In war-torn Raqqa, we heard a cry from a devastated school. It was February 2018, four months after Raqqa’s liberation. As bomb disposal professionals, we knew better than to rush in, as child screams were often used as traps by ISIS.
Behind a concrete pedestal, we found a frightened Chihuahua, the lone survivor among the bodies of his family. Born amidst war’s horrors, we named him Barry.
Despite my initial fear of dogs, I offered Barry a biscuit with gloved hands. He cautiously nibbled as I patted him. I left him with food and water, promising to return.
Barry gave me hope, a feeling I hadn’t experienced since leaving the Army in 2014. Back home, I struggled with the aftermath of war and personal hardships.
Attending a friend’s funeral in Syria reignited my soldier’s spirit. When offered the opportunity to join the Syrian team, I embraced it.
A month after meeting Barry, I searched for him in the school’s rubble. Relieved, I heard my colleague calling his name. I extended my bare hand, gently caressing his head. It felt right.
To earn Barry’s trust, I took a leap of faith.