In the city of Raqqa, which had been ravaged by war, we were alerted by the sounds of distress coming from a school that had been badly damaged. This occurred in February of 2018, following the city’s liberation four months earlier. As experts in bomb disposal, we knew better than to hastily enter the area, as it was common for ISIS to use the cries of children as a means of setting traps.
We stumbled upon a petrified Chihuahua hiding behind a solid concrete base. Sadly, his family members were lifeless around him, and he was the only one left alive. Since he was born during the ravages of war, we decided to give him the name Barry.
At first, I was apprehensive about dogs, but I summoned the courage to extend a biscuit to Barry while wearing gloves. With caution, he took small bites as I stroked his fur. Before leaving, I made sure he had access to food and water, assuring him that I would come back.
Meeting Barry gave me a sense of optimism that was absent since my discharge from the Army in 2014. Trying to readjust to civilian life was difficult, compounded by the fallout from the war and my own personal challenges.
After attending the funeral of a dear friend in Syria, my military instincts were rekindled. With great enthusiasm, I accepted the invitation to join the Syrian squad.
About a month after our first encounter, I found myself sifting through the rubble of the school looking for Barry. Luckily, I heard one of my colleagues calling his name, and my relief was palpable. When I finally laid eyes on him, I reached out my hand and gently stroked his head. It just felt like the right thing to do.
I decided to take a risk in order to gain Barry’s confidence.