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Snickle Fritz the dog rescued from a rubbish tip in Afghanistan by US Marines now living it up in Canberra

It's been quite the journey for Snickle Fritz the dog, from a rubbish dump in Afghanistan to the leafy suburbs of Canberra.

But her story is more profound than that. Her calm presence helped a United States Marine keep a grip on humanity as he fought the Taliban in Afghanistan. She continues to help him as he lives with the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder after six deployments to the Middle East, the first as part of the 2003 invasion of Iraq when he was just 18.

The former marine, Eric Yarger, cradles four-year-old Snickle Fritz, an Afghan Kuchi breed, like a baby in the sunny kitchen of his Isaacs home in Canberra's south. Her name means mischievous child in Pennsylvania Dutch but she seems more like an old soul. 

"It's her nature, she's always calm. She's sweet," he said.

"Even when I'm frustrated and can't calm down enough, you can just go to her. And it's a connection back to the deployment, in a positive way."

The reason they are now in Canberra is that Eric is married to an Australian, Olympia Flaherty, who was born and bred in the national capital, a former St Clare's girl. The couple met in 2005 in Jacksonville, North Carolina when she was training horses and he was between deployments.

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The couple who have a four-year-old daughter, Charlotte, and 14-year-old son, Clancy, moved to Australia from the US in 2014. They are just starting to feel settled after what has been a whirlwind four years since Fritz was found.

"I love Canberra, I really do," Eric said.

"I truly believe it's the best city in the world. The schools are great, the kids are happy, we're happy here. Donald Trump is not running for president here."

Eric was a  Staff Seargent at Marine Special Operations Command  in 2012, stationed at Shindad in western Afghanistan, when he and other Marines found Snickle Fritz on a nearby rubbish dump. Dogs would scavenge at the tip at night but one morning a  puppy, a "little fuzzball", had been left behind.

"So we scooped her up and brought her back," Eric said. "Fritz was absolutely special. Fritz totally wanted to be with us." The dog even sat in on operational briefings. She would wait at the gates for them to return from each mission. She was loyal beyond belief.

Charlotte was only 15 days old when Eric left on his sixth and final deployment to the Middle East. He says Fritz was like a substitute child. But she was also his "reset button". She brought him back to some kind of humanity against the reality of battle when he felt any empathy slipping away.

"I could think, 'I did one compassionate thing today and that was give Fritz bacon'. And it brought you back to being human," he said. 

There was no question Fritz would return to the US with Eric at the end of his service.

American charity Puppy Rescue Mission, which fundraises to reunite soldiers with their pets, especially from war zones, crowd-funded in two days the $US5000 ($A6504) cost to transport her to the US.

In early 2013, Fritz started her journey out of the Middle East, first taking a taxi ride of more than 800km from Shindad to Kabul, travelling with an interpreter from the camp whom Eric paid to accompany her.

"I said, 'This dog has to get there'," he said.

Then it was a couple of plane trips to Dubai where she was in quarantine before being flown to Washington where she was collected by Olympia and Clancy who then drove her seven hours home to Wilmington, North Carolina.

"For the first time we had this thing that was him, that had been where Eric had been and that was a really profound, poignant thing for our family," Olympia said.

Eric still had a couple of months left on his deployment and had to put her in that taxi not knowing if he would ever see his mate again. And Fritz was similarly distressed.

"She was like, 'What are you doing buddy?'," he said.

They finally reunited a couple of months later at Eric's homecoming in April, 2013.

"She just jumped into my arms," he said.

When the family later moved to Australia, Fritz spent six months in quarantine in the US and then 10 days in quarantine in Sydney before she  again being reunited with her family.

She achieved some fame in the US and the reunion with her family in Australia is captured on a video posted, naturally, on her own Facebook page.

 

Eric spent 12 years in the marine corps. He left high school on the Friday and signed up on the Monday. He now works as a change management consultant.

Fritz has helped bridge that gap between Eric's job in the military and family.  He and Olympia continue to advocate for veterans and their families and encourage other veterans to seek out and use the help and resources that are available to them.

And apart from all the professional support, Fritz is his emotional lifeline, a dog who somehow intuitively knows when to just get up and stand beside him when things aren't going well.

"It's a lot to put on a dog but she's a special dog," Eric said.