An Air Force veteran and the dog he fell in love with while on patrol in a Middle East war zone will be reunited, said federal lawmakers.
U.S. health authorities have cleared the pup, a 55-pound Canaan Dog named Harley, to join Staff Sgt. Amjad Kirrish, who adopted the dog through Paws of War, a Nesconset-based organization that matches battle-tested vets with pets.
Kirrish, 30, left the Middle East in June and is now living stateside with his wife in Ventura County, California — waiting for Harley.
“Words cannot describe the appreciation that my wife and I have for all the hard work and support from every single person involved,” Kirrish said. “We are eternally humbled and grateful. We are counting down the days to be reunited with our little girl, Harley.”
Their reunion was delayed last month due to a clerical error, said Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), who led a letter-writing campaign with her fellow lawmakers to bring Harley home to Kirrish. The dog was en route to California when she was detained at Kennedy Airport by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Aug. 25 because papers documenting her rabies vaccination did not contain information about her Jordan, Amman-based veterinarian, Rice said.
Rice and other lawmakers — on both sides of the aisle — including Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), Peter King (R-Seaford), Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans), on Tuesday wrote to CDC director Robert Redfield pleading with him to release Harley to Kirrish. The CDC and federal Department of Health and Human Services then issued a permit allowing Harley to remain in the United States.
“I am simply overwhelmed with joy for Staff Sgt. Kirrish and Harley, and I am so relieved they will be reunited soon,” said Rice, who serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee and is primary co-sponsor of a bill to pair veterans with service dogs. “I thank my colleagues in the Long Island delegation for coming together on this issue, and I am grateful to the CDC and HHS for doing the right thing and allowing Harley entry into the United States.”
Paws of War co-founder Robert Misseri said: “We are beyond thrilled Harley will be reunited with her family. Thank you to Congresswoman Rice and the entire Long Island congressional delegation for their hard work. They made a true difference and helped bring this story to a very happy ending.”
Harley was scheduled to be vaccinated for rabies on Thursday and must undergo a 28-day quarantine before being reunited with Kirrish.