Former Soldier Emotionally Reunites With Puppy He Saved From Rubble In Syria

An ex-soldier has been reunited with the adorable puppy he saved from a violent war zone.

Sean Laidlaw had been serving in a bomb disposal unit in Syria when he stumbled across whimpering Barrie, who was hiding in the rubble after a massive explosion.

The pooch was pulled to safety by Sean and the two soon became inseparable - the private contractor says Barrie saved his life.

Since Sean's contract ended seven months ago, the pair have been separated by thousands of miles and it looked as though they may never see each other again.

But after seven anxious months of hoping and wishing. the pair were finally reunited on Saturday 3 November at Charles de Gaulles Airport, in France, which Sean says was the 'happiest moment ever'.

The 30-year-old, who hails from Essex, said: "I feel like it may come across that I saved Barrie's life, but I feel like she saved mine.

"Working in a war zone, coming back to camp you sit in your room on your own. To have a companion you can play with and train, it kept my mind away from all the things I was seeing and doing out there.

"You can only imagine how bad Syria is, and to be able to come back to the camp and train her for three hours, take her for a walk, things like that really took my mind away from where I was. It gave me a bit of normality, she definitely kept me sane.

"She stayed with me all day, every day. She did jobs with me, I'd wake up, she'd come eat with me, she'd then sit in the passenger seat of my car when we drove to Raqqa.

"Having a companion, is one of the best things to help with PTSD. A dog always makes you happy, always wants to be with you.

"Going to Paris was both exciting and nerve-wracking, but I left the house at 6am and just sped there.

Sean Laidlaw with Barrie the dog. Credit: Mercury Press
Sean Laidlaw with Barrie the dog. Credit: Mercury Press

"Meeting her at the airport, seeing her in the flesh, was one of the best moments of my life. I've never been so happy.

"Everyone's got their lives, my parents and girlfriend are at work, and so when I get back I at least know I've got my dog, and she'll always be there."

Sean found Barrie in Raqqa, in February - she was nestled in the wreckage from a school that had been blown apart.

With the frightened animal surrounded by four dead puppies, and despite being rejected at first, Sean made sure she was safe and brought her food and drink, and cordoned off the area as it wasn't safe from IEDs yet.

After three days the two became inseparable in the three months Sean was in Syria, as Barrie followed her new buddy everywhere he went - he even had a harness made from a bullet-proof vest and a teddy bear to protect her.

Credit: Mercury Press
Credit: Mercury Press

Sean, who now runs a gym, said: "I think as soon as Barrie and I bonded, where I could pick her up, for me she'd already become my dog.

"When we got back to camp, she lived in my room, I looked after her, I was responsible for her. She slept in my room, I was training her, I was feeding her.

"She stayed with me every day all day. She did jobs with me, I'd wake up, she'd come eat with me, she'd then sit in the passenger seat of my car when we drove to Raqqa."

WIth Sean desperate to be reunited with Barrie, he contacted a charity in Iraq called War Paws - which specialises in bringing dogs home from war-torn areas - to see if he could bring her back to the UK after his contract was due to run out.

He even set up a Gofundme page and raised £4,500 to help pay for it but he soon found it wasn't that easy.

Credit: Mercury Press
Credit: Mercury Press

Barrie was brought to Iraq in April where she was vaccinated and checked by War Paws before being flown to Jordan in August, where she was quarantined for a further two months.

After four months in Syria, Sean returned to the UK for a short leave when his contract was abruptly cancelled, and he was informed that he wouldn't be returning and he thought he may never see Barrie again.

He said: "I might be one of the only people who was unhappy not to go back to Syria. I was on the way to the airport with my dad when I got a message telling me not to board my flight and go home.

"I thought there might be a security issue, but then I got a call that night saying the contract is cancelled and that everyone is being sent back home.

Credit: Mercury Press
Credit: Mercury Press

"I put the phone down and immediately called the charity, I didn't think of anything else and tried to see how I could get Barrie home.

"When it came to going home without her, I thought I'd never be able to leave her so I started thinking about how I could bring her back.

"It's very difficult to be apart, my biggest issue was that I never had that moment with her to say goodbye as when I left I thought I'd see her in a couple weeks.

"But then months passed and she's gone from a puppy to a full-grown dog. That was hard for me, as I worried she was a totally different dog."

Sean even offered to fly to Jordan to pick up his mate after the plan to fly him to Heathrow last collapsed because Barrie was missing paperwork.

Credit: Mercury Press
Credit: Mercury Press

But then the owner of War Paws, Louise Hastie, came to the rescue as she was already flying two dogs from Jordan to Paris.

Sean said: "All the help we've received to bring us together has been amazing, just to bring one dog to Essex, it's been incredible.

"Thinking about having Barrie with me now, the life we can have together - it's surreal.

"One of my biggest fears was that she wouldn't recognise who I was, or that she would be a different dog to the girl I left.

"It was pure joy when she realised who I was. She's exactly as she was back in Syria, it was just great to have my dog again.

"I'd be willing to travel across the whole world to have Barrie with me."

Featured Image Credit: Mercury Press

Dominic Smithers

After graduating from Leeds University with a degree in French and History, Dom went onto gain an NCTJ journalism qualification. Since then he has worked as a reporter at the Manchester Evening News and the Macclesfield Express, covering breaking news, court, sports, and politics.

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