One Dog at a Time by Pen Farthing

I wanted to read One Dog at a Time by Pen Farthing because I was interested in his work in Afghanistan. I was expecting to read about dogs, but I was not expecting to understand from a short book about dogs the monumental failure in Afghanistan. Pen talks about the dogs he saved, but he also talks about what the British army and the Afghan police were doing. I was surprised by how little attention is given to the mental welfare of the military. For example, they only had a limited amount of time to phone their families each week and that was too short anyway. How can someone function at 100% when they might be worried by something that happened at home and they can’t just have a 20 minutes chat once a week?

One Dog at a Time by Pen Farthing

Pen was assigned to an outpost in Now Zad, in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Very little care is given to forging links with the local community and what they manage to do is due to them and not to policy. The locals do not trust the foreign armies, and, obviously, why would they? Talibans are keeping a close eye on what is happening and is threatening the locals. The Afghan police is mainly not bothered, which, again, why would they act differently? Dogs/animals are seen as unimportant by the military, as mascots, when in fact they could  easily be seen as therapy dogs, giving the troops something close to normal, helping them would make them feel proud and that they are making a difference too. If more compassion would have been shown to animals, that could have been translated to humans too.

I highly recommend this book to pretty much anybody. If you like animals, if you like history, if you want to understand better what happened in Afghanistan, or just if you pay taxes and you might want to see how the money is spent, especially on wars abroad.

One Dog at a Time by Pen Farthing

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 5/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes!!!
Published by: Ebury Press
Year it was published: 2010 (first published in 2009)
Format: Paperback
Genre(s): Memoir
Pages: 320

About the author: Other books by Pen Farthing: No Place Like Home: A New Beginning with the Dogs of Afghanistan; Wylie: The Brave Street Dog Who Never Gave Up.
Website & Social Media Links: –



4 thoughts on “One Dog at a Time by Pen Farthing”

  • I think this sounds like a very interesting book, on all levels. While I agree it was high time our troops (American) were withdrawn from Afghanistan, I don’t believe it was done in the right manner. (I’m old enough to remember the fall of Saigon and the images from that) Plenty could be said about Western involvement in countries/cultures we don’t truly understand, but I’ll not get in to any of that. I’ll look and see what my options are for reading this…
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    • After reading the book I don’t think there was a right manner to withdraw because the western military did not engage with the people on the ground in a way that would have empowered them to stand up to the Taliban. I hope you get to read it, because it is such a complete view of what happened then, in the words on a man posted there, who doesn’t look like he is trying to make himself/British military look better.

  • Mmm! Probably not too many comments from me on this one and definitely not a book I shall be reading. Whilst not an animal person per se, I don’t like to see any animal suffer at the hands of humans, so in that respect I applaud Pen’s work and dedication —– However, when there are plenty of animals suffering all over the world who would benefit from his help, for us to have given priority to getting Afghan animals out of the country, over and above filling the planes with humans who needed our help, including women and children, I’m afraid I have to draw the line!!! —– I am pleased that you found something good to take away from reading this book and thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂
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    • The book was written 12 years before Biden withdraw his troops from Afghanistan. As I said, the book is not about animals or just about animals, but about everything, people, Brits, Afghans.
      As for saving the animals, they paid for 1 plane to get the animals out, it was not paid from taxpayers’ money, so I really don’t see the problem. Humans need to be vetted before being taken out, and, despite what the “impartial” media is saying, UK has airlifted many more people than every other European country (France was at 5,000, while UK was at about 15,000). The problem is not that more people should have been airlifted, is what happened in Afghanistan for decades and from that point of view, this book offers a very good insight into how the war was waged. For me this book shows exactly the causes of why the war in Afghanistan was lost.

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