time with other soldiers. But along the way, many have bonded and cared for animals while serving. Unfortunately, many of the animals have to stay behind.
Anna Cannon’s fiancé Chris had been deployed and stationed in Afghanistan. He, along with some other soldiers, had gotten close to several dogs. When a suicide bomber entered their post in the middle of the night, three dogs that had been with them alerted them of the situation. After having his cover blown, the suicide bomber blew himself up and the soldiers survived the attack because the three dogs — Rufus, Target and Sasha — had alerted them. During the attack, Sasha did not survive and Rufus and Target sustained injuries.
After nursing the surviving dogs back to health, along with Target’s puppies, Chris and the soldiers bonded with the puppies. Due to their bond, Anna decided to start an organization that would allow some of the dogs that the soldiers made a bond with to come to the United States and be reunited and live with the soldiers. After hearing the joy from her fiancé about the dogs, Anna started the Puppy Rescue Mission. While the organization originates in Texas, since Anna and Chris are from there, the Puppy Rescue Mission has made its way to New Jersey.
The Puppy Rescue Mission has expanded throughout the country, including the Garden State. Last year it hosted the Puppy Rescue Mission Ride. For the second annual event, scheduled for June 6 at the Garden State Harley-Davidson in Morris Plains, the organization plans to raise funds in order to continue its mission of rescuing and transporting dogs and cats that have bonded with soldiers in war zones to the U.S.
Puppy Mission Rescue Ride Coordinator Marion Satterthwaite says that the upcoming motorcycle ride is the organization’s biggest event. She has been involved with both motorcycle rides and says that there has been plenty of support.
“The Harley-Davidson Corporation and their Hog Chapter members are extremely supportive of our military, veterans and animals, so they are a perfect fit for the Puppy Rescue Mission,” she said.
The Puppy Rescue Mission Ride in New Jersey was started in 2014 in order to raise funds, but also gather soldiers and their pets from various states throughout the country. As efforts toward the cause continue to grow, Puppy Rescue Mission President and Founding Member Anna Cannon says that she is amazed at the support the foundation has received.
“Seeing thousands of people come together from across the U.S. to support our mission through various fundraising efforts has truly renewed my faith in humanity,” she said.
At the upcoming ride, soldiers and their pets will be received by the sounds of bagpipes and will begin their ride around 11 a.m. The ride is set to showcase the bond between everyone participating.
Satterthwaite says for this second ride, soldiers from Camp Lejeune, Delaware and Connecticut are expected to participate. Even volunteers are making their way into New Jersey from areas like Chicago, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Boston and New York just for the event.
Since the inception of the Puppy Rescue Mission Ride, Satterthwaite says that people have loved the idea of being able to help the animals being brought over from war zones.
“My experience has been that people are very supportive of our organization and the idea that we are helping to bring animals that our soldiers have adopted in horrid circumstances and have brought them back to enjoy a safe and wonderful life,” Satterthwaite said.
According to Anna, about 900 animals have been rescued since the inception of the Puppy Rescue Mission for the men and women deployed overseas in the U.S. military.
“The bond between a soldier and their dog is truly remarkable and has shown to be an incredible therapy to the readjustment period back into civilian life,” she said.
At the event, funds raised will also be going toward Sasha’s Legacy, a program where the Puppy Rescue Mission finds homes for dogs or cats that members of the military can’t take. On its website, the Puppy Rescue Mission says, “Sasha’s Legacy was formed in order to assist the Battle Buddies of those soldiers who are unable to adopt themselves, but want to keep them safe and protected from the harsh and brutal living conditions for animals in Afghanistan.”
With events being held nationwide and the upcoming motorcycle ride in New Jersey, the Puppy Rescue Mission continues to grow and Anna says that it has grown to more than she ever imagined, including in New Jersey.
“We have some incredible volunteers in New Jersey who have worked countless hours to organize a Puppy Rescue Mission Ride two years in a row and we are so grateful and excited to see the support for our soldiers and their battle buddies,” Cannon said. “I was fortunate enough to attend last year’s event and seeing hundreds of motorcycles riding to support our cause truly brought me to tears.”
For Satterthwaite, it’s all about bringing the animals to a safe zone and making soldiers happy.
“I love this organization and our mission,” Satterthwaite said. “We are not only saving these dogs and occasionally cats from a certain death that often involves torture, we are making our soldiers really happy. In the midst of hellish circumstances, our soldiers are displaying compassion and humanity by saving these animals. It is the least we can do for them.”