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Calendar >  Leave No Dog Behind -Thomas Calabrese

Leave No Dog Behind -Thomas Calabrese

By   /  September 12, 2021  /  15 Comments


American Patriot and Deep Stater

Thomas Calabrese — John J. Keough was born in Valley Center, California. His parents Carl and Natalie owned sixty acres of land where they grew avocados, tangerines, eureka lemons, passion fruits and kumquats. The Keoughs were one of the first in the region to specialize in all organic produce.

Chris Apton was a young female horse trainer, struggling to make a living and a name for herself in a business where most of the trainers were men and much older than her. She only had a couple horses in her barn at Del Mar and they finished out of the money in the few races that they were entered in. While most of the trainers lived off the track, Chris stayed in a tack room to conserve money.

Her friend Rhonda was a former jockey who got injured in a race and had to medically retire. She was currently working with several equine rescue groups and was living out of her van. It was a rough time for the two women so they decided to take a ride one Sunday afternoon to clear their heads and re-evaluate their choices in life.

Chris sighed, “I’ve already borrowed fifty-thousand dollars from my parents. They took it out of their retirement account to help me. I don’t care how bad things get, I won’t ask for any more.”

            “Let’s make a deal to not talk about our problems for the rest of the day,” Rhonda said.

While driving down the road, they saw a roadside produce stand with the sign, Keough’s Best Produce. Chris commented, “Let’s stop, I want to get some avocados so I can make some guacamole.”

Carl Keough and his three sons; Johnny, Steve and Mike were stocking produce while Harriet, an employee manned the cash register and dealt with the customers. When Carl saw the two women exit their vehicles, he approached them and flashed a big country smile, “How may I help you?”

Chris responded, “I’m looking for some ripe avocados.”

Carl noticed two bumper stickers on the Toyota pick-up, one was Del Mar Races and the second was Equine Rescue, “You ladies work at the track?”

            “She does, I spend most of my time trying to find homes for retired race horses,” Rhonda interjected.

While Chris got her avocados, Rhonda took a walk around the area, then returned just as her friend was paying for them. She asked Carl, “How big is your farm?”

            “About sixty acres,”

            “I noticed that you have a lot of open and undeveloped space. Why is that?”

Carl was a little bit suspicious, but answered anyway, “Farming can be a tough business, high overhead and low margin for error. A lot of variables including the rising cost of water come into play on a daily basis.”

Rhonda inquired, “I’m sorry if I sound a little nosy, but may I ask another question?”

            “Sure,” Carl replied.

            “How many acres are currently not being used?”

Carl answered, “Twenty-five acres.”

As the two women drove off, Johnny asked is father, “Why do you think that lady was asking about the farm?”

Carl thought for a second and answered, “Something tells me that we haven’t seen the last of her.”

Rhonda saw an opportunity, decided to pursue it and see where it lead. She met with an attorney, horse owner and generous donor to one of the equine rescue organization at his Rancho Santa Fe home.

Gilbert Hurdstrom explained in detail how the tax advantages would work, then had his secretary put everything in writing in a clear and concise manner. When Rhonda returned to the Keough Ranch, Johnny saw her drive up and called to his father, “Hey Dad, you were right, that lady is back.”

With the entire Keough family in attendance, Rhonda outlined her plan and then concluded, “Everything that I have just told you is absolutely true. I would never attempt to deceive or mislead you. The man who gave me this information is one of the biggest tax attorneys in the state and you can call him if you have any questions.”

Carl scratched his chin, “So, let me see if I got this right. I’ll lease you the land that I’m not using at whatever price I believe is fair and reasonable, then donate that same amount back to the animal rescue.”

            “Exactly,” Rhonda said.

            “Then I’m able to write it off my taxes as a charitable deduction?” Carl asked.

            “You’ll always be eligible for some other perks too if you become an officer of the charity…which I can easily arrange.”

Carl said, “You make a compelling case. Leave the paperwork, I’ll have my lawyer look it over and see if he wants to contact your attorney. I’ll get back to you, one way or the other. You’ve got my word.”

            “While you’re doing your due diligence, remember this is about helping animals and not just another business deal,” Rhonda reminded the landowner.

They came to an agreement without any negotiations. Afterward, Rhonda went on a fundraising blitz that was something to behold. She was relentless in obtaining money and materials. Stables and corrals were constructed and a track was built around it. There was still five acres that was not being used so Rhonda approached Carl, “I know some people in dog and cat rescue. I can set up the same deal with them as you have with us.”

