PUYALLUP, Wash. -- Little did Sergeant Phil Bourrillion and his wife Lena know, rescuing a stray puppy out of Afghanistan would change more than just one dog's life.
Oso is a 10-month old Afghan "tiger hound" who's come a long way from the trash pit where he was born. In fact, he's traveled about 9,000 miles, by truck, then by plane, all the way to the Bourrillion's home in Puyallup.
Phil said a few of his fellow soldiers found Oso scavenging for food last year and brought the pup to him.
"I have my dogs at home so having the dog there was like having a piece of home," Bourrillion said.
Oso became a de facto companion for Phil's unit. He even put together a small shelter and some makeshift toys for her.
But when it was time to move out, Bourrillion said he had two options: leave Oso to fend for herself or find some way to get the dog to his wife.
"Didn't know how it was going to work, or if it was even possible," he said, "but I wasn't going to leave her behind."
"It broke my heart to know that she meant so much to them and brought them joy," Lena said, "and I thought I'm going to do whatever I can in my power to give back to our soldiers out there."
Researching online, Lena said she found several instances of soldiers from around the world finding ways to ship pets home. But when you factor in paying for transportation through a war zone, vaccinations, airfare, and all the paperwork involved, the cost could run $3,000 to $5,000, she said.
Lena began an online donation campaign to bring Oso home. It took several months, but in February, Oso made her way from the Middle East to a shelter in Western Washington and, eventually, to the Bourrillion home.
And now, the Bourrillions say they want to share what they've learned to help other soldiers with adopted dogs on the front lines.
Their newly-formed "Soldiers' Animal Companions Fund" (www.sacfund.com) will send donations to UK-based Nowzad Dogs, an agency that's already helped bring dozens of adopted cats and dogs out of Afghanistan, including Oso.
They hope the fund they've created will help keep those animals from certain death.
"A lot of those dogs, they have to put down," Lena said, "which usually means shoot them or we simply leave them behind."
On Monday, June 21, Sgt. Bourrillion came home to a family reunion, and a friend he hadn't seen in five months.
"Just seeing them after so long was just the best feeling in the world," he said, "and seeing Oso for the first time in so long... she's a family member also. She's not just a dog or a pet. She's a family member."