Sergeant Pen Farthing is up for a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Daily Mirror and RSPCA Animal Hero Awards after rescuing 500 stray dogs from the war zone in Afghanistan.
The former Royal Marine who set up Afghanistan’s first official animal rescue centre first became aware of the animal crisis while stationed in the country six years ago.
After breaking up a dogfight, a common ‘sport’ in the local villages, he was befriended by an injured dog, who followed him back to his compound.
Naming him after the nearby village, Nowzad became a firm companion to 43-year-old Pen and his fellow marines in 42 Commando.
And as he was joined by other strays seeking food and shelter, Pen realised they would need somewhere to go after the troops had left.
The first official home for strays in the country
Pen founded the charity Nowzad, and funds were raised to start redeploying the soldiers’ dogs and cats.
Now the charity has built the first official home for strays in the country, near Kabul, with housing for more than 100 dogs and a cattery.
They have set up a clinic as well as training local vets, educating local people and neutering animals.
“Dog fighting is sadly a national sport in Afghanistan and when we broke up a fight I found myself befriended by Nowzad.
“Lots of people deal with stress in different ways and for me in Helmand Province being with him helped me get through.
“After six months I knew I couldn’t leave him behind.”
Nowzad now lives with Pen in Devon
Nowzad was flown back to the UK to be followed by Tali, who touched the marine by bringing her puppies, one by one, into the compound for shelter.
The pair still live with Pen and his family, in Tiverton, Devon. Following his retirement from service, Pen and fellow former soldier Louise Hastie, 37, went back to Kabul to work with a team of local workers and volunteers to raise money and awareness of the plight of the Afghan strays.
Many, like Nowzad, are ex-fighting dogs whose ears and tails are cruelly cut off by their trainers.
Sue Gibbs, who works with him, said:
“What Pen has done for these animals and the soldiers they bond with is amazing.
“He never stops and he never will. It has become his life.”
Entries for the Animal Hero Awards are now open. Nomination forms should be completed and by 18 October. Once the nominations have been received they will be shortlisted by our review panel.
Please send nominations either by post at Animal Hero Awards, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5AP or go to the Animal Hero Awards website.
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Credit for this article goes to Marie Sharp from the Daily Mirror