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#Giveaway & Excerpt: Welcome Home Mama & Boris

Pets In Iraq - Excerpt from Mama & Boris  
By Carey Neesley with Michael Levin,
Author of Welcome Home Mama & Boris: How a Sister's Love Saved a Fallen Soldier's Beloved Dogs

Growing up, we always had animals. Starting with Casey and Arrow, our keepers in the woods, our family would keep cats and dogs. We both loved them, but it was Peter who seemed to communicate with the animals on a deeper level than anyone else we knew. He was drawn to their innocence, and their pure emotions. Arrow, the rusty-colored springer spaniel, was Peter’s favorite—he even had a stuffed dog named Arrow, for when he couldn’t convince the real creature to climb under the covers with him for a suffocating squeeze or two. So when Peter calls and excitedly tells us stories about a small pack of five dogs that has started coming around the base—a mother and her four pups—I laugh and think, of course he has pets in Iraq.

Peter says that one day, he noticed a rustling just outside the walls of the base—a castle that used to belong to Saddam Hussein overlooking the muddy Tigris River. When he went outside to investigate, he saw a dusty troupe of mottled, almost camouflaged, puppies rolling in the sand, all presided over by a serious, sleek, dark presence—their mother. The Army doesn’t allow soldiers to keep animals on the base, Peter explains, and he knew that it was dangerous for them to be spotted so near to the walls, as often stray animals will be ordered to be put down if they are found to be engaging with soldiers. I know that Peter would give his life for the Army, but that loyalty isn’t going to be strong enough for him to obey this particular rule. I can hear it in his voice.

“What are you going to do?” I ask, worried about Peter getting in trouble just as much as the animals.

“I don’t know,” he says. “I’ll figure something out. I couldn’t really get close to them, so I’ll have to see if they’re there again tomorrow. I’m going to go check as soon as I get a chance.”

When Peter went back the next day, the animals were nowhere to be found. It wasn’t until he was out on patrol again that he saw them, farther away from the base this time and playing near a road. After a couple more sightings, he says, he figured out this was where they were spending most of their time. He spends a good two weeks feeding the mother dog, trying to gain her trust. Each time, he says, she comes a little closer, trusting him a little more. Meanwhile, the puppies look on from a safe distance—she always stands between them and Peter, making sure that they are not going to get into any trouble. She looks nothing like them save for the flop of her ears, Peter says, but she must be their mother. Her maternal instinct is in overdrive.

One day, Peter e-mails us a few photos of the dogs, and we can see that he’s gained the trust of the mother and is able to sit in the pack while they play around him. Finally, he has made contact. In the pictures, he is smiling while he ruffles the hair of the mother, whom he calls Mama, and the four puppies, who nip at his hands, the dust flying around them as they whip around the camera frame. They’re like little balls of fur and energy, and he looks so happy to be in the midst of them. Peter reports that he goes back every day to their spot to play with them, feed them spare scraps from his pre-packaged ready-to-eat meals (MREs) or from the mess, when he can sneak some out, and keep them company.

Much like his calls when he first started befriending and helping the local children, it’s clear that Peter has a new mission within his mission: He wants to help these dogs. He hasn’t seen anyone around who could be their owner, and a war zone is not the safest or most welcoming place for our four-legged friends, he says. The people there have other things—life‑and‑death things—on their minds, and rescuing animals just isn’t a priority. That’s why he needs us to help him by sending him dog food, chew bones, toys, anything that we could find that we’d be able to send over for the dogs.

Once again, I head off to the store for supplies. Patrick is my little helper, grabbing toys and treats off the shelves and flinging them into our cart. I have to remind him that we can’t ship everything to Iraq; there’s only so much our boxes will hold. We both feel that even though we have never met these dogs, they’re ours, too; an extension of our family, someone to keep Peter smiling.

Peter sends us pictures of the dogs playing with our toys, and it’s a great feeling. It’s the first time they have seen anything like what we take for granted for our pets over here. They eye the brightly colored chew toys like we’d look at gold bars, and I envy how happy they look, how carefree.

Soon, Peter tells us that he can’t find two of the puppies. They have wandered off, or worse. My heart sinks, and I hope against hope that they have just found another friendly person to sit with for now, but I know that’s unlikely. I don’t tell Patrick about my fears, not wanting to burden him with any more sadness. He has already started to come home from school with poems he’s written about the costs of war—how it scares him, how it makes him sad. Peter’s news about the pups continues to grow darker, shadowed by a cruel reality. One day, he sees one of the pups run into the road and get hit by a car, dying immediately right in front of him. It’s then that he decides the spot where they have been hanging out is an unsafe location, and he’s determined to make a better place for Mama and the remaining puppy to stay.

