6:44pm

Mon May 16, 2011
The Two-Way

Iraqi Donkey That Befriended U.S. Marines Arrives In U.S.

The story of Smoke is pretty sweet: In the summer of 2008, U.S. Marines found Smoke at Camp Taqaddum in Anbar province and immediately he became a favorite. Here's how the AP describes it:

The smoke-colored donkey, which once snatched and ate a cigarette from a careless Marine, soon became such a part of the unit that he received his own care packages and cards. Marines took care of him until 2009 when they left the area, but they turned Smoke over to a sheik who promised to care for him.

But one of the Marines, retired Col. John Folsom, couldn't forget Smoke.

Folsom used to walk Smoke daily and had formed a bond with the animal. It didn't seem right that Smoke was left behind, he said in a telephone interview Saturday.

So, Folsom started turning the wheels and got the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals International involved. Soon Smoke was on a cargo plane headed to United States in a journey that cost the society between $30,000 and $40,000.

This week, 37 days later, Smoke arrived in New York and sometime midweek he's expected to arrive at his new home in Omaha, Neb., where he will serve as a therapy animal for the Wounded Warrior Family Support organization.

"People just couldn't believe we were going to these great lengths to help a donkey because donkeys in that part of the world are so low down on the totem pole," the society's Terri Crisp told the AP.

"I think people did finally come to realize that this is one of these out-of the-ordinary situations. Once you met him and saw what a unique donkey he was, it was hard to say no to him," Crisp said. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.