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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 April, 2003, 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK
Puppies are symbol of Iraq hope
UK soldiers in Basra
British soldiers have been welcomed in Basra
A Northumberland soldier has liberated a unique symbol of Iraq's fresh hope for the future - a litter of puppies.

Born in the week that British soldiers occupied Basra, the five puppies have sought and found refuge in an Army compound in the centre of Iraq's second city.

Sentimental soldiers of Zulu Company 1st Battalion Royal Regiment Fusiliers have adopted the puppies and their wild mother and taken them under their protection.

All six were found emaciated and dehydrated when the company seized control of the former military barracks.

With no shelter from the searing heat, the dogs' chances of survival looked slim.

But with the almost constant attention of Fusilier Jonathan West, 19, who has taken on responsibility for their welfare, the family has begun to thrive.

It was Fusilier West, from Morpeth, Northumberland, who first spotted the dogs as the British soldiers began securing the base that will be their home in Iraq until they leave in July.

They looked in such a terrible state when we got here that I didn't know if they could survive
Fusilier Jonathan West

He deepened the hollow they were sleeping in and surrounded it with sandbags before placing a corrugated iron sheet over the top to provide some shade from the merciless sun.

With temperatures in Iraq now touching 40C on a daily basis, Fusilier West makes sure the pups have enough food and water to see them through their critical first few weeks.

A discarded Iraqi helmet upturned is now the pups' bowl in which the young soldier puts a mix of baby milk and Army-issue brown biscuits.

The fusilier said: "They looked in such a terrible state when we got here that I didn't know if they could survive.

"They were panting in the heat and it was obvious they had not had a drink for a long time.

"I dug out their hollow and secured it and since I began feeding them the pups have come on really well.

"We decided to name the mother Hope in recognition of what the British Army has done here and what we believe we have given to the Iraqi people.

"They are now free from Saddam Hussein's grip of terror and, like Hope and her pups, we believe that our efforts have secured them a future they can look forward to."

  • Pooled despatch from Greg Swift of the Daily Express in Basra.



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