My dog was kidnapped by the Taliban and beaten within an inch of his life


SALLY Baldwin owned three rescue dogs, but when she heard about a very special pooch she felt she had to make room for one more.

Brin was a stray who began tagging along with troops on their tour of Afghanistan, even protecting them from explosives.

In September 2010 Brin landed in the UK and after six months in quarantine he was able to join Sally and her family
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But after he was captured by the Taliban, an ordeal that saw the dog beaten within an inch of its life, Brin was in need of a new forever home in the UK.

Speaking to Fabulous Digital Sally, 58, from Hailsham, East Sussex shares his incredible story…

It was June 2010 and I was on Facebook, viewing a post by our friend, Kevin. It featured a national newspaper story about his nephew, army Captain Mark Townend, who was at the time serving out in Afghanistan – and a stray dog named Brin.

Intrigued, I read how Brin, a brown mongrel, had followed British soldiers on patrol in the desert badlands, barking to alert them of bombs hidden in the roadside dirt.

Brin began tagging along with Captain Mark Townend when he was serving in Afghanistan
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It meant soldiers could avoid the explosive devices, and in some cases, destroy them. He was so useful, he was adopted by the Royal Gurkha Rifles, and went to live on their base.

But two months later he was captured by the Taliban – then held hostage while they bragged of kidnapping what they described as “an SAS dog!”

During his ordeal, he was beaten so badly, his ribs and even his nose were broken.

Incredibly, the Afghan National Army eventually mounted a special rescue raid to recapture him.

Now Captain Townend was caring for Brin – while relatives from back home sent anti-flea and de-worming tablets!

He would even bark to alert the soldiers about explosives nearby
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I told my husband Ray: “It’s amazing. This dog has actually saved lives. But I know Mark is soon due to leave Afghanistan, and return home. I wonder what will happen to his dog once the regiment leaves Helmand Province?”

Ray and me are animal-lovers. At the time, we had three rescue pooches of our own – collies Ruby, Jacob and Dennis. Now, on our daily walks, I found myself thinking about Brin.

Eventually I emailed Mark – troops out in Afghanistan were allowed regular access to email, to boost their morale.

Replying, he wrote: “Brin is a wonderful dog. He grew up as a wild animal, scratching a living in the desert, yet he’s gentle and friendly.

I’ve never forgotten the many stray dogs out there – what friendship and comfort they gave us lads during the conflict


“But now we know he’s a Taliban target, we can’t take him on patrol any more. I keep him tethered on the base and walk him daily.

“He shares my rations of bacon and beans! But I worry about his future. I found a charity willing to bring him to the UK, where he’d be safe. But they need me to raise £4,000 in funds – I can’t do that from Afghanistan.”

For days, I turned things over in my head. As a teacher I was about to start my long summer holidays. I’d have the time to donate to raising funds…

So now I emailed Mark: “Let me do it.”

Sally Baldwin began raising funds to bring Brin back to the UK
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In July 2010, term ended and my mission to save Brin began. I launched a Facebook appeal, then emailed every newspaper and radio station I could find – but only my local paper replied. Still, they were kind enough to write a front-page story: “Bid to rescue hero dog.”

Next, I made dozens of posters, putting them in parks, pet shops, garden centres. Any place I could get a message across to people who loved animals and might donate!

Amazingly, within days, the first donations were sent to my newly-opened PO box.

Some people gave £5, while others chipped in £100. One pensioner send a tenner with a note: “I served in the Suez Crisis of 1967. I’ve never forgotten the many stray dogs out there – what friendship and comfort they gave us lads during the conflict.”

I hand-wrote a thank you letter for every donation – soon I was writing letters 12 hours a day! But I was happy when every day brought me closer to rescuing Brin.

Brin was put through a horrific ordeal when he was captured and beaten by the Taliban
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Soon, an email arrived: “Brin has arrived at the animal rescue centre in Kabul, Afghanistan.

He was smuggled there in a box in the back of an army truck. In two weeks’ time he’ll be airlifted to Germany to get the necessary vaccinations – then he can be flown to quarantine in Britain.” I cried tears of joy.

“The appeal has raised £5,000 in just six weeks!” I told my sons George and Charlie. “I can’t believe how generous people have been.”

Days later came another email from Mark. Until now, I’d always assumed that after Brin arrived in this country, he’d go to the captain’s family. But now Mark wrote: “It wouldn’t be right for me to take a dog on. Not when I may be posted anywhere in the world. I’ve been thinking – can Brin live with you?”

I asked Ray what he thought. At first he said: “Not another animal! We’ve already got a houseful!”

He’d just been through a traumatic journey and didn’t know me – I couldn’t rush up to him and throw my arms round his neck!

Sally Baldwin

But after talking it over, we agreed that we could make room in our home and our hearts for another pet.