He sends us another picture of himself, this time proudly kneeling beside a small doghouse he and some of his friends have built outside the walls of the base. They have painted it in the colors of their unit, and dragged some old bedding inside to make it comfortable. It’s small compared to the looming castle in the background, but to the dogs, it’s like a castle of their own. He carries Mama and her puppy to the new home, and places them inside, feeding them treats that we have sent to make sure they know this is their new safe place. During the day, they might wander off, but he is pleased to find that they always return.

He sends us another picture of the puppy, a close up, where he’s cradling him in his hands. Peter’s eyes are clear, happy, and peaceful, looking straight at the camera. The mischievous puppy is in the bottom of the frame, looking like he’s about to wriggle off and get into some trouble. Peter says that he’s named the puppy Boris, after one of his friends, a fallen soldier. He doesn’t say anything more about that.

The above is an excerpt from the book Welcome Home Mama & Boris: How a Sister's Love Saved a Fallen Soldier's Beloved Dogs by Carey Neesley with Michael Levin. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.Copyright © 2013 Carey Neesley with Michael Levin, author of Welcome Home Mama & Boris: How a Sister's Love Saved a Fallen Soldier's Beloved Dogs

Authors Bios
Carey Neesley is a hospice social worker with an M.S.W. from Wayne State University. She lives in Michigan with her son, Patrick. 
Michael Levin is a New York Times bestselling author. He lives with his wife and four children in Orange County, CA. 

About Reader's Digest Association
Reader's Digest Association (RDA) is a family of iconic brands that celebrate reading, sharing and doing among consumers on print and digital platforms. Our portfolio of products includes our flagship magazine Reader's Digest; Taste of Home, the world's largest circulation food publication; The Family Handyman, America's leading source for DIY; and a suite of Enthusiast titles including Birds & Blooms, Country, Country Woman, Farm & Ranch Living and Reminisce. For more than 90 years, we have simplified and enriched the lives of a passionate readership by discovering and expertly selecting the most interesting content in family, food, health, home improvement, finance, and humor. Reader's Digest casts a global footprint by providing products and services around the world through owned and licensed operations. Further information about the company can be found at www.rda.com.

An incredibly moving tale of one sister's tribute to her fallen brother-and the everyday heroes who are still rescuing the amazing animals who sustain our soldiers' spirits.
Growing up in the well-heeled Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, Carey Neesley always thought she and her younger brother, Peter, would never be separated. The children of divorced parents and outcasts in their neighborhood, Carey and Peter supported, loved, and encouraged each other when it seemed no one else cared.
It was a bond that grew through the years, and one that made Peter's eventual decision to enlist in the Army all the more difficult for Carey. With Peter having stepped up to help her raise her young son, Carey was closer than ever to her brother, and the thought of him serving far from home was painful.
While stationed in Iraq, Peter befriended a stray dog and her four puppies, only to watch three of the young pups die in the warzone. With only two surviving dogs -- Mama and Boris -- Peter became determined to save the strays. Carey helped her brother with his mission, but everything changed on Christmas Day in 2007 when word arrived at the Neesley household that Peter had been killed.
Amidst the grief of coming to terms with her brother's death and the turmoil of trying to plan his funeral, Carey devoted herself to bringing Peter's dogs home to the U.S. It was the final honor she could pay to her brother and a way of keeping a piece of him with her. With the help of an unlikely network of heroes, including an animal rescue organization in Utah, a civilian airline, an Iraqi family, and a private security contractor with military connections, Mama and Boris mad the journey form the streets of Baghdad to Carey's suburban house.
Carey's mission garnered widespread attention and requests from other soldiers for help in bringing home dogs they had become attached to on deployment, and she continues to work with organizations dedicated to bringing home wartime strays.



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Comments

  1. I'm a dog lover, so I would really like to read this one. Thanks for the giveaway.
    mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

    ReplyDelete
  2. The book has dogs in it and that is why I would love to read this book.

    cenya2 at Hotmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  3. Such a great excerpt, I can feel the emotion coming through from Peter to his sister in the story. Who doesn't love a dog rescue story? Thanks, Freda.

    ReplyDelete

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