Wounded soldier reunites with his war puppy, Smoke

January 29, 2012

For a wounded soldier home from Afghanistan, it was a special reunion a long time in the making.

A puppy he adopted on the front lines is now with him again in Bethesda, Md.

A mortar attack critically wounded Eslinger in September 2011. He was in treated at the Kandahar Airfield Hospital for a broken leg, broken ribs and multiple internal injuries. When Eslinger was later flown to Germany and then the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for more treatment, Smoke was left behind.Donny Eslinger, 20, encountered the dog while on tour of duty in Afghanistan. He traded three cigarettes to become the dog's owner. He named the dog Smoke Pup Barbarian because of the transaction.

A group called The Puppy Rescue Mission heard about Smoke Pup when Eslinger's squad leader sent a letter telling Eslinger's story. The group printed part of that letter on its website:

"Smoke was the only bit of morale that made these kids forget where they were and cope with the tragedy we just experienced. It is amazing how therapeutic a little creature can be. Donny took care of that dog up until he was injured. Many of us in his Platoon would love nothing more than to see Smoke reunited with Donny. It would be the only decent thing we would see come from this place."

Through the efforts of The Puppy Rescue Mission, the dog arrived in Orlando, Fla., last week.

The dog was then transported to Bethesda on Tuesday, where he was reunited with Eslinger.

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