While stationed in Iraq’s Kurdistan Province last year, U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Tracy McKithern noticed a puppy and her mother that had been wandering around the U.S. base for weeks.
The dogs were malnourished and looked like they had been abused, so the combat photographer took them both under her wing.
McKithern forged an extra-special bond with the puppy, who “would fall and trip all over herself to get to us,” she told NBC Miami. She decided to name her Erby Kasima, according to ABC 7 — Erby after a nearby city in Northern Iraq, and Kasima, the Arabic word for “beauty and elegance.”
McKithern had fallen in love with Erby, but there was one problem: Her deployment was ending soon, and she’d have to leave the pup behind when she returned to the States.
Mourning the fact that she would soon have to leave the “sweetest little soul” behind, she took to social media to share a photo of herself with Erby.
“One night I posted a pic of us on Facebook, with a caption that read something like, ‘I wish I could take her home,'” McKithern told NBC. “I went to sleep, woke up, and my friends and family had posted links to various rescue groups. I reached out to one of them, the nonprofit Puppy Rescue Mission, and they responded immediately.”
With the help of a crowdfunding campaign organized by the rescue, McKithern managed to raise enough money to take Erby home. But sadly, just after having settled back home in Tampa, Florida, McKithern was deployed once again. She was scheduled to head back to Iraq the very same day Erby was set to arrive in the U.S.
Fortunately, McKithern’s husband, Sgt. Wes McKithern, was able to pick up the pup in New York and drive her back to Tampa. But it would be a while before McKithern returned home — would Erby even remember her rescuer?
Finally, on May 16, a reunion seven months (and more than 7,000 miles) in the making took place at Tampa International Airport when McKithern returned home from deployment — and it was everything she could’ve ever hoped for.
See for yourself:
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