IDLIB, Syria — Conan, the heroic dog who helped chase down ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, wasn’t the only canine forever changed by the US operation outside Idlib, Syria, last weekend.
A puppy was orphaned in the firefight. But thanks to a Syrian photojournalist and a sympathetic veterinarian clinic, that puppy has a new lease on life, and a name.
Spared during the operation, the pup faced certain death by starvation when Fared Alhor found him.
Alhor was photographing the remains of Baghdadi’s compound the morning after the raid. From the scene of death and destruction, he heard something crying — a tiny dust-covered puppy next to the body of its mother.
“I turned around and, accidentally, I saw a puppy standing next to his mom,” Alhor said. “He was howling and sounded sad.”
Acting on instinct, Alhor played with the puppy, trying to cheer him up. He has always loved animals and knew he had to do something. It broke his heart to think about leaving the puppy behind. “I mean, after the bombing, he has no one left,” said Alhor.
“I asked if there is anyone who can take care of him.” A man nearby asked if I wanted to take him. I told him, ‘OK, I am going to come back, God willing.'”
Without any way to transport the pup, Alhor went home for supplies. Armed with a travel carrier and some food, he headed back out toward the site just as the weather turned cold and rainy. “I put him in the cage and brought him back to my place,” said Alhor.
It wasn’t an easy journey. Without a car, Alhor balanced the travel carrier on his motorcycle and drove about 20 miles home through the heavy rain and dangerous territory.
“Despite the danger and despite the cold and despite the rain and despite everything,” Alhor said, he knew it was worth it to save his life. He named the puppy Bobe, pronounced “Bobby.”
At first, Alhor brought Bobe to a friend’s house whose dog just had a litter of puppies. He thought maybe Bobe could be part of her family. But Alhor couldn’t say goodbye to the puppy whose life he had saved. Instead, he soon brought the pooch to his own home.
“I started to play with him and pamper him and feed him. I went to the market and bought food for him,” Alhor said.
On Wednesday, Alhor took Bobe to a local veterinarian clinic for a check-up and vaccines, Ernesto’s Sanctuary for Syrian Cats, run by the so-called “Aleppo Cat Man,” Mohammad Alaa al-Jaleel.
The photojournalist says he is dedicated to caring for Bobe, even though it’s hard enough to make ends meet just for himself. He says he does not have a lot of money and is worried about paying for the animal’s care.
“I need some support in order to secure food and a new doghouse for him… He will have a good life and we will settle down, me and him.”