After winning the hearts of soldiers in Afghanistan, one lucky pup has become part of a family in Austin.
Arty was found malnourished outside of an Army camp in a war zone. "Once we get a dog, we take care of it like it's a part of the family," said Eric, a warrant officer in the U.S. Special Forces
The dog quickly learned his place with the soldiers there. "So once we brought him in, started feeding him, and he kind of assimilated in with us, he kind of became our guard dog," Eric said.
Surrounded by the sights and sounds of war, the soldiers found comfort in their furry companion.
"You'd be surprised, grown men, how much they love just having a puppy around. That kind of brings them back to normal," said Eric. Eric grew attached to Arty and, before long, his family did too.
"Once I saw a picture of Eric with Arty, I just had to bring him home. I felt like I was somehow ensuring Eric would get home," said Eric's sister, Teresa Ridenhour.
Eric was on board, but knew it would take thousands of dollars to transport the dog back to the U.S. "It definitely doesn't happen overnight. When my brother said, 'Are you really serious? Do you think we can bring him home?' I said, 'Yeah. I'm going to raise money and I'll start a Facebook fundraising campaign, a GoFundMe campaign, and we'll raise the money somehow,'" Teresa said.
About halfway to their goal, a surprise donation made the mission possible. "So we were just ecstatic when Purina Dog Chow kicked in $2,000. It was the rest of the money we needed," said Teresa.
Arty was taken to Nowzad, an organization in Kabul that helps send stray animals in war zones to the U.S. He was quarantined for two months before flying halfway around the world to meet his new family.
"He's like having a toddler that sees everything for the first time. When we first brought him home, he just rolled in the grass nonstop. I mean, just up and down the yard, because he had never felt grass before," Teresa said.
In October, Eric and Arty finally got to see each other again. "So I just want him to live a good life, and, if he provides that comfort for my family while I'm gone, that's all the better," said Eric.
Still, Arty's job is far from over. Although now, it's Eric's family that the pup will help heal.
"His deployments aren't over and so, it's just a part of him," Teresa said.
Originally, Arty was going to live with Eric when he was home from deployment, but after Teresa had a tough year, Eric decided the dog should stay with her in Austin.
Still, Eric will get to visit whenever he's back in the States.