Carl nodded in agreement, “Do it.”

Chris Apton moved her horse training operation to the Keough property and things miraculously began to turn around for her. She bought a horse called Clever Boy in a claiming race at Santa Anita. As a sign of her appreciation for their generosity and hospitality, Chris gave twenty-five per cent ownership in the two year-old horse to the Keough family. It was as if God was watching from above and said to his angels, ‘I can’t let all this goodwill go to waste without me getting involved.’

Over the next nine months, Clever Boy won the Santa Anita Handicap. Pacific Classic, Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes and finished a close second in the Preakness. Chris Apton and the Keough family became very wealthy from their winnings in a very short period of time.

The animal sanctuaries were upgraded to state of the art facilities with living quarters for volunteers and employees to stay on the property. Johnny and brothers volunteered whenever they weren’t working on the family farm or in school.  After finishing his senior year at Oak Glen High School, Johnny joined the Navy, with the intent of becoming a Seal.

Ten years earlier in November 2006 the men of Kilo Company, 42th Commando Royal Marines arrived in the war torn town of Nowzad in the Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Their mission was to provide stability for the local people during a period of ever-decreasing security. The Royal Marines soon realized that it wasn’t only the local people that needed their help, but many of the stray dogs now had a guardian in the form of Royal Marine Sergeant Pen Farthing.

After leaving the Royal Marines, Farthing return to Afghanistan to build an animal shelter that eventually grew to a size where they had 140 dogs, 40 cats and had a donkey sanctuary. It was staffed by 24 Afghan nationals and the country’s first female veterinarians.

The Seal Team was on a mission in the area when Johnny first met Pen Farthing. They quickly developed a friendship and Johnny told Pen about the animal sanctuary on his family’s farm in California. This immediately bonded the two warriors, who had boundless love for animals.

 Johnny called Rhonda and told her about the good work being done by this selfless Brit and his staff. Her enthusiastic response was, “I’ll begin a fund-raising campaign to help out.” As previously proven by her efforts on the Keough farm, Rhonda was a force to be reckoned with when she set her mind to something. Over 100 thousand dollars was quickly raised and contributed to the NowZad Sanctuary.

Two months later, Johnny was seriously wounded in a firefight with a group of ISIS fighters. He was medically evacuated to Germany for emergency surgery and then to Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego. While recovering from several bullets wounds, Johnny spent a lot of time thinking about the Nowzad Sanctuary.

Doctor Harmon Simms consulted with Johnny about his medical condition, “You’re going to make a full recovery, although it might take some time. If you were anybody else but a special operator, I’d say there was no chance that you’ll be going downrange again, but I’ve learned from experience to never under-estimate a door-kicker’s resolve to get back into harm’s way.” 

Johnny smiled, “There’s another mission that’s calling me now.”

It was a tough call for Johnny to leave his team, but he felt a greater calling. He requested a medical discharge from the Navy and it was granted. After fully recovering from his injuries, Johnny informed his family of his decision to return to Afghanistan as a civilian to help out at the Nowzad Sanctuary. They knew it was a noble cause, but they still wished he wouldn’t go.

There was a festive going away party on the farm that was attended by neighbors and several of Johnny’s former team members. Chris gave him a big hug and choked back her emotions. “You stay safe over there.”

 Upon his return to the Afghan sanctuary, Johnny knew immediately that he made the right decision. The British and Afghan personnel had some trouble pronouncing his last name, Keough and since Pen Farthing’s former unit was Kilo Company, they began calling him ‘Johnny Kilo.’ Working with Chris and Rhonda back in the states, the sanctuary routinely transported animals back to the United States. Johnny and Pen also developed out a program that allowed active duty military personnel who had bonded with dogs to sponsor them and they would be sent back to their homes for a nominal charge.

When word of the American withdrawal began to circulate through the country, Taliban forces became more aggressive and started talking over provinces.

Pen Farthing warned Johnny, “I don’t like the way this is going down.”

            “I’m getting the same feeling. Got any suggestions?” Johnny said.

Pen suggested, “Get as many animals out of here as fast as we can.”

A generous donor must have heard about their dilemma, because a cargo jet was provided for their use. Despite their efforts to find out who it was, the individual’s identity remained secret.

When President Biden gave an exact date on when American forces would be out of Afghanistan, the Taliban rapidly increased their takeover of provinces. When the military was ordered to stand down and not stop them, the situation got worse in a matter of three days.

