“I can’t believe it,” Army Reserve Sgt. McKithern said. “It feels like a miracle is happening. And honestly, I feel like God brought Erby and me together. She’s my little soldier dog.”

Last year, when Sgt. McKithern found a little female white stray dog sniffing around her base Iraq, she knew that the dog was coming home to the United States with her.

McKithern, a combat photographer from Tampa, Florida, was stationed at the Kurdistan Training Coordination Center, a multinational military organization responsible for the training of security forces in and around Irbil, from April 2017 to January 2018.

The little dog and her mother had been wandering around the base for weeks. Stray dogs are very common in Iraq, and the culture is not kind to them…

Here’s more from Defense.gov:

Despite her rough experiences with humans to that point, Erby ran right up to McKithern the first time she held out her hand to the shaky little pup covered in scratches and dirt.

“She loved everyone,” McKithern said of Erby. “She is the sweetest little soul. She came up to me immediately — probably hungry, but gentle. I think she was looking for love more than anything else.”

As the end of her deployment approached, McKithern started to wonder how she could ever leave Erby behind when she went back to the states and lamented about it on her Facebook page.

“One night I posted a pic of us on Facebook, with a caption that read something like, ‘I wish I could take her home,’” McKithern recalled. “I went to sleep, woke up and my friends and family had posted links to various rescue groups. I reached out to one of them, the nonprofit Puppy Rescue Mission, and they responded immediately. We sent them $1,000 and they set up a crowd fund to get the rest. We needed an additional $3,500.”

McKithern had many preparations to make before she left Iraq so Erby could eventually follow her. Vaccinations, documentation, travel arrangements — all had to be done somehow, in a war zone, while she fulfilled her military duties.

However, McKithern’s husband, Army Sgt. Wes McKithern, who’s also a combat cameraman for the 982nd, met Erby at the airport in New York and drove her home to Tampa, where she’s waiting patiently to be reunited with her rescuer.

In a few short weeks, McKithern will fly home from Fort McCoy to be with Erby at last. 

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