No doubt about it: Americans love their pets. But rescuing a puppy gone missing halfway around the world takes a truly global effort. That’s one message of Cambridge resident Christine Sullivan’s self-published book 44 Days Out of Kandahar. The 214-page, professionally designed volume tells the true story of how Sullivan’s brother Mark Feffer, a Navy Reservist, befriended a skinny, reddish pup while serving on an Afghan army base in Kandahar. The soldiers who fed and played with the dog called her “Be-atch,” but Feffer renamed her Cinnamon. When it came time to return to his home in Annapolis, Maryland, he decided to adopt her — no easy task.
Feffer had to entrust Cinnamon to a Department of Defense dog handler, who abandoned her at an airport in Kyrgyzstan after he had trouble getting her on the plane. When her brother emailed her the news, “I just fell apart,” Sullivan recalls in a phone interview. “I decided the story was not going to end there. I was going to take action to find out what happened to this dog and get her home.”
Sullivan called on contacts she’d developed during her work in New Orleans rescuing pets after Hurricane Katrina. She spoke to the head of the World Society for the Protection of Animals, who connected her to Yulia Ten, the volunteer head of Kyrgyzstan’s Animal Welfare Society. After some extensive detective work, Ten discovered the dog with a farmer who’d received her from his cousin, an airline employee. He agreed to give her up — and, 44 days after her disappearance, Cinnamon landed at New York’s JFK Airport.
“I’m not a writer,” says Sullivan. But, amazed by the “response from perfect strangers” to Cinnamon’s story, she decided to quit her job in order to write it down. With Feffer, she founded a partnership called New Hope for Animals to market the book, which she hopes will spawn a film and merchandise — with part of the proceeds donated to animal-welfare organizations.
Sullivan is selling 44 Days on her website, www.44-days.com, and visited Pet Food Warehouse last Saturday to promote the book. The cover boasts a blurb from Jack Canfield, of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame, who calls it “an amazing story that will warm your heart and keep you turning the pages.”
And Cinnamon? After her tribulations in the former Soviet Union, she lives quietly with Feffer’s family, despite some “behavioral issues,” Sullivan says. The pup bears a white blaze on her chest — according to Bedouin tradition, a mark of Allah. Blessed or not, she’s one lucky dog.