When Marine Craig Grossi arrived in Afghanistan's Sangin District, where he and his Unit would spend the next few days fighting the Taliban, the last thing he expected to get out of the experience was a friend. When the fighting finally subsided however, Craig had a moment to catch his breath and check out the region in which no other Americans had been for years. It was among the debris that Craig first spotted a lively little low-rider of a dog who would go on to become his best friend.
Though most dogs in the area tended to travel in packs and weren’t so friendly towards people, the little guy Craig had come across seemed different. Having constructed a little camp of his own in some near-by bushes, the small pooch seemed to be pretty self-sufficient and didn’t appear to be opposed to people, as he occasionally walked across the marine compound when out in search of food. Though not an incredibly intimidating little dude, there was something in the dog’s swag that exuded a friendly confidence.
Intrigued, Craig couldn’t help but skirt around the Marines rule about not approaching dogs for safety reasons. Armed with a piece of beef jerky, he cautiously approached the pup, who was super dirty and covered in bugs. Then, Craig says, something magical happened, "He wagged his tail and it blew me away." Offering his hand, Craig’s heart melted as the stray accepted a few loving scratches behind the ear, quite possibly his first positive interaction with a human.
The bond was sealed as Craig started to walk away only to feel a pint-sized poke at his ankle, look down, and see his new buddy following. “Looks like you made a friend!” someone from the base shouted. From far away however, Craig thought his fellow marine had said “Looks like a Fred,” and so his new pal was named. From that point on, Fred became Craig’s constant companion, even joining his unit to go out at night and make sure civilian families were safe from Taliban fighters. Though the marines initially worried that Fred might bark, the feisty four-legged recruit quickly figured out the importance of silence and faithfully remained in stealth mode the entire time.
Fred wasted no time in stealing the hearts of the other men in Craig’s unit, but found himself at a crossroads when it came time for the Marines to return to their main base. Unsure whether his new pal was up for going on with them, Craig sat down for a heart to heart with Fred the night before departure and asked him for a sign. Sure enough, the next day when the helicopters arrived, Craig felt a familiar poke and looked down to find a terrified but willing Fred ready to ship out.
Though excited to take his new buddy along with the unit, Craig was not unaware of the dangers the two faced by enacting Fred’s covert mission. "If I got caught with him, I could go to jail," Grossi said. "And he would be put down, no questions asked." Luckily Fred’s stealth training came in handy as he was snuck about the chopper, expertly disguised as the contents of an unassuming duffel bag. Arriving at the base safe and sound, the pair found fate waiting to help them out.
As they were driving along in a friend’s pick-up truck, Craig was delighted to discover that a shipping company had set up a station near the base and headed over that night to ask a few questions about “hypothetically” shipping a dog home to the US. When the men at the shipping station asked Craig to produce the hypothetical hound, Fred arrived ready to once more turn on the charm. After confirming that the men at the shipping company where adequately smitten by Fred, Craig was forced to leave his new pal in their care for a brief time while he returned to the field and figured out the necessary paperwork to ship Fred to the States.
As it turned out, Craig’s return would be accomplished by a narrow margin, as he wound up suffering a brain injury during a rocket attack while away. Even as he recovered in the hospital however, his thoughts were never far from his four-legged friend. When he was finally able to return for Fred, Craig confesses his nerves were on edge, "I look around and I don't see Fred," Grossi said. "But then I see the workers playing soccer and Fred is in the middle, running around with guys from all over the world. It was just this universal moment."
As the pieces came together and the paperwork was prepared, Fred was almost ready to ship out to join Craig’s family in the United States. But one mere detail was all that was standing between the tiny patriot and his new home- a mode of transportation. As Craig was desperately trying to figure out a mode of travel for his pal, fate again intervened as he was approached one night in the cafeteria by a fellow marine.
Though Craig hadn’t previously known the man, the stranger confessed that he knew of Fred and his plight and was willing to help on the down low. As it turned out, the friendly fellow soldier was working in a unit which cared for military dogs and was happy to lend Fred a crate for his journey. Soon after, Fred was safely on a plane and on his way to JFK airport, where Craig’s family arrived to intercept him.
Three months later, Craig returned home and was reunited with his little pal who had since been cleaned up and was enjoying a whole new life. The pair have remained inseparable ever since and even traveled the country together in 2015, telling their story to animal lovers along the way. The two are currently working on a book together about Fred’s path to a new life and share an adorable website at www.fredtheafghan.com. Check out their video below to hear more about their adventures!
And it’s clear from the pictures, Fred the Afghan did the honorable thing and brought his canine partner back with him!
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