IRBIL, Iraq —
Army Reserve Sgt. Tracy McKithern loves dogs.
Last year, when McKithern found a little female white stray dog sniffing around camp here during her yearlong deployment to Iraq — only one thing was going to happen.
“I fell in love with her immediately,” she said.
McKithern, a combat photographer from Tampa, Florida, with the 982nd Combat Camera Company (Airborne), was stationed at the Kurdistan Training Coordination Center, a multinational military organization responsible for the training of peshmerga and Iraqi security forces in and around Irbil, from April 2017 to January 2018.
The little dog and her mother had been wandering around the base for weeks, McKithern found out. Stray dogs are common in Iraq, and the culture is not kind to them. Erby and her mom were kicked and hit with rocks daily and starving. Her brother and sister had disappeared before McKithern arrived.
‘Sweetest Little Soul’
Despite her rough experiences with humans to that point, Erby ran right up to McKithern the first time she held out her hand to the shaky little pup covered in scratches and dirt.
“She loved everyone,” McKithern said of Erby. “She is the sweetest little soul. She came up to me immediately — probably hungry, but gentle. I think she was looking for love more than anything else.”
McKithern, together with soldiers from the Italian and German armies her unit was…