TRUMBULL, Conn. (AP) – The new resident of Pinewood Trail is quite curious about his surroundings. After all, before his arrival less than two weeks ago, he had never seen a beautiful lake, falling leaves or grass.

But Kindi, a native of Iraq, has won permission to live in the United States after suffering horrifying abuse in his homeland.

“He just takes two steps and stops to smell, because it’s new,” said Susan Szmyt, Kindi’s caretaker.

Her son, Army Capt. Derek Szmyt, then a second lieutenant, and his platoon found the mixed-breed pooch last spring while on patrol.

“They saw these Iraqi kids throwing this oddly shaped ball,” Susan Szmyt said, relating her son’s account. But the “ball” appeared to move on its own.

When they stopped to investigate, what the American soldiers saw was no toy.

It was a puppy.

“The kids were getting ready to kick the dog over the vehicle,” Susan Szmyt said. But they never got the chance.

“It’s not your dog anymore,” one of the soldiers told them as they took away the battered puppy.

According to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals International, which flew Kindi – named for Al-Kindi, the town in Iraq where he was rescued – here as part of its Operation Baghdad Pups, animal abuse in the Middle East is common. Many dogs and cats aren’t domesticated, and some are rabid.

“It’s the equivalent of a rat,” Stephanie Scroggs, the agency’s spokeswoman, said of the widely held reputation of dogs in Iraq.

The soldiers in Szmyt’s platoon brought the puppy back to their base, where a veterinarian was on hand to care for military bomb-sniffing canines. The vet gave the new arrival a clean bill of health. So Kindi suddenly had a new home.

Soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan aren’t supposed to have pets, but hundreds of them have befriended native cats and dogs, and the animals have sometimes been accommodated in unusual circumstances.

Scroggs said the adopted pets often provide therapeutic support for the stress of a battle zone and particularly for soldiers who have lost comrades. In any case, “they create a deep bond,” she said.

Derek and Kindi quickly formed such a relationship, and the soldier got to work researching ways to get Kindi sent to the States. He stumbled upon the work of Terri Crisp, an SPCA official organizing an animal-rescue program. Derek asked his mother to investigate further.

Scroggs said the rescue costs about $4,000 per animal, which is covered through donations. To do so, the SPCA charters part of a plane out of Baghdad. Kindi then flew from Kuwait to Amsterdam, and arrived at Dulles International Airport outside Washington two weeks ago.

The SPCA brought an official from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who signed off on his immigration into the United States. The dog stayed with the SPCA until the Szmyts came to pick him up.

Kindi traveled here with some of Derek’s clothes to give him the comfort of familiar smells, and Susan and her husband, Wayne, picked him up in Washington, arriving back home early Nov. 2.

The couple phoned Derek as soon as they had picked up Kindi. “I thought he was going to cry,” his mother said.

At about 50 pounds, Kindi is bigger than the Szmyts thought he would be, but that’s not all.

“He’s much more friendly than we expected,” said Derek’s father. He slept downstairs when they got home to make sure Kindi would be OK, and when Kindi was finally let out of his travel kennel, “he came right up on the bed and just slept,” he said.

Kindi displayed great interest in visitors to the Szmyt home, politely sniffing and otherwise scampering around the newly recarpeted living room.

The captain, who left Iraq for his new assignment in Germany Oct. 21, is scheduled to be home before Thanksgiving for a monthlong leave. He expects to return to Germany to finish out the remaining 15 months of his military service.

“I can’t wait to see their reunion,” Susan said.

Each pet flown here has a guaranteed home such as the Szmyts are providing for Kindi. But when Capt. Szmyt leaves the service and moves elsewhere, he’ll leave behind two partial-beagle friends – as well as two cats – in his parents’ household.

Not that the couple will be happy to see the new arrival go, but “it’s Derek’s dog,” Susan said.

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