To strangers, Paul Wilson may seem like your ordinary guy, but to his friends, family, and especially to his dog, Poochee, he is considered to be a hero. He has always been an avid animal lover and a strong advocate for their welfare, and over the years has had various pets, some of which he acquired in very unconventional ways.
During his service in the British Military, Paul was stationed on an assignment in Sierra Leone. One day while he was working, he came across an African Grey Parrot whose wings had been clipped, and was suffering from severe neglect. As the bird belonged to some of the workers in the camp, Paul needed their permission before adopting it as his own. He figured that by accusing the owners of mistreating the animal, and asking them outright if he could have the bird, the answer was sure to be negative. But if he could somehow persuade them to transfer ownership in a non-threatening manner, his chances of success were a lot higher. So cleverly enough, one evening he approached the workers with several cases of beer, and invited them to share a drink. It wasn’t long before the laughter and jokes were pouring out smoothly, and the atmosphere was one of relaxation and fun. All the while Paul was waiting and watching, and when the moment was right, casually asked if he could adopt the bird, in which case they agreed without a second thought. With that simple approval Paul’s mission was accomplished, the Parrot would now be saved, and importantly, the relationship between he and the workers would remain amicable. When his assignment was complete, Paul flew the parrot back to the United Kingdom, where it lived out its life in luxury eating well and enjoying the fresh air while being perched on Paul’s shoulders while he walked along the beach.
In later years, after Paul had finished his Military service and was working as a civilian, he was called on assignment to Kabul, Afghanistan in 2010. During this time the airbase was still under construction, and it was not uncommon to see packs of feral dogs roaming about. The probability that these animals had rabies was high, which was one of the reasons Paul had received the series of rabies shots prior to his deployment.
One afternoon, amongst a pack of stray dogs was a younger dog of about 4 to 5 months old. The dog was walking with a limp, the fur mangled, his rib-cage visible, and he still had one end of a broken noose tied around his neck while the rest of the rope dragged along the ground. When approached by Paul and some of the people in the camp, his demeanor was timid and nervous, but he didn’t come off as aggressive or skittish like the other feral dogs he accompanied. The perception was that this stray could have been domesticated and was simply following the others in a desperate attempt to find food and water.
In Paul’s mind, all he could think about was getting this dog the help it needed. He didn’t stop to weigh the options, to think about the long term implications of feeding a stray, or the medical risks of being potentially exposed to rabies. He started off slowly by offering the dog the basics of nutritional food, clean water, and a place to lay his head. In the immediate weeks following the initial arrival, the dog’s disposition became more relaxed and his health began to rapidly improve. He started to put on more and more weight and was noticeably growing taller and gaining statue with each week that passed by. The noose around his neck certainly hadn’t come with a name-tag, and no one had officially picked out a name; but whenever someone asked where the pooch was, the dog showed up. It was because of this apparent association that Paul decided to name the dog “Poochee’”.
On any given day there were around 900 local Afghans working on the camp, and it wasn’t long before Poochee’s physical presence gained more and more attention. Many people were guessing about his origin and breed, but it wasn’t until the owner unexpectedly showed up on the base one day, and confirmed that he was a purebred Turkish Kangal.
Historically the Kangal’s are known as flock-guardian dogs named after the Kangal District of Sivas Province in Central Turkey, where the breed is thought to have originated from. The general appearance is large, powerful, and heavy-boned and their temperament alert, territorial, and defensive, which is why they were successfully used as guardians against predators. At maturity, a male can weigh between 110 and 145 lbs. and range from 30 to 32 inches, while a female can weigh between 90 and 120 lbs. and range from 28 to 30 inches. The first Kangal was imported to the USA in 1985, but wasn’t recognized by the United Kennel Club until 1998.
