Sean Laidlaw, 30, met Barrie when he was stationed in Syria as a private contractor leading a bomb disposal team. He found Barrie – have we mentioned Barrie is a dog? – whimpering and surrounded by rubble after a building had exploded around her.

Sean brought Barrie food and water, and sectioned off the area so it would be safe from further bombs. At first the puppy rejected any strokes and contact, but after three days she warmed to the soldier. They quickly became inseparable. Over the three months Sean spent in Syria, Barrie became a source of support and comfort. He made the dog a harness from a bullet-proof vest so she could join him on jobs in Raqqa, and gave her a teddy bear made out of old jeans. ‘I think as soon as Barrie and I bonded, where I could pick her up, for me she’d already become my dog,’ says Sean.

‘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.’ After four months in Syria, Sean had his contract cancelled. He was told he wouldn’t be returning to the area.

He was happy to be home, of course, but devastated to be separated from his furry pal. Sean got on the phone to War Paws, a charity based in Iraq who specialise in bringing dogs home from war-torn areas, and set up a gofundme to raise the money needed to bring Barrie back to the UK. He managed to raise £4,500, but the challenge wasn’t simple. In April Barrie was brought to Iraq, where she was vaccinated and checked over by War Paws. Then she was flown to Jordan in August, where she had to be quarantined for two months.

It had been seven months since Barrie and Sean had seen each other, and Sean was worried. What if the puppy he knew had grown into a very different dog? What if she was too scared to settle in to a new home? Sean was prepared to fly to Jordan to pick Barrie up the moment she was ready to travel, but luckily the owner of War Paws, Louise Hastie, happened to already be flying two dogs fro Jordan to Paris – so Barrie was able to hop along. On Saturday 3 November Sean made the 12 hour journey from Essex to Paris so he could meet Barrie at the airport and bring her home. The friends have gone through five countries, two war zones, 3,000 miles, and a 12-hour drive just to be reunited. Sean describes seeing Barrie again as the ‘happiest moment ever’.

‘I feel like it may come across that I saved Barrie’s life, but I feel like she saved mine,’ says Sean. ‘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. ‘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.

‘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. ‘All the help we’ve received to bring us together has been amazing, just to bring one dog to Essex, it’s been incredible.


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