Freshta Siddiqui, accompanied by her mother and SPCA representatives, waited anxiously while her dog, Lucky, was safely escorted across the border.
A woman who fled Afghanistan in 2021 after the Taliban took over reunited with her dog near the Peace Arch Border Crossing in Surrey, British Columbia, on March 11. According to CTV News, Freshta Siddiqui, accompanied by her mother and SPCA representatives, waited anxiously while her dog, Lucky, was safely escorted across the border.
Lucky ran into Siddiqui's arms and his human was glad to see him again after two years apart. "I'm filled with this overwhelming sense of joy and gratitude," Siddiqui told reporters. She found Lucky, a now-three-and-a-half-year-old Anatolian shepherd, in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2019.
She heard him and another dog scream in pain. "They were being stoned by too many kids in the street, and I could not stand it. I went there, grabbed Lucky, and took him home," Siddiqui said. After the Taliban overthrew Ashraf Ghani's government and seized power in Afghanistan in May 2021, Siddiqui—who is a women’s rights activist—became a target.
She and her mom escaped during an attack in September, thanks to Lucky. "Lucky saved us, actually. He barked and let us know that there were Taliban already inside our place," she said. Siddiqui, at that moment, knew that her family, including Lucky, could not live in Afghanistan. Her prayers were answered when the SPCA and Kabul Small Animal Rescue collaborated to safely evacuate the animal from Afghanistan.
Lucky was one of almost 300 animals saved in February at Vancouver International Airport in a converted military aircraft. "Freshta's story really, really touched our hearts," said Lori Kalef of SPCA International. "She reached out to us after she knew she couldn't get a place in Canada yet and asked us to keep looking after Lucky," Kalef explained. "It was very costly and time-consuming, but we would never say no to her."
Lucky was taken to a dog trainer in Oregon, but after Siddiqui and her mom finally settled in Vancouver, there was a change of plans. "Lucky means family to me," said Siddiqui. "Lucky means a part of my heart that was gone, and now I have him."
5 long months and they are in the air on their way home. Operation Mission Impossible for the love of KSAR WE SALUTE EVERY SINGLE PERSON RESPONSIBLE FOR MAKING THIS HAPPEN✈️🌏 Bea❤️#nopawsleftbehind pic.twitter.com/fsardbbuw5— Lisa 🐾✨🐾 (@betterdays314) January 30, 2022
The rescued animals boarded the 86-tonne aircraft and after stops in Turkey and Iceland, they finally arrived at Vancouver International Airport (YVR). According to CTV News, they were stranded after their owners fled the country and rescuers in Kabul could not get them out.
"The dogs were left on the tarmac to fend for themselves, it was the most horrifying experience in animal welfare, the whole world was watching," said Kalef. Susan Patterson, the founder of Thank Dog I Am Out Rescue Society, agreed. "I can freely say for all of us this is probably one of the biggest days of our lives," said Patterson. Several individuals gathered on the tarmac in anticipation of the rescued animals, including Gary Ash, a worried cat owner. Ash had made a new friend during his deployment in Kabul.
"One of the cats that worked in the camp basically adopted me," Ash said. His cat, "Tay Tay," was supposed to be held at the U.S. Embassy, but that did not happen. "It was heart-wrenching, just knowing you had to leave your animals behind like that," he said.
He was pleased to find Tay Tay once again and will be returning to the United States with his furry best friend this time. Several animals will be reunited with their owners, and the remainder will be held in a 17,000-square-foot facility in the south terminal at YVR and soon be available for adoption.