In 2006, Pen Farthing was a British Royal Marine serving in Afghanistan when he was moved to help the stray dogs wandering the streets, foraging for food and shelter. Soon after, he retired and now runs the charity he created, Nowzad Dogs, which aids in the rescue and care of the dogs, cats, even donkeys, of Afghanistan and Iraq. It also supports veterinary training in developing countries.
One Dog at a Time is not only a heartwarming (and heartbreaking) animal rescue story, it is also a portrait of life in an inhospitable combat zone.
Some of you may be wondering if this book is suitable for middle school readers, as well as older teens. It does include a few expletives, but the story itself is suitable for younger readers, so it would depend on the community or specific reader.
Adult/High School–The opening scene has Farthing walking through a target-ridden patch of road in Afghanistan to reach a young dog wrapped up in barbed wire. Not sure if he can reach the growling animal without getting shot, much less untangle him, the man steadily makes his way to the dog and patiently unravels the wire. At his release the wary pup runs away still dangling a piece of it. But to Farthing, it was a success story that jump-started his work to save the abused, sick and war-torn dogs he encountered during his tour of duty in Afghanistan. Eminently readable, this book traces the author’s adventures as he befriends first a young male dog he names Nowzad, after the name of the area he has been charged to protect, then a variety of others–including a mother who brings her pups in under the fence one at a time. With time and patience, Nowzad’s trust and confidence grows until Farthing realizes that he would like to find a way to get him–and the others–to loving homes. While he waits for his wife to help locate an animal shelter, more dogs find their way into his life. This story highlights the tragedy of war and the hope of compassion. Teens wanting a war story and those wanting a dog story will be equally satisfied with this one. Contact addresses and links at the end of the book are available for those wanting to help further the cause of the Nowzad Dogs charity.–Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA