ATHENS, Ga. - Especially during the holidays, people remember soldiers far from home and try to get them some creature comforts that will make the time away from their families a little more bearable.
So when Tom Wargo learned that hundreds of four-legged soldiers might need some supplies, too, he decided to help.
As a thank-you to the canine soldiers this holiday season, Daffy's Pet Soup Kitchen is sending more than 1,000 pounds of dog food, treats and brushes to U.S. military dogs deployed to Iraq.
Daffy's is a volunteer and donation-run pet food bank in Lawrenceville that has redistributed pet food donated by community members, pet food manufacturers and stores to pet owners in need.
"Years ago, I was handing stuff out of the back of my truck," said Wargo, who founded Daffy's and handles 30,000 to 40,000 pounds of dog food through his warehouse each month. "I knew there was a big need, but not that big a need."
Wargo turned his attention to the pups overseas after he received an e-mail from the Humane Association of Georgia - a coalition of humane societies, animal control and rescue groups - about Girl Scout Troop 60667 in Macon, which was sending care packages to dog handlers in Iraq.
Wargo had just received a donation of dog brushes designed to attract dirt while combing through dog coats, and thought they'd be perfect for animals in the dusty Middle East.
The Girl Scout troop was sending about 50 pounds of dog paraphernalia, said Wargo, and wasn't able to handle the 1,000 brushes and 500 pounds of dog food Daffy's was offering. They referred him to the U.S. War Dogs Association, a group of retired dog handlers in New Jersey who could get the packages directly to the dog kennels at bases in Iraq.
"We know they're not going to get them there for Christmas anyway, since it can take three weeks to get stuff over there," Wargo said. "But we're still including all the Christmas cards and letters and pictures that people were sending for the handlers and soldiers in Iraq."
More than 700 dogs are working with the military in Iraq, according to Wargo, whose group is shipping items to about 300 of those dogs in 45 kennels on military bases. As the dogs rotate into the war zone, handlers will be able to select items for their furry friends.
Daffy's will continue to send treats and brushes to canine soldiers, but Wargo is looking forward to sending other gear that handlers say their dogs really need.
"You start out thinking, 'Oh wow - this is really going to help out,' " Wargo said. "And then you find out that there are 700 dogs in Iraq, and they need things like eye goggles and bulletproof jackets that are going to help them survive over there."
Once the War Dogs Association sends Wargo its wish list, he'll post it on the group's Web site, www.daffyspetsoupkitchen.com.