Mission rescues puppies from war zone

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Puppy Rescue Mission Inc., is a Colorado nonprofit organization dedicated to rescuing four-legged “battle buddies” for soldiers coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq.

The organization is hosting the “PRM Puppy Picnic” for people interested in learning more about the organization from noon-4 p.m. Sept. 3 at Bear Creek Regional Park in Colorado Springs. A crew from the Oprah Winfrey Network will also be on hand to film a show about the mission.

Special guests include Sgt. Chris Duke and Rufus, one of the “lucky seven” dogs rescued from a base in Afghanistan after he and his canine pals Target and Sasha foiled a suicide bomber who had gotten into the camp and up to the barracks. The three dogs raised a ruckus and attacked the bomber. The bomb detonated prematurely, killing Sasha and the bomber but saving the lives of all the soldiers. In gratitude, Rufus, Target and Target’s five pups were brought to the United States.

“It all started with a Facebook page,” said board member Suzanne Core, who lives in Cripple Creek. “Chris (Duke) asked his fiancée if she could help raise money to get the dogs to the states.”

The fiancée, Anna Cannan, started selling candles and in April 2010 she posted on Facebook to see if anyone could help.

“The response was phenomenal,” Core said. “Now the page has 15,000 friends.”

The page has since started a Friday Dollar Challenge, where each featured pup has its own page and people donate $1 to bring it home.

“Somehow I found the page and with my limited budget I was intrigued that one dollar could bring a soldier’s puppy home,” Core said. “Every Friday I donated $1 for each dog featured that week.”

Cannan, who lives in Maine and a few others selected themselves to form an organization through a private Facebook page.

“Eventually, thinking like a lawyer, I pointed out that too much money was going through a private organization and that the feds might start to question where the money was going,” said Core, who is a retired attorney. “For $50 and few hours of my time we registered the organization with the state and incorporated in December 2010.”

The next step was getting tax exempt status from the IRS. “We became tax deductible in April and received our letter from the IRS in June,” Core said. “Our tax exempt status became retroactive to last December.”

Since forming the nonprofit, the Puppy Rescue Mission had rescued 138 dogs as of July. “We’re well on our way to 150 dogs,” Core said, adding that most of the dogs have gone to specific soldiers or to a family member who will take care of it until the soldier comes home.

However, sometimes things don’t work out.

“We have an adoption committee that finds homes for unclaimed dogs and sometimes a board member gets a dog” Core said, referring to her latest “accidental canine acquisition,” Bo.

A dog named Bruno was supposed to have gone to a soldier in Texas but a mix up brought home the wrong pup and Core ended up with a new dog instead.

“I called him ‘Not Bruno’ for the first few weeks,” she said. “I already had a Tux and a Tie so I thought we needed a Bo.”

Even though the organization was incorporated last year, many of the board members, all of whom live in different areas of the county, have never met each other in person. Hence the reason for the picnic.

Core said it isn’t too late to plan to attend the picnic — just rsvp to puppyrescuemission@yahoo.com before Sept. 2. For more information, visit puppyrescuemission.org.