In the war-ravaged city of Raqqa, amidst the devastation, a cry echoed from a shattered school. It was February 2018, four months after the liberation of Raqqa. As bomb disposal experts, we knew better than to rush into potential traps set by ISIS, as they often used the cries of children as bait.
Behind a crumbling concrete pedestal, we discovered a trembling Chihuahua, the sole survivor among the lifeless bodies of his family. Born into a world of horrors, we named him Barry.
Despite my initial fear of dogs, I mustered the courage to extend a gloved hand, offering Barry a biscuit. He cautiously nibbled on it as I gently patted his tiny frame. Leaving him with food and water, I promised to return.
Barry became a beacon of hope in my life, a feeling I had not experienced since leaving the Army in 2014. Upon returning home, I grappled with the aftermath of war and personal hardships, struggling to find solace.
Attending a friend’s funeral in Syria reawakened the spirit of the soldier within me. When the opportunity arose to join the Syrian team, dedicated to helping in the aftermath of conflict, I wholeheartedly embraced it.
A month after our first encounter, I searched amidst the rubble of the school for Barry. An immense sense of relief washed over me as I heard my colleague calling out his name. Extending my bare hand, I gently caressed his head. In that moment, it felt like a natural connection.
To earn Barry’s trust, I took a leap of faith, understanding that it was not just about his well-being but also about my own journey of healing