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posted: 2/20/2013 3:28 PM

Palatine fundraiser to help reunite soldiers with canine companions

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  • Army Sgt. Tim Johannsen and his battle buddy, Leonidas, in Afghanistan in 2011. The Puppy Rescue Mission helped Johannsen bring Leonidas to live in Downers Grove with his wife, Kaydee, and her family while he finished his combat tour. They were reunited in 2012 and now live in Hawaii, where Johannsen is stationed.

      Army Sgt. Tim Johannsen and his battle buddy, Leonidas, in Afghanistan in 2011. The Puppy Rescue Mission helped Johannsen bring Leonidas to live in Downers Grove with his wife, Kaydee, and her family while he finished his combat tour. They were reunited in 2012 and now live in Hawaii, where Johannsen is stationed.
    Courtesy of the Johannsen family

 
Submitted by The Puppy Rescue Mission

The Puppy Rescue Mission, an organization which helps U.S. military service members bring home dogs (and several cats) that had become their devoted companions and protectors during deployments in Afghanistan and other war zones, is holding a fundraiser next weekend in Palatine.

The wine tasting event will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, March 2, at d-Vine Wine and Gifts, 742 East Dundee Road.

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The organization was founded in April 2010 by Anna Cannan after the experience of her fiancÚ, Army Sgt. Christopher Chiasson. During a deployment to Afghanistan, Chiasson told Cannan the story of three local dogs that had befriended soldiers at his combat outpost and instinctively protected them from a suicide bomber.

The three dogs attacked the bomber, who had tried to infiltrate the camp during the night, saving all 50 troops at the camp. Although one of these loyal dogs was killed in the blast, another later gave birth to puppies, which the soldiers quickly adopted as their own.

When Chiasson asked Cannan to help bring his puppy home to Maine, Cannan soon found herself scrambling to help six other soldiers bring their own "battle buddy dogs" home, too.

Cannan began fundraising with raffles, yard sales, and a Facebook page to collect the approximately $21,000 needed to get the seven dogs transported back to the United States.

Almost three years later, The Puppy Rescue Mission has grown into a nationwide network of thousands of supporters linked by social media and commitment to the group's mission.

Although anyone who has loved a dog or cat understands the depth of the human-animal bond, these battle-tested companions share a special connection to their military service member.

"These aren't just dogs, these are soldiers' dogs," Cannan said. "These loyal companions not only protect our service members, they provide a sense of home and feeling of normalcy in the middle of a war zone. They can bring a smile to their soldier's face when almost nothing else can. The bond between them is amazing."

The Puppy Rescue Mission touched the lives of a military family in Downers Grove when it helped Army Sgt. Tim Johannsen rescue his battle buddy, Leonidas.

Johannsen found the feisty Afghan puppy at his combat outpost and the two quickly became inseparable. Thanks to The Puppy Rescue Mission, Johannsen was able to send Leonidas to live with his wife, Kaydee, and her family while he finished his combat tour. They were reunited in 2012 and now live in Hawaii where Johannsen is currently stationed.

Currently, about 20 dogs are awaiting funds to start their trip home. Rescue costs vary depending on an animal's size, but each dog costs roughly $4,000 to cover veterinary care and transportation from the field to an Afghan shelter and then to the U.S.

Supporters can learn more about the group's work at www.thepuppyrescuemission.org/ and follow daily rescue updates on Facebook.

The cost of the March 2 fundraiser is $20, with $15 of every ticket and 10 percent of any store sales donated directly to The Puppy Rescue Mission. For information about the event, call (847) 359-9463 or email liz@d-vinewine.com or fundraising@thepuppyrescuemission.org

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