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Stray dog touches soldier's heart in Afghanistan
Register's Ed Blanchard trying to bring dog back home
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Spunky, a stray dog from Afghanistan, is seen in this undated photo. Spunky and Georgia National Guard SPC Edward A. Blanchard have found each other while Blanchard is stationed in Afghanistan. Blanchard is trying to raise enough money to bring Spunky home with him to live with his family in Register. - photo by Special

  He is a soldier in Afghanistan, away from home and his newborn son, haunted by memories of buddies killed in action and missing his wife.
      She is a stray dog, hungry, homeless, needing love and affection as well as a steady supply of meals.
      It was love at first sight for both. But soon, the soldier will go home to his wife and young son. What will become of the dog?
      If possible, the mixed breed Afghan hound Spunky will go home to Register with her new owner, Georgia National Guard SPC Edward A. Blanchard.
      "It's not uncommon for there to be stray dogs in Afghanistan (near military camps)," said Beth Blanchard, Ed's wife. "Soldiers get attached."
      Ed, a former Marine, has had a difficult deployment this time around, she said. Having had to leave their newborn son in March, when the baby was only 2 months old, Ed Blanchard was also part of the unit that lost several soldiers, including Portal's Sgt. Brock Chavers. Some of those killed were Blanchard's close friends.
      Meeting "Spunky," a tricolored mutt, was a "morale booster" for her husband, Beth said.
      "She is a stray from the streets of Afghanistan, who lights up every time she sees him. He keeps her in a pen, and feeds her twice a day," she said.
      The dog appears to be a mix of Afghan hound and something else - something big, she said. "Spunky looks a little like a St. Bernard."
      Blanchard could not be reached for direct comment, but through e-mails he shared his thoughts with his wife and with the Statesboro Herald. He is trying to get enough donations to fund bringing Spunky, and possibly her litter mate Cochise home.
      "I do not normally do stuff like this, but she is such a sweetie," he wrote in e-mailed pleas for help. "... if she is left here she won't live long. I can't save them all but this one has become my little friend.
       "Their names are Spunky and Cochise; I met them as puppies in early October of 2009. There are more stray dogs here than I can shake a stick at, and I normally tried not to pay them any mind. To me, I cannot save them all, so I tried to stay detached from them," he wrote.
      "There are no animal shelters here to speak of, except one and they need help. The local population does not really give a dang about the dogs. Most of the time they either die from abuse, or starve to death! Out of the litter that Spunky came from about eight of them, there are now only two still left alive. So there are two dogs that I am trying to bring home."
      Blanchard described how he met the pups outside the gate of the military base.  They followed him until he gave into his love for animals, and "...  the minute they laid down for me to pet their bellies I was hooked," he said. "I began to make trips daily to spend time with them. I love the dogs and they also give me a sense of home and familiarity. The Army has rules against keeping pets while we are here so they have to stay outside our compound."
      As the bond between him and Spunky grew stronger, Blanchard began worrying about her fate after he went home.
      "As my time grows closer to leaving, I get more concerned with leaving them here," he wrote. "My commander had shared his story of how he got three dogs home from his first tour. He showed me where and how to start the process of bringing my dogs home."
      The only organization in Afghanistan that will help soldiers take their newfound friends home is a small nonprofit organization, which relies on donations. The cost is about $2,500 per dog, and so far, the Blanchards have collected only $620.
      But, the family has hope that friends and other animal lovers will help. "Once I have the money to bring them home, we will put them on a plane to Pakistan and then to New York," he said. "There is no quarantine.  I just have to pick them up and bring them home."
      Beth Blanchard is working on the project as well. "Ed is set to come home at the end of the month. His biggest fear to that he leaves her behind and she is killed because there is no one to take care of her," she said. "He has teamed up with The Afghan Stray Foundation to help bring her home to our loving family. So far we have raised $620, but he still needs a lot more. "
      "As soon as we have enough I will ship here home so that she can live the good life with my family," Blanchard said.
      The Blanchards already have a few dogs - "a yard full," Beth said. They have a yellow lab mix, a Jack Russell terrier mix, and a pit bulldog mix with puppies who will provide Spunky with plenty of American friends with which to play.
      Anyone who would like to donate to the Blanchard's cause can access Web site, and when making a PayPal donation, enter into the memo form that the money is for "Spunky," she said.
      Other donations may be mailed to Ed Blanchard, P.O. Box 297, Register, Ga., 30452.  The Blanchards ask citizens donating online to notify them by e-mail so they can keep track of donations. The e-mail addresses are and

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