CNN Hero of the Year Pen Farthing Reunites Soldiers with Strays

pen farthing nowzad dogs cnn hero of the yearCongratulations to Pen Farthing, who has been named CNN’s 2014 Hero of the Year.

A former Royal Marine sergeant, Farthing is the founder of Nowzad Dogs, a non-profit that reunites soldiers with the stray dogs and cats they cared for while serving in Afghanistan. The organization also built the first-ever official shelter for strays in that country.

“There is no stronger bond between man and dog than that formed during war,” Farthing said at the awards ceremony Tuesday.

After Farthing helped to break up a dog fight in Nowzad eight years ago, one of the dogs followed him back to his base. Farthing took the stray in and named him after the town. The two formed a close bond, which was almost broken the following year when Farthing’s tour of duty ended. He faced many challenges trying to transport Nowzad from Afghanistan to his home in England.

nowzad dogs pen farthingFarthing started Nowzad Dogs in 2007 to help smooth the process for other soldiers who wanted to provide forever homes for the strays they’d adopted. Nearly 700 happy reunions have taken place since then.

“Speaking from my own experience, I know that the dog I looked after was my saving grace from the stress of conflict,” Farthing said. “And because of that initial bond, the work goes on: reuniting soldiers with their companions, tackling rabies and training veterinarians in Kabul.”

CNN Heroes honors “everyday people making extraordinary efforts to change the world,” according to the network. The top 10 heroes are nominated by viewers, who also vote for the Hero of the Year winner. Each of the finalists receives $25,000 for their cause. As the Hero of the Year, Farthing will be awarded an additional $100,000 for Nowzad Dogs.

“I would like to thank everybody for their support,” Farthing said at the ceremony. “We’re making a difference for the Afghan people, the soldiers, and one dog and cat at a time.”

“CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute” will air on CNN Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. ET.

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