Charlie Girl is a lucky girl.
Rescued from war-torn Afghanistan, the mixed-breed dog now lives a peaceful life in a Wytheville backyard.
Her story began in April when she wandered onto a military camp in southern Afghanistan, where Gabriel Maciolek was serving his third tour as a drone pilot for the U.S. Navy. Charlie Girl was just 3 weeks old then.
“We have wild dogs that come up on camp,” Gabriel said. “A lot of them are in really rough shape, and they don’t really come in contact with us, but the puppies don’t know any better yet.”
Gabriel named her Charlie Girl because of the phonetic alphabet used in the military.
“Alpha, bravo, Charlie, delta — Charlie just made sense,” he said.
There was something about Charlie Girl that melted the Navy man’s heart, but he was set to ship back to the States that month and could not keep her at camp. So, he connected with Nowzad, the first official animal shelter in Afghanistan. The group handles immunizations and travel plans to reunite soldiers with their “Battle Buddies.”
Between the shots, quarantine arrangements and flights out of Afghanistan to the States, it can cost thousands of dollars to rehome a dog.
Gabriel thought he had a new home lined up for Charlie Girl, but plans fell through, leaving him to take Charlie Girl into his small Philadelphia apartment in July, not an ideal situation for a rambunctious puppy.
“Where I’m at in Philly, it’s a very small apartment with two businesses below me,” he said. “It’s not the ideal place for a dog. But I made it as comfortable as I could for her. I picked her up, and we fell in love. She’s one of the sweetest dogs ever.”
As much as he loved Charlie Girl, he knew his home was not the best place for her.
“I was trying to house-train a wild dog in a little apartment,” he said. “We butted heads a few times, but there was a lot of petting and scratching going on, too. We were a good team.”
But deep inside, Gabriel knew his hound needed more room, and he is set to return to Afghanistan in the autumn. He wanted to find a new home for Charlie Girl but had a few rules: She liked being around other dogs, and a big yard was a must.
“Those are kind of the rules I had that I thought she would prosper in,” he said. “The time she looked most like a dog is when she was off-leash, and I knew I couldn’t do that for her.”
Enter longtime Wytheville physician Jim McConnell and his wife, Pam, animal lovers who have rescued their fair share of dogs. It turns out that Pam is the first cousin of Gabriel’s mother.
“We’ll take her,” the McConnells told Gabriel, who recently traveled with his mother eight hours from Philadelphia to Wytheville.
“She is doing really well, and he’s happy that she’s happy,” Pam McConnell said. “He really loves this dog; he had to love her to bring her from Afghanistan. She’s a sweet girl. We have no idea what kind of dog she is, and nobody cares; I don’t care.”
Charlie Girl fit right in with the McConnells’ other dogs: 13-year-old Dexter, 6-year-old Nimoy (yes, named after Leonard “Spock” Nimoy) and puppy Cappy, born in October.
“They are wonderful, dog-loving people,” Gabriel said of his cousins, adding that he admires their decades of work to rescue dogs. “It was so amazing to see Charlie Girl get in right away with their dogs. They are all brothers now. It was like they had been doing this forever. There is no other place I’d rather have Charlie Girl at than to live with them. It was a shame to see her go, but she is in a good spot and definitely living her best life.”
For information on Nowzad, visit online at https://www.nowzad.com or the group’s Facebook page.