The White Fluffy Dog, Mortars, and Rain

Photography by Jayel Aheram.

Butts the Mangy Mutt was the unfortunate victim of a pack wild dogs that roam the open desert around this base. At night, I could hear them howl and bay at the moon and sometimes laugh and cackle like hyenas. And while I was on post during the night, I would see their silhouettes against the night as they slink in and out of the shadows. But I have never really seen what they looked like until today.

One of them, a very white and fluffy mongrel with a medium upturned and curled tail, seems to be the leader of his pack. He somehow led his pack through the wires undetected into a fairly large water retention pool for a little bit of dip (in the entire history of this base thus far, his pack would be the only locals that managed to repeatedly enter the base unauthorized and undetected). His pack consists of a gangly-looking Dalmatian, some sort of snow-white dog that looked like a German Shepherd (Is white german shepherd a myth? Because I think I saw one just then), a very agitated brown dog, and a rather menacing looking giant rat (at least, I am ready to be convinced that it was a rat for it certainly looked like it). I am assuming that this is just a small part of his pack, unless there are other packs of wild dogs. Anyway, his pack is known to occasionally venture at night to feast on the MRE trash left unattended by Marines at the base of the guard towers. But at this moment, they were happily drinking and splashing in the water of the retention pool. Of course, being the leader, White Fluffy Dog did not take part in the canine merriment, but instead posted himself guard on top of a sand dune overlooking the retention pool. I stared at him and he stared right back. And then I realized what these filthy mutts were doing. “Great,” I sighed, “they are splashing around in what will be my shower water.”

Mortars, while not hitting the base, are a daily life here in this base. Every time I am on post, I would not fail to hear the Marine manning the radar station screaming “COUNTERFIRE! COUNTERFIRE!” from the radio. If this does not happen at least three times in that eight-hour post, it is a slow day for insurgency. Nearly most of the time, however, the mortars are aimed at targets within the city. While regular, mortar attacks aimed at the base are infrequent. Also, a few of the mortars are duds. They would fall harmlessly into the desert sand and not explode. These we would find during our patrols (we actually found one yesterday) which we would contact EOD (explosives ordnance department/division) about. They would come in and cart it off somewhere for a controlled explosion. The only problem with EOD is that they are lax about notifying our company about these controlled explosions and when they do a controlled explosion, many of us invariably swamp COC (command operating center) with excited reports about an explosion.

It has been raining here for a while. And apparently, when it rains in the desert, it pours. There had been reports of flash floods occuring around and about. And the “empty river beds” that crisscross the desert around the base are no longer empty and are happily gurgling along towards the Euphrates.