People and Places

Dispatch from Syria (Puppies part III)

Posted on February 2, 2013

For everyone who has been following the tale of the Syrian puppies (no pun intended), here is a wonderful dispatch from Phil in Syria.  It also offers a remarkable on-the-ground window into life in war torn Syria.  All done with Phil’s very British aplomb and charm.


Dear All,

I should start with the good news – in fact, excellent news. Both Mr Brown and Mr White have found new homes. Deanna Gualtieri and her sister-in-law (I don’t know her name yet!) have decided they will each take a pup.

It is especially good because it means the brothers from Syria will be able to keep in touch during their new lives in the US – they’ll be able to reminisce about the war when they meet for walks in the local park!

Deanna is the animal control officer in Waltham, MA,  a certified wildlife rehabilitator and she used to be a vet tech. at McGrath Animal Hospital in Billerica, MA. Mr White could hardly be going to a more perfect home. Deanna has been wonderful with all kinds of advice and has been steering me along the rocky road of Syrian veterinarian care. (We have a good hearted vet here, but perhaps not the most, well, up-to-date in his knowledge. Much about Syria has been stuck in the 1980s Soviet-style era. Not the best place to be).

Deanna’s sister-in-law is also involved in animal rescue efforts (besides adopting Mr Brown): she is  adoption coordinator with Forever Home Rescue, New England.

Obviously, my thanks to both them.

I’d also like to thank all of you for your efforts, which is, of course, what enabled the pups to find their new homes. I can’t thank you enough. It’s one thing to help the pups when they’re in a pickle on a short term basis but I would have been lost without your collective work to find a permanent solution for them.

Thank-you. If the pups weren’t now busy with their post-dinner nap, I’m sure they’d thank you all too.

A little update on them. Both are growing day by day it seems. Their coats are now looking great, Mr White is full of play and mischief, Mr Brown – still the smaller of the two – is quiter (dare I say more dignified), a lovely fellow. Actually there’s something about him that reminds me of Winston Churchill during his ‘we shall fight on the beaches….’ stage. I guess you need a bit of that spirit to get through as a pup in these parts. Mr White is more Field Marshall Montgomery – a bit cavalier and dashing, happy to take on a shoe or a pillow but perhaps as likely to lose the fights he picks as win them.

In short, a nice, complementary pair.

Our small corner of the southern suburbs of Damascus has been cut off from the rest of the city for the last three days by heavy fighting up the road. A lot of shelling and mortar fire, a lot of machine guns going off. The pups take it in their stride. I suppose they’ve been born into this world, and it’s what they know. Churchill and Monty.

It does mean, however, that my attempts to get goats milk for them have so far come to naught. The normal delivery vans are not getting through (the veg guy was going to bring milk on his next run) and I’ve not seen the shepherd passing by. I did, however, manage to get to the bedding shop with is has remained open. Not so much because we’re all making desperate last minute bedding purchases as the war rages but because the lad working there can’t get home on account of the road closures, so he’s literally camped out in his workplace, sleeping in the shop until they reopen again.

It’s not the worst shop to be stuck, under the circumstances. When I walked in this morning he was stretched out on a double bed which had been done up in a garish newly weds bedding set. Think lots of deep reds and black lace frills. Not so much the Soviet era Russia as modern, capitalist oligarch Russia in sensibility.

I was able to get a second baby blanket for the pups to sleep on at night – I’d initially bought one, naively forgetting that it would need washing, frequently – and also to get a couple of bathroom mats/carpets. The pups tested those out today, chewing them, peeing on them a splash and sleeping on them. A success I think.

I have plenty of food laid in, so even if the roads don’t open today or tomorrow, we’ll all be fine. In fact, I stocked up on enough puppy supplies to see us through to the time I anticipate us leaving. Again, like the Soviet-era Eastern bloc  when you see something you might need in the shop you buy as much of it as you can because, when it’s gone, it may be months until it appears again. Sometimes no bleach, sometimes no bread, sometimes no eggs. At the moment, toilet paper and kitchen roll is hard to come by. (Fuel is always a problem, that one goes without saying). 

As a postscript, today I saw the boys who were going to throw the pups in the irrigation pool. This time they were throwing stones at one another – not a puppy in sight, I’m happy to say. I think they’ve learned their lesson about pups. I’m not going to tell them throwing stones at humans isn’t a good idea. Rome wasn’t built in a day and, frankly, people are throwing much worse things at each other out here these days.

My thanks to you all once more. I think we’re in with a good chance of getting a happy ending out of this one.





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *