Is it Possible William’s Demons are in his DNA?

Before William made it to us, I had corresponded with a few people who had already adopted a refugee war dog.  Some had been puppies, born under the protection of soldiers or contractors, never having experienced the horrors other dogs in the region  had.  Others were adult strays who got lucky in making the acquaintance of a western dog lover who initiated the process which brought them to the US (or other dog loving country).

Then there is the MUST READ book “From Bagdad With Love”, by Lt. Colonel Jay Kopelman, and the highly recommended “One Dog at a Time” by Pen Farthing.   In Kopelman’s case, the dog Lava was found at age 4- 5 weeks.  In the case of Pen Farthing’s dog, Nowzad was an adult fighter.

And lastly, the somewhat high rehome after adoption rate of the refugee dogs after they come to the States, especially in homes with children or homes that believed because they adopted a refugee, the dog would become instantly appreciative.

Despite their treatment in the war zones, certain behaviors seem common to most  1) Snapping (or snarling) without warning to certain people in the home, 2) snapping at certain outside people for no apparent reason; 3) sometimes when the dog “goes off”, for whatever reason, you just can’t reach him or her, and just have to wait until the episode ends, and 4) a freakishly intense loyalty to one person, and the need to protect that person, even against other people in the same home.

These issues, and of course the horse chasing, are the most problematic with my Sweet William.  I have written to several entities asking for suggestions on how to cure these problems.  None ever responded.

In William’s case, he lived his first approximate year and a half in Afghanistan.  I am not clear how old he was when he went to the Shelter.   The 13 months prior to coming to us, he lived in another country, only marginally better than Afghanistan with respect to its feelings on the value of a dog.  Having lived in 3 countries in 3 years, I think it safe to assume, we have to give Willy a little slack and certain ‘negative’ behaviors are to be expected.

But the other dogs, puppies to adult fighting dogs, all showing the same problems…  I have a theory:

1500 years ago, when the Angel Gabriel failed to appear before Mohamed, though there are variations to the story, Mohamed declared dogs unclean, ordered their execution, and so began the persecution of dogs by certain factions of a religion.

Yet 1500 years later, dogs still exist in the region.  How can that be?  The wolf population in the United States was nearly wiped out in a century or less!

Let’s assume the natural life span of an Afghani dog is 10 years.  150 generations have passed since the Hadith declaring them unclean.   150 generations of natural selection, those that behaved a certain way were killed, those that behaved another way passed their genetic material to another generation, 150 times.   The present day result:  Dogs with certain behavioral traits honed not for living in a home, but for simply staying alive.

Maybe I am wrong about all this, but I tell you what; once I stopped treating William’s issues as behavior problems (except for the horse chasing, that is) and more like genetic wiring, we have progressed in leaps and bounds.   But still, we will always have to be careful with him around strangers and children are out of the question.

I am sure there are those that might take this entry as a negative against adopting war dogs.

For people who want to adopt a conversation piece, yes.

For dog lovers who understand that bringing a refugee dog into their home is a journey that takes time, and will have ups and downs, no.

Incidentally, as far as the loyalty issue I mentioned:  The other kids are “our” kids.  Willy is “my” kid.  There is no doubt in our minds that if anyone or anything even suggested a threat to me, Willy would defend me to the death.  I only hope Willy realizes that if anyone or anything even suggested a threat to him, they would have to get through me first.

Teachings from Islam taken from :

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “While a man was walking on his way he became extremely thirsty. He found a well, he went down into it to drink water. Upon leaving it, he saw a dog which was panting out of thirst. His tongue was lolling out and he was eating moist earth from extreme thirst. The man thought to himself: `This dog is extremely thirsty as I was.’ So he descended into the well, filled up his leather sock with water, and holding it in his teeth, climbed up and quenched the thirst of the dog. Allah appreciated his action and forgave his sins”. The Companions asked: “Shall we be rewarded for showing kindness to the animals also?” He (PBUH) said, “A reward is given in connection with every living creature”.

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

In the narration of Al-Bukhari, the Prophet (PBUH) is reported to have said: “Allah forgave him in appreciation of this act and admitted him to Jannah”.

Another narration says: “Once a dog was going round the well and was about to die out of thirst. A prostitute of Banu Israel happened to see it. So she took off her leather sock and lowered it into the well. She drew out some water and gave the dog to drink. She was forgiven on account of her action”.


1. This Hadith emphasizes the importance of kindness to every creature, even animals, because Allah is pleased with such kindness.

2. Allah’s Quality of mercy and forgiveness is immensely vast. If He wants He may forgive a person even on a minor good action done by him.

Taken from Riyad-us-Salehin, Chapter 13


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