Three flights with dogs and cats left Afghanistan for San Diego, where they were met by Rhonda and several volunteers. The animals were later distributed to various animal rescue groups in the area.

Pen suggested, “Why don’t you go back with the next flight?”

            “Why would I do that?” Johnny asked, “You need me here.”

            “Give some interviews to the media, convey how bad things are getting here and how much worse there’s going to get if they don’t slow down this withdrawal.  This a colossal mistake for man, woman, animal and humanity in general! What the hell are those knuckleheads thinking,” Pen grumbled, “There’s a big difference between a strategic withdrawal and turning tail and running.”

            “I’ll go…reluctantly, but I’m coming back.”

 Johnny visited his family in Valley Center while trying to elicit support from politicians. He kept in touch with Pen in Afghanistan, who told him that the Taliban was moving quickly toward their location. Johnny decided to hasten his departure, instead of leaving in four days, he would depart in two.

A customized 1969 sky blue Chevelle followed by three black Cadillac Escalades drove up to the horse sanctuary and a man in his mid-sixties exited the classic car. Eight men from the other three vehicles got out and found strategic locations to stand and provide security.

Rhonda was working with a horse in a corral when the man called to her, “Excuse me, I’m looking for Johnny.”

            “I believe he’s at the main house, I can give him a call if you wish?” Rhonda responded.

The man smiled, “That would be very thoughtful, thank you very much.”

When Johnny came walking down the path, he first saw the vintage automobile then the men standing around the area. He could tell from their demeanor that they were professionals. He had worked with enough civilian contractors to know the distinctive look of hypervigilance,

 The older gentleman called out, “It is me that you’re looking for.”

Johnny walked over and carefully evaluated the person standing before him. The man gave off an aura of self-assurance while being unimposing, a rare combination.

            “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Johnny Kilo.”

Johnny looked even more closely at the mysterious man, “Not many people call me that, especially here in the states”

The man apologized, “I’m sorry…would you prefer that I call you Mr. Keough?”

Johnny responded, “Mr. Keough is my father, Johnny Kilo is fine…and you are?”

The man responded with a sly smile, “Ozzie Morgan.”

Johnny laughed, “Did your parents name you after Ozzie Nelson or did you combine the actor’s name, Frank Morgan with his character in the Wizard of Oz.”

            “Astute observation.”  

Johnny replied, “It a free country…so far. You can call yourself anything you want.”

            “Can I have a few minutes of your time?”

            “I’m getting ready to leave very soon,” Johnny answered.

Ozzie said, “You’re going back to Afghanistan, I know. What I have to tell you is of vital importance to your mission. Is there a quiet and secluded place we can talk?”

            “Follow me,” Johnny said then turned to one of the security guards, “We’re going about 25 yards down this trail.”

The man nodded, four men walked in front and four walked behind. When they came to a man- made pond with flowers and plants, they sat down at a picnic table. Johnny said, “My mom had this made. It’s her private place…I don’t think she’ll mind if we use it this one time.”

Ozzie sat down and Johnny sat across from him. The guards encircled them from a distance where they could not hear the conversation.

            “I’m a full-fledged member of the ‘Deep State’. I am also part of the military industrial complex and thrive in an environment that many call the swamp. I’m a cold-blooded creature, callous, ruthless with only one redeeming virtue.”

            “That’s an impressive resume, but what does that I have to do with me?” Johnny asked.

            “I’d rather shoot a thousand men then see an animal get hurt.”

            “Hard shell with a soft center, you sound like a tootsie pop. I still don’t know what this has to do with me,” Johnny said.

            “The Deep State is like a group of crime families. We all have our preferences and agendas and we’re in constant competition with each other for power. I don’t like doing business with the Chinese or terrorists.” Ozzie said.

            “I feel the same way.”

Ozzie continued, “I have learned to never sell any weapon to a country that I don’t want to have sold another country or be left behind on the battlefield. I’m in the unique position to help you protect your animal sanctuary from the Taliban.”

            “How would you do that?” Johnny asked.

Ozzie answered, “The Taliban only understands force and I have overwhelming force at my disposal.”

            “They have over 85 billion dollars of our military equipment,” Johnny reminded the elderly man.

            “But they don’t have what I possess; lasers, sound and electro-magnetic pulse cannons, precise targeted biological and chemical weapons. I’ve been in contact with the warlord who controls the province that your sanctuary is located. He hates the Taliban so I made him an offer that he couldn’t refuse. I also worked out a deal to share in the profits from the lithium mines in his area. It will keep them away from the Chinese and give your sanctuary