United States Army Specialist (P) Curley Elliott, has always loved animals, and has been known to find them and rescue them, something that is definitely passed down from his parents, Jennifer and Wayne Elliott.
When Elliott, who is the great grandson of Melvin Elliott Sr., first arrived in Afghanistan he didn’t think there was any way to get a dog home, so he tried his best not to get attached. It didn’t last long, especially after meeting Chunda.
In February of 2020 his Commander and First Sergeant went for a run and saw this little puppy laying near the fuel point, no big dogs or other puppies around. Then the maintainers for the Apache helicopters brought her back up to the base.
“She was maybe a month old, she was small enough to fit in our hands,” said Elliott.
Chonk, her original name, given to her because she was a chunky little puppy, became a community dog, they all took care of her and she became part of the medevac unit. Since they had no dog food over there, she ate what the soldiers ate. Anything from green beans to bacon and eggs, even prime rib on occasion.
“She loved bacon. She would follow the guys, knowing what the to-go plates from the chow hall looked like and what they meant.”
Bringing Chunda home
The process of bringing Chunda and Charlie, another dog that was adopted by the unit, home to the states began in April of 2020. One of the pilots had fallen in love with her and wanted to take her home. She lived in an apartment near Fort Drum in New York and realized it probably wouldn’t be the best environment for Chunda. When Elliott heard they were looking for a home for her he said he would ask his parents.
“I sent a picture of her to mom with no context, just the photo and asked if she was busy. She knew right away exactly what I was asking,” said Elliott.
They worked with a non-profit organization located in Kabul called Nowzad. Nowzad works with soldiers to help them bring home the companions they grow to love while serving overseas. Nowzad helps with the necessary paperwork, shots, microchipping and even spays or neuters them.
The cost to send each dog back to the states is approximately $5,000. “They never asked for anything from us,” said Elliott. A Go-Fund me page was set up by the Medevac unit to help get Chunda and Charlie back to the states, the funds were donated directly to Nowzad.
According to the Nowzad website, over 1,600 dogs or cats have been reunited with soldiers all over the world including USA, UK, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain, Jordan Thailand and South Africa.
Due to COVID-19, Chunda and Charlie would end up spending about seven months in the kennel in Kabul before their flight to the states. Chunda stayed in New York until coming to Pine County in December of 2020.
Life in the states
Chunda is a very smart dog, She knows the cats aren’t supposed to be on the counters and will bark at them. She knows the chickens aren’t supposed to eat the outside cat food and she barks at them too.
Her new best friend is one of Elliott’s horses, if she is on her chain by the house she will bark and the horse will come to visit.
She seems to have adjusted well to life over here. The only noticeable thing is a facial tick that she developed sometime between the kennel and her new home in Rock Creek. “It’s very noticeable when she gets stressed out,” said Elliott.
One can obviously see the connection that Chunda has with the Elliott family. She is very loved. Charlie, the other dog that came home with Chunda is living a great life with one of the unit medics at Fort Drum.