Dog-Eared Reads: One Dog at a Time reviewed

One Dog at a Time (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)
One Dog at a Time (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images) /

One Dog at a Time is a gentle war story of dog rescue.

One Dog at a Time, by Pen Farthing, is a gentle war story about the small ray of hope that comes from helping rescue dogs in the middle of a battle-scarred nation in a conflict beyond all understanding in complexity.

One Dog at a Time: Saving the Strays of Afghanistan was published in 2009 by Thomas Dunne Books.


Farthing was in a middle-management role in the British Royal Marines when his troop was deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 outside a mountain town called Now Zad in the Helmand province, located in the south-central part of the country.

Unable to connect with the locals due to numerous cultural barriers, Farthing, along with his friends Dave and John, gradually become caretakers of a small pack of rescue dogs, some of whom were saved from dogfighting careers.

These dogs include a Alsatian-looking dog named Nowzad (after the town), a goofy-looking playful pup named RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade), their mother Jena, RPG’s equally-playful younger sister AK (a smaller version of the RPG), and a white dog named Tali.

Jena and Tali both have litters, making things much more complicated, and taking care of the dogs greatly complicates the already-rigid military schedule.

After numerous attempts by Farthing’s wife Lisa to arrange for dog rescues to transport the dogs by car from Now Zad to a city in the northern part of the country fall through, at the last possible second a ride comes through for the dogs.

Along the way, Farthing and his friends get to know the Afghan police unit stationed at the base, and the exchange of cultures brightens the monotony a little bit for both sides.

RPG and AK disappeared halfway through the transport, and neither did one of the puppies. Jena was adopted almost immediately, and 11 of the puppies eventually died from parvo.

On the other hand, Nowzad and Tali were adopted by Farthing and Lisa, and they started the charity Nowzad Dogs, which sent dogs to Puppy Bowl XV (their behind-the-scenes feature was how we learned of the organization).

What we thought

Books about wars are nearly as plentiful as wars themselves, and they’re usually very depressing (unless the reader enjoys military history, there are many who enjoy that). War books are very rarely hopeful, which is what makes One Dog at a Time so special – Farthing conveys a sense of Bear Grylls-like humanity and decency. which is often lacking from military works.

There is still a lot of military jargon throughout that is mostly left unexplained, of course, but that doesn’t bog the story down all that much.

It would be interesting to read this back-to-back with Matthew Duffy’s creative nonfiction work Franklin, to get a more fuller grasp of the role of military dogs during the War in Afghanistan, which has stretched for about a hundred years in dog time.

Next. One Hundred Dogs and Counting a must-read for all dog lvoers. dark

If you get a chance to read this inspiring work, you should at the first opportunity.