On September 16, 2010, Brin landed at Heathrow Airport, then began his six months of quarantine at a kennels in West Sussex. By now I was back at school, but the very next day, after my classes were over, I went to meet him.

I’d given lots of thought to how I should behave. While I’d be thrilled to see Brin for the first time, I knew I should take things slowly. He’d just been through a traumatic journey and didn’t know me – I couldn’t rush up to him and throw my arms round his neck!

Instead I walked quietly into his kennel, sat on the floor, and waited for him to come to me.

Sure enough, within seconds he was giving me a good sniffing!

Eventually he Afghan National Army eventually mounted a special rescue raid to recapture the pooch
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Brin was barrel-chested and short-legged, looking like a cross between a Beagle and a Labrador. I noticed he had webbed feet – apparently common in dogs from Afghanistan. He was friendly and good natured as I’d expected, but in a bit of a sorry state. His coat was dirty and full of sand, his eyes mucky.

He’d need time and TLC to restore him to good physical condition.

Back home, I posted a video of our first meeting on YouTube – it got over 6,000 hits.

After that I visited Brin three times weekly, slowly gaining his trust. Sometimes I was so tired after a busy day at school that – sitting on the floor with him – I dropped off to sleep, waking later with my head pillowed on his bottom. He never seemed to mind.

During this time I got a special licence to have him neutered – I felt that would make it easier for him to integrate with our other dogs, once he moved in with us.

Brin became a Taliban target and Mark became increasingly worried for his safety
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Mark arrived back in the country and also visited him, bringing with him a sock ball that the army lads had made the dog, out in Helmand Province.

Brin recognised his old friend straight away. I’ve never seen a dog’s tail wag so much.

Finally in March 2011, it was time for him to leave the kennels and come home with us.

Ray said: “This won’t be easy for him.” I agreed: “Brin didn’t start life as a domestic pet. He was once a wild animal, he has never lived in a house before.”

Sure enough, he spent the first few days charging about, climbing all over the furniture, jumping on tables, sending our ornaments flying.  Eventually we had to keep him on a lead indoors, until he learned the basic rules of civilised behaviour!

She admits that it took a while for her to gain Brin’s trust and for him to become house trained as well as get used to her other dogs
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But to our delight he quickly calmed down and learned to tolerate our other dogs. And although he’d never been house-trained, he had only one accident before realising he should do his business outdoors.

More difficult was Brin’s behaviour when we were out for walks. He was very frightened of other dogs and – while still wagging his tail – would bark and growl.

Eventually we resolved that problem by taking him for daily “social sessions” at a nearby boarding kennel owned by a friend, where he became more confident.

But he remained terrified by men with beards – perhaps they reminded him of the Taliban who were once cruel to him.

Although I’ve adored all our  dogs, there was always something special about our Afghan hound

Sally Baldwin



I kept Brin’s fans informed of his progress with regular updates on his Facebook page.

Out in the garden, he spent hours digging shallow holes in which to lay. We discovered that’s common canine behaviour in Afghanistan – dogs burrow into the sand to keep cool in the hot sun. He also liked to sit high up on a garden table, standing guard over his “patch”.

In June 2011, Brin got a PDSA animal commendation for accompanying British troops on patrol in Afghanistan. He became an ambassador for the Canine Concern charity, visiting care homes including a residential facility for ex-servicemen and women.

In 2014, we took on another rescue dog – Trinni, from the Ukraine. Something about her just seemed to melted Brin’s heart – she was the first dog he ever really warmed to.

For many years, Brin never liked playing with balls or toys – it was if he had never learned to play, but maybe that’s not so surprising, as he did grow up in a war zone.

Brin changed my life. Through him, I learned that animals can be heroes – and that people can be more kind and generous than I’d ever have thought possible.

Sally Baldwin

But after Trinni arrived, he did start to enjoy picking up sticks and carrying them in his mouth.

Over the years, he raised £40,000 for charities helping animals in war zones. He was eventually recognised on a list of 12 of the world’s greatest animal heroes!

But earlier this year, his health started to fail – by then, we think he was about 11 years old. He developed heart problems and we realised that we weren’t going to have him much longer.

On the night of June 1, 2019, he went to bed  and passed away peacefully in his sleep.

When I phoned Mark to break the sad news, he told me: “For him to go in his sleep like that, was his parting gift – so you never had to make a decision to have him put to sleep.”

We miss Brin very much.

Although I’ve adored all our  dogs, there was always something special about our Afghan hound.

Brin changed my life. Through him, I learned that animals can be heroes – and that people can be more kind and generous than I’d ever have thought possible.

*Sally is donating her fee for this story to War Paws, a UK charity helping animals in Iraq and other hostile environments. Find out more at

In other real life news, a nurse who is dying of cancer is travelling the world with her boyfriend and says she will die alongside him no matter where in the world they are.

And we told you about the mum who issued a warning to parents after her three-year-old daughter ‘nearly died’ from eating popcorn.



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