Book Review – One Dog at a Time: Saving the Strays of Helmand

By Pen Farthing

Thomas Dunne August 2010


Pen Farthing is a British marine and a dog lover who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2006. He quickly discovered that the dogs of Afghanistan were in as much need of help as the people, and had less ability to fend for themselves. It starts with rescuing one abused dog from ANP (Afghan National Police) officers who plan to use him in a dog fight. Then he breaks up an actual dog fight and allows the two dogs to escape, much to the annoyance of the ANP and AFA (Afghan National Army) participants and spectators. When one of those escape fighting dogs turns up inside the base, Pen can’t turn his back, and soon he has named the fighting dog Nowzad, built a run to contain him, and is working, in the spare time he doesn’t have, on training the dog.

But he’s not crazy, so he also calls his wife, back home in the UK, and asks her to find a rescue organization in Afghanistan who can take Nowzad.

While he’s waiting, of course, one dog becomes two, and two dogs become three, and then he rescues a pregnant female, and another female with her puppies squeezes through the gates…

At this point, his wife and quite a few of his fellow Marines would dispute my statement that he’s not crazy, but his wife and a couple of those Marines are as devoted to dogs as he is, and they keep trying.

This is set in a war zone, and firefights, injuries, and deaths happen. Some of this is pretty disturbing, especially if you came for a dog story, but it’s an essential part of Pen’s experience. It’s both why the dogs are in need of saving, and what makes it so hard to do. It’s an excellent and moving story.


I borrowed this book from the library.

Pen Farthing talks about his experience in this video:



Reviewer Bio:
Lis and Addy

Lis Carey is a librarian with an odd sense of humor, who finds excitement in helping people find the information they need, and in the varied corners of library work–reference, cataloging, circulation, resource development, reader’s advisory. She reads voraciously and enjoys a wide variety of material–including, of course, fiction and non-fiction about dogs and cats. Addy, her Chinese Crested, is always happy to keep her company while reading, and occasionally tries to help write the reviews.

Check out her Blog Lis Carey’s Library for more Book Reviews.

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