ROCHESTER, N.Y. – In recent years, Maj. Lindsay Gaylord has spent a lot of time in Afghanistan.
An intelligence analyst for the Army, the 34-year-old is on her third deployment there, having already served in Iraq and Qatar.
In 26 days, however, she’ll head home, and she’s on a mission to make sure that a friend who got her “through some very long days” in Kabul can join her back in the states.
He’s a large, fluffy black-and-white cat she calls Moonpie, because the name “just fits,” she said.
Actually, he’s one of around 20 felines that called Gaylord’s Kabul base home.
“When we moved here (in May), the previous unit had been feeding them, and they were very used to being fed,” she said, so “our camp was filled with cats.”
But there was something about Moonpie that made him stand out.
“He was very cool and friendly,” Gaylord said. And also very vocal. He’d repeatedly show up on Gaylord’s doorstep and meow for her, prompting her fellow officers to joke, “Your child’s outside waiting for you.”
The two quickly formed a bond.
It wasn’t hard. Gaylord’s an animal lover. She already has a cat and two dogs who are temporarily in the care of her parents back in Holley. “I definitely turn to animals for comfort,” she said.
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Army regulations prevented her from having Moonpie in her room on the base. So she’d meet him in “a secret spot” each night, she said, where she would feed him and the two would hang out.
One day, “one of our generals saw (Moonpie) meowing and running towards me and joked about me taking him home,” Gaylord said. “Little did he know I was already planning it.”
Through a charitable organization called Nowzad, which facilitates war-zone animal rescues, the plan has been set in motion.
First, Nowzad made sure that Moonpie got a bath, which it turns out was very needed. “Everything’s a bit dirty here in Afghanistan,” Gaylord said, noting that Moonpie’s white fur was much brighter than it originally appeared.
He also got a physical exam (which he passed) and was given vaccinations, including for rabies.
Next, Nowzad, founded in 2007 by a British soldier who rescued a dog from Nowzad, Afghanistan, will help with the paperwork required to transport a cat from halfway around the world and book the flights that will deliver Moonpie to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where Gaylord now lives. (He can’t fly back with her on a military plane.)
Nowzad’s website also is hosting a fundraiser to cover all of Moonpie’s travel costs, which are expected to total around $3,000.
In the interim, he’s being housed and cared for at a Nowzad shelter in Kabul.
Leaving him there was tough for Gaylord.
“I definitely got a little teary-eyed,” she said. “But I know he’s safe and warm.”
Plus, she knows they’ll be reunited soon – with any luck right after the holidays.
And while cats aren’t known as great travelers, Gaylord thinks Moonpie “will settle in after a bit” on his journey. “It should have a few layovers where he will be checked on,” she said.
Follow Marcia Greenwood on Twitter: @MarciaGreenwood
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