Local News

Fort Bragg Soldier Reunites With Iraqi Canine Pal

Posted June 2, 2003

— There is a different kind of homecoming at Fort Bragg, and it all plays off the soldiers' motto to never leave a fallen comrade behind.

Sgt. First Class Russell Joyce considers Fluffy one of his strongest allies. When Special Forces soldiers needed a dog to help provide security in Iraq, the Kurds brought them an underweight, abused dog once used by Iraqi police.

"He was definitely part of the coalition forces over there," he said.

Joyce became his handler. Together, they were shot at and faced many challenges in a war zone.

"I think they went through things together and developed a bond," said Caroline Joyce, Russell's wife.

When it was time for Joyce to return to Fort Bragg, he wanted Fluffy to return with him, but there are strict health and custom laws about bringing animals into the United States. When Joyce realized he could not bring Fluffy home, he wrote several letters on the Internet. People responded to his letter, with hundreds of others voicing their support to getting the dog to the United States.

Joyce did not have much time because Fluffy could have been put to sleep. It did not take long for more than 30 senators, the Pentagon and the State Department to get involved. On Sunday, Fluffy landed on American Soil aboard an Air Force C-17.

"What every American soldier is doing around the world in the war on terrorism, he was part of it and definitely deserved the opportunity to come home and be free," Joyce said.

Fluffy is used to drinking out of a bottle since that is the only way soldiers could give him water for two months. His biggest challenge now as a house dog is learning to respond to English commands.

The Green Berets originally called the dog, Tariq Aziz, named after Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister. Joyce said he was worried about bringing a dog home to daughters named after one of Iraq's most wanted, so he came up with Fluffy.

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