Afghan puppy rescued by soldier finds new home in Highland Village
By LINDSEY BEVER Morning News
July 26, 2010, 7:04AM
It cost $4,000 to fly Wylie to Texas.
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HIGHLAND VILLAGE — Seven months ago, the wild puppy roughing it in a small guard shack on a mountain in eastern Afghanistan knew only of unforgiving weather and the promise of combat.
But Wylie's three-month journey to America has opened her eyes to a brand-new life.
"When I took her outside for the first time, she laid her chin on the grass and looked around," said Steve Rodems, stepfather of Army Reserves Staff Sgt. Hannah Schlegel, who rescued Wylie from eastern Afghanistan. "She had never seen or walked on grass. She had never smelled flowers or looked at trees. It was a very sweet moment."
Now, the recently domesticated adolescent pup is fitting in nicely in Highland Village.
Schlegel rescued Wylie, the 10-month-old Afghan hound-shepherd mix, in December 2009. She found Wylie in a small guard shack on a mountain in eastern Afghanistan and smuggled her back to her base in Khost to protect the puppy from danger.
A month later, Schlegel began raising money to ship Wylie from Kabul, Afghanistan, through PayPal, an online money transfer service. Through the financial support of her family, friends and perfect strangers, she raised every cent needed for the more than 7,000-mile trip - a $4,000 plane ticket.
"It says a lot about people that even with everything going on at home, a simple story about a girl and her dog can still melt everyone's heart," Schlegel said via e-mail. "But it's not just my story anymore; it's the story of everyone who has donated to help bring her home."
The funds that were raised helped Schlegel arrange transport through the Afghan Stray Animal League. An Afghan drove Wylie to Kabul where she stayed in a kennel until her flight to Pakistan could be arranged. She flew to Islamabad and in May finally made it to the United States where she was met by Schlegel's parents, Steve and Nancie Rodems of Highland Village.
But spending three months of her young life in transport made for a rough transition, Rodems said.
"I called Hannah. I said, 'Forget trained; she's not even domesticated,' " he said, laughing. "She just didn't have time to be a puppy. But she's been diametrically getting better.
"Compared to what Hannah has to do on any given day, taking care of Wylie is such a small sacrifice to make."
Wylie is now a long, lanky and clumsy adolescent dog, wrestling with the other family dog, Lily, and transporting Rodems' shoes from his closet to the couch.
When Schlegel comes home from her 400-day deployment in late August or early September, she and her fiance, Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Koegler, will take Wylie to her permanent home in Northern Virginia, where the three will begin their civilian life together.
"My parents have been absolutely wonderful in taking care of her while I've been overseas," Schlegel said. "I cannot wait till I get home in a few months to reunite with her."
But until then, Schlegel's parents are enjoying an affectionate Wylie.
"Wylie, good girl. Good girl!" Rodems said, kissing her on the snout. "That's what she lives for. Now, she's a part of this family."