This assembly looks at the special link that developed between dog and soldier.

Assembly Plan

Assembly Title: Dog’s best friend

British soldiers in Afghanistan have set up a charity to rescue dogs in the war-torn region of Helmand province. Nowzad and Tali are just two of the dogs that have been rescued and now enjoy a happy life in Britain − thanks to the work of a few dedicated people and the support of the general public. This assembly looks at the special link that developed between dog and soldier.


(You will need to have access to these web pictures.)

Map of world with Afghanistan marked:

Nowzad and Tali back in the UK:

Nowzad Dogs charity:


Have you ever thought about the job of a soldier? Quite often they have two jobs: sometimes they have to fight in different countries, but sometimes they have to help keep the peace in different countries. Right now British soldiers are serving in eighty different countries around the world. One of the countries they are serving in is called Afghanistan. It’s a landlocked country. This means it is surrounded by other countries and has no coastline nor seaside nor ships. The British soldiers are part of a United Nations International Security Assistance Force. The United Nations is where lots of countries get together to help others that need help. And Afghanistan is a country where the people are very poor and there’s a lot of fighting going on − they certainly need help. It can be a very difficult and dangerous job. Some British soldiers have been killed serving in Afghanistan and others have come home injured. The British soldiers are a long way from home and a long way from their families. For many soldiers the army becomes like a family to them and other soldiers become their closest friends. But in Afghanistan some of the soldiers have made some new best friends: ones with four feet and tails. Can you guess what sort of friends these might be? (Take suggestions.) That’s right! Some of the soldiers have made friends with stray dogs.

Sergeant Paul Farthing’s story

Sergeant Paul Farthing is a Royal Marine Commando: that means he’s tough, strong and a good fighter. In 2006 he was sent to Afghanistan with other soldiers from 42 Commando based at the Bickleigh Barracks near Plymouth in Devon. But this tough man proved that he’d got a soft heart when he came across two dogs who needed his help: Nowzad was being used in dog fights and when Sgt Farthing found him, he’d had his ears cut off; Tali, a female dog, had six starving puppies to care for and no home to go to. When Sgt Farthing stopped any more harm coming to Nowzad, the dog followed him back to the British camp. Tali brought her pups, too, carrying one at a time and squeezing in under the security fence. The dogs chose the soldiers to be their friends and to help them − so they did. The soldiers built shelters for Nowzad, Tali and her puppies and fed them on army rations to make them fit and strong. When the soldiers knew that they would be leaving Afghanistan to come back home they knew that the dogs would probably starve to death without their help. Sgt Farthing and his friends arranged for the dogs to be taken to an animal rescue centre three days’ drive away in Kabul. It wasn’t easy and it cost a lot of money and took a lot of time: the dogs were hidden in the back of trucks for three days, escaping the attention of dog thieves, and had to swap vehicles on several occasions to evade discovery. Sadly, five of Tali’s six puppies died soon after they arrived in Kabul. This made Sgt Farthing even more determined to make sure that Nowzad, Tali and her remaining puppy were going to be safe − and this meant bringing them back to the UK. They were flown three thousand five hundred miles to England and spent six months in quarantine. Now Nowzad and Tali are now living with Sgt Paul, his wife Lisa, and their two other dogs Phys and Beamer. They’ve found a home for Tali’s puppy, Helmand, named from the area where he was born, who will be brought back to the UK soon. ‘Nowzad and Tali have both come from one of the most dangerous places in the world, where all dogs have to hunt for scraps to stay alive and face the daily abuse of dog fighting or puppy breeding and even dodge military bombs. But they are now living a safe and happy existence,’ says Sergeant Farthing. The name ‘Nowzad’ means ‘new beginning’. For these dogs, their happy ending is just beginning.


‘Leave no man behind’ is a rule that soldiers try to live by. It means that no matter how difficult or dangerous, every soldier is brought home. In this true story, Sergeant Farthing of the Royal Marines has been determined to bring back to Britain all the dogs who became their friends while serving in Afghanistan. Imagine how different the world must seem to those dogs now. Not only are they safe and happy and well cared for, they have come from a landlocked country and have seen the sea for the first time.


Dear Father, Thank you for the gifts of love and compassion. Looking after pets can bring so much into our lives and we pray today for Sergeant Paul and Lisa and dogs of the Nowzad Dogs charity who are trying to improve the lives of dogs and other animals in Afghanistan. Amen.


Have you heard the saying that dogs are ‘a man’s best friend’? This saying describes the special friendship that can exist between a person and a dog. In this story the saying could be turned round because it was the men of the Royal Marines who became the best friends of some very special and very lucky dogs.

Further information

Children who have a dog can email a picture of their pet to be a ‘pal of Nowzad’ and posted on the charity’s website at Email

To see deployments of British troops around the world, go to

It costs two thousand pounds to rescue each dog, so the charity is now working to train Afghan people to become vets. They’ll train in the UK then go back to Afghanistan for the animals who desperately need their help. The mission statement of the Nowzad dog charity is:

‘To relieve the suffering of animals, predominantly stray and abandoned dogs, in need of care and attention and to provide and maintain rescue facilities for the care and treatment of such animals, especially the dogs of Afghanistan.’

This e-bulletin issue was first published in January 2008

About the author: Gerald Haigh