Man reunited with dog he saved from war-torn Syria
A British soldier and a pup have finally been reunited seven months after he saved the animal in war-torn Syria.
Sean Laidlaw (30) was stationed in Raqqa, Syria, in February this year as a private contractor leading a bomb-disposal team when he found a whimpering dog surrounded by rubble after an explosion had destroyed a building.
The terrified puppy was surrounded by four other dead dogs and initially rejected the soldier’s attempts at touching her – but Sean was determined to ensure the canine was safe.
He brought her food and something to drink, then later managed to take her back to camp with him.
“When we got back to camp she lived in my room, I looked after her, I was responsible for her,” said Sean, who now works at a gym.
After three days the pooch grew to trust Sean and the two became inseparable.
Sean named the adorable dog Barrie when he first spotted it, and by the time he discovered she was a girl, the name had already stuck.
Barrie spent each day following Sean on jobs and even had a harness made from a bulletproof vest.
“I’d wake up, she’d come eat with me, she’d then sit in the passenger seat of my car when we drove to Raqqa.”
'She kept me sane'
Sean says it may seem like he saved Barrie’s life, but Barrie was the one who saved him.
“Working in a war zone, coming back to camp you sit in your room on your own. To have a companion you can play with and train, it kept my mind away from all the things I was seeing and doing out there.
“You can only imagine how bad Syria is, and to be able to come back to the camp and train her for three hours, take her for a walk. Things like that really took my mind away from where I was.
“It gave me a bit of normality. She definitely kept me sane.”
In April, after four months in Syria, Sean returned to the UK for a short leave.
While at home, he learnt that his contract had been cancelled abruptly and he was informed he wouldn’t be returning to Syria.
“I was on the way to the airport with my dad when I got a message telling me not to board my flight and [to] go home.
“I thought there might be a security issue but then I got a call that night saying the contract is cancelled and that everyone is being sent back home.
“I put the phone down and immediately called [War Paws]. I didn’t think of anything else and tried to see how I could get Barrie home.”
Sean contacted the Iraq-based charity that specialises in bringing dogs home from war-torn areas to find a way to get Barrie to him.
He even started up a Gofundme page to get Barrie to the UK but it was fruitless. War Paws finally managed to arrange to fly Barrie to London in late October.
Barrie was taken to Iraq where she was vaccinated and checked by War Paws before being flown to Jordan in August, where she was quarantined for the next two months.
'Happiest moment ever'
The plan to fly Barrie to London quickly collapsed as the pooch was missing some paperwork and wasn’t allowed to travel any further.
Sean was prepared to fly to Jordan to pick up his best friend, but owner of War Paws, Louise Hastie, came to the rescue as she was already flying two other dogs from Jordan to Paris.
They agreed it would be better for Sean to meet them in Paris and Louise would bring Barrie along.
The heart-melting journey that brought a soldier from Essex and an abandoned dog from Syria together finally culminated on Saturday, November 3, when they reunited at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France. Sean says it was a surreal feeling.
“All the help we’ve received to bring us together has been amazing, just to bring one dog to Essex. It’s been incredible.
“Thinking about having Barrie with me now, the life we can have together – it’s surreal.
He says he feared she wouldn’t recognise him, or that she’d be a different dog to the one he left behind.
“It was pure joy when she realised who I was. She’s exactly as she was back in Syria. It was just great to have my dog again.
“I’d be willing to travel across the whole world to have Barrie with me.”
Sean and Barrie have gone through five countries, two war zones, 4 800km and a 12-hour drive to be together in what Sean says is his “happiest moment ever”.