Afghan refugee in British Columbia reunited with her dog after a year apart
A BC woman who fled Afghanistan last year was finally reunited with her beloved dog at the Peace Arch border crossing in Surrey on Saturday morning.
Freshta Siddiqui last saw Lucky – a three-year-old Anatolian Shepherd Dog – when she was sending him and their cat Leo on a plane full of pets chartered by the Society for the Prevention and Cruelty of Animals (SPCA) International from Kabul to Vancouver in February 2022 .
Lucky stayed in a series of foster homes, eventually ending up in a temporary home in Portland, Oregon as Siddiqui and her mother struggled to get to Canada as refugees.
Shortly after sending Lucky and Leo away, they fled Afghanistan for Pakistan, where they stayed for 10 months before arriving in Vancouver in December. Leo stayed with friends in Vancouver until Siddiqui arrived.
After finding a dog-friendly home in Vancouver, Siddiqui and her mom arranged to meet Lucky this weekend.
“I am filled with this overwhelming feeling of joy and gratitude,” Siddiqui said as she and her mother waited for Lucky at Peace Arch Provincial Park on Saturday.
Siddiqui said she has a close bond with her dog, which she rescued after seeing children throw rocks at the animal in Kabul.
“I couldn’t take it. I went and grabbed Lucky and brought him home.”
She said Lucky returned the favor when he barked when strangers entered Siddiqui’s home in September 2021.
“He barked and let us know that strangers, Taliban, were already in our house and we were being attacked,” Siddiqui said.
She said the Taliban, who remain listed as a terrorist entity under Canadian law, targeted her family for their advocacy of women’s rights.
Siddiqui says she looks forward to feeding Lucky and introducing him back to Leo, who is waiting for him at home.
“Lucky means family to me. Lucky means a part of my heart that was gone and now I have it.”
Lori Kalef, director of programs for SPCA International, said the plane chartered by the agency rescued hundreds of pets from Afghanistan who probably would not have been able to leave the country with their owners.
“Freshta’s story really touched our hearts,” said Kalef.
Lucky stayed at the organization’s temporary accommodation in the YVR South Terminal upon arrival in Vancouver. Kalef said his separation anxiety, trauma and talent for opening doors made it difficult to find a care home for him.
“Lucky is a very, very funny, big, silly dog. He has no idea how big he is, he thinks he’s a lap dog,” Kalef said. “He loves to play, he loves toys and he loves opening doors.”
Eventually, a suitable temporary home was found for him in Portland. Kalef, who attended Saturday’s reunion between Siddiqui and Lucky, said all the effort was worth it.
“We are very, very excited to make this reunion possible.”