Friday, April 1, 2016

Smoke the Donkey; A Marine's Unlikely Friend

Hee Haw. This is not an April Fool's Day joke. Over $10,000 was spent to get a donkey from Iraq to the States. Fourteen months later the donkey died. Hee Haw.

It is crazy. In what world do people spend nine months tangled in bureaucratic tape and paperwork for a donkey?

Well, the Marines never leave a man behind.

It all started when Fobbits in Iraq presented Col. John Folsom with a donkey. He had joked that if the men ever found a donkey to bring it to him. Folsom was an animal lover and finagled the means to keep and provide the homeless waif, who happened to really like stealing the men's cigarettes, even lighted ones. Hence, his name--Smoke. Folsom discovered that Smoke had an integral role to play in the soldier's lives. Smoke became classified as a therapy animal. To the Marines he was a battle buddy.

When Col. Folsom returned stateside he provided a home for Smoke but after a while he decided to bring his battle buddy to the States. No easy task. But once secured in the U.S.A. Smoke became a great therapy animal for Marines with PTSD, a star promoter, and a real American icon with his own Facebook page. Sadly, his early neglected years left their mark on his health.

The story of Smoke is one more instance proving animals can break through our emotional fences and help us heal and find wholeness.

Written by Col. Folsom's wife Cate, an editor and news writer, the book includes primary sources and details of every step of Smoke's journey out of Iraq. Smoke and Folsom are the heart of the story. I started out enjoying the book but it bogged down when Smoke retreated to the background. I found myself speed reading through the middle.

The story does raise an interesting ethical question: Can we justify costs based only on longevity or also by impact on lives? For those who loved Smoke, what he brought to their lives was priceless.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Smoke the Donkey 
by Cate Folsom
University of Nebraska Press
Publication April 1, 2016
$24.95 hard cover

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