The man explained to Paul that he had come to reclaim his dog as Poochee was of great financial value. He was a breeder of fighting dogs and Poochee had come from a line of champion blood. Poochee was meant to fight in the arena, and the owner had high hopes of winning due to his stature and family history. Paul said that dog fighting in Afghanistan is a lucrative sport. He described how the event took place every Friday, and that it was similar to a boxing match where there is a referee that determines the winner. And even though the dogs did not fight to the death, they were frequently badly injured. It became clear to Paul that his initial assessment of Poochee had been correct, that he had been domesticated but somehow escaped. But it was also clear, that if Poochee was returned to the rightful owner, his life might soon come to an end. It was then that Paul decided to request ownership of Poochee, and astonishingly the owner agreed without much opposition.
Not too long after the man left the camp, there were two separate attempts by local workers to kidnap Poochee. The first time, one of the workers tried to hide him amongst his belongings and was caught by the guard on the way out. The second time, another worker took Poochee and tied him up next to a maintenance shed, with the intention of taking him off base at the end of the day. Because of these kidnapping attempts, it became evident to Paul that the dog would not be safe unless his status changed.
Paul acted quickly to find a way to officially adopt Poochee and keep him on base while arranging for him to be deported back to the UK. As the only dogs allowed on the camp were working dogs, Paul registered Poochee as one of the contractor’s official security dogs. He then arranged for the medical examinations, blood work, and vaccines needed in order to obtain his official medical certificate that had to be certified by the Afghanistan Ministry of Agriculture and countersigned by a certified veterinarian. With that documentation he was able to arrange the Afghan Export license and UK import license Poochee needed prior to boarding the plane from Kabul to Frankfurt, and then Frankfurt to London.
After the arrival in London, sadly the journey was only partially complete. In accordance with the law in the UK, Poochee was required to stay in quarantine for the next 6 months. Paul had arranged for him to stay in a facility in Berkshire, where he was placed in a 3m x 2m indoor/outdoor cage and wasn’t allowed to leave or visit with other animals. At the time Paul was living in Luxembourg, but faithfully flew back every weekend to visit with Poochee on Saturdays. Living in such confines was nowhere near ideal, but miraculously Poochee adapted without any problems and still managed to keep his loving and gentle personality. At the end of the 6 months, after he passed his physical and psychiatric examinations with flying colors, he was presented with his European Pet Passport, and released to go home.
Reunited at last, Paul and Poochee headed on the last leg of their journey, and made the remaining 7 hour 700 km drive to Luxembourg. From the moment Poochee set foot in the front door he felt home and at peace as if this is where he was always meant to be. There were no issues of acclimation or long periods of adjustment. Poochee had never been house trained but Paul never recalled one accident. Poochee never had to be told not to jump on or destroy the furniture, and instead provided a calming presence over Paul and his partner. As the breed requires a lot of physical and mental stimulation, Poochee immediately became accustomed to the 6 km runs every weekday Morning; the strength and pull training sessions during the 6 km walk every weekday evening and 15 km walk every Saturday and Sunday; and free rein of the backyard in between. He was no longer forced to scrounge for food, and was instead presented with a large bowl of quality kibble supplemented with pieces of fresh meat and cooked rice, for which he could graze over throughout the day.
Paul recognized Poochee’s intellect and independence and treated him with respect saying “You’re not dealing with a child you’re dealing with an adult. They respect you as the alpha male completely, but then you have to respect him as the warrior he is.”
Paul’s mission has always been to preserve and save the life of the animal first, even if he wasn’t sure where the animals was going to end up. On two occasions he was fortunate enough to be in the position to rehouse the animals with him, but even if he is not the final owner, this doesn’t stop him from performing these heroic acts. The parrot has passed on, but Poochee is now 7 years old and weighs 48 kg. His life is fully of joy and he is surrounded by people he loves and who unquestionably love him back. His favorite pastime is a simple one – spending his days watching and patrolling his territory while guarding his family flock, a luxury he would never have had, unless Paul had intervened. Paul’s unselfish and loving act of kindness saved Poochee’s life. Spending over 8,000 EUR of his own money, dedicating his time, energy, and resources on a cause that be believed in simply because to him it was the right thing to do.