clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

How a stray dog changed this soldier’s life

When Rumi the dog wandered onto a U.S. army base in northeast Syria, 1st Lt. Shelby Koontz’s life was changed forever

A dog in musher Steve Watkins’ team rests sitting up at the Tanana, Alaska, checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, Wednesday, March 11, 2015.
A dog in musher Steve Watkins’ team rests sitting up at the Tanana, Alaska, checkpoint during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, Wednesday, March 11, 2015.
Loren Holmes, AP

Despite the March cease-fire between Russia and Turkey in northwest Syria, the country is still at war, and U.S. soldiers continue to be stationed in the country to help mitigate the situation — despite a global pandemic.

But in a wartorn country, one soldier was able to find the opportunity to carry out a very unique rescue, NPR reports.

Rumi the now-rescued dog is white with black stripes on her face (many of her friends call her “the raccoon dog”). When 1st Lt. Shelby Koontz first met Rumi, the dog sniffed her way into a U.S. military base in northeast Syria. She was covered in mud and looked severely malnourished.

Koontz, upon seeing the stray dog — who loved to run and play with the soldiers on base despite having grown up in an active war zone with very little to eat — instantly fell in love.

While having a pet isn’t usually encouraged on U.S. military bases, Koontz was able to get permission to keep Rumi on base, to feed and play with her and help her adjust to being around people.

The one small problem: Koontz’s deployment is scheduled to end soon, but because of the COVID-19 virus, that may be delayed.

Since Koontz already had a rescue dog at home, Nokoni, she decided to find Rumi a loving home outside the base. She was nervous no one would want a dog that had been through war, but was actually overwhelmed by the response. People wanted to help Rumi.

Koontz set up a GoFundMe to cover the costs of getting Rumi vaccinated, healthy and transported to her new home in Fort Bliss, Texas and successfully raised $3,500.

While she’ll be sorely missed by the soldiers on the base, who enjoy sitting with her and petting her after long days of patrolling, they’re all excited for Rumi to find her own family.

Now, Rumi is under a 30-day quarantine at the Puppy Rescue Mission in Iraq to make sure she doesn’t bring over any diseases and is healthy enough to travel before going to meet her new family.

“The day she makes it to the States, it’s going to be the proudest day of my deployment,” Koontz told NPR.