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First Posted Feb 9, 2009
Jul 22, 2010

The Colonel and his Smoke

The Colonel and his Smokeby Dheera Sujan, 05-02-2009
Story, Images and Video

He weighs about 245 pounds, is grey, and has the unusual talent of eating cigarettes - lit or unlit - which made it inevitable that he would be named Smoke.
Smoke: talent for eating cigarettes

Smoke with the 1st Marine Logistics Group of the United States Marine Corps Back in August of 2008, a skinny docile donkey wandered into Camp Taqqadam in Iraq, the base of the . The men brought him to Colonel John D. Folsom and it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

The camp doctor stitched up the cuts on the animal's jaw and hooves, the men fed him vegetables until the Colonel found a local supplier and dug into his own pocket to keep the donkey in hay and ever since, Smoke has ingratiated himself into the hearts of the Marines.

"We're humanitarians after all, we all had pets at home," says the Colonel. "I care for the little guy ...and I've taken on a commitment."

The Colonel means it. A donkey can live up to 40 years, and if the new US President is to be believed, there's no way the Americans are going to be staying that long in Iraq, so the Colonel is looking for options to bring Smoke to the U.S. and find him a home in a donkey shelter. And he's pretty sure he can do it.

Icebreaker
Why go to all the trouble? "Well when you take on a commitment to an animal, you can't just dump him after you leave." And though the Colonel shies away from using the word 'love' in connection to his donkey, there's no doubting the attachment.

Colonel John D. Folsom
Smoke accompanies the Colonel on walks through the camp, he lets himself be petted and photographed by the soldiers, and has become a favorite topic of conversation between the men and their children back home. "It's like an icebreaker, because the men have been away from home for a long time and sometimes its hard to find a way to connect with them when they call home."

But ever since Smoke turned up, the marines have been sending photos of the camp mascot to their kids back home, and now when they call, their kids want to hear stories of Smoke.

But Smoke is more than just a pet - he's a working animal - what's his job? "His job is to keep us happy," says the Colonel unequivocally.


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