It took 37 days and a group of determined animal lovers, but a donkey from Iraq is now a United States resident.
Smoke the donkey, who became a friend and mascot to a group of US Marines living in Iraq's Anbar Province nearly three years ago, arrived in New York this week aboard a cargo jet from Turkey. After being quarantined for two days he was released on Saturday and began a road trip to Omaha, Nebraska, where he is destined to become a therapy animal.
The donkey had wandered into Camp Taqaddum, west of Fallujah, in 2008. It soon became such a part of the unit that he received his own care packages and cards. Marines took care of him until 2009 when they left the area. But one of the Marines, retired Colonel John Folsom, the founder of a support group for military families, Wounded Warriors Family Support, could not forget Smoke and decided to see if the donkey could be brought to the US.
The journey is estimated to have cost between $30,000 to $40,000 (£18,500 to £24,700), with expenses such as $150 to ship Smoke's blood from Turkey to a US Department of Agriculture lab in Iowa, $18,890 for a Lufthansa flight through Frankfurt, Germany, and $400 a day for quarantine in New York. Colonel Folsom acknowledged some people may be critical of the expense, which was paid for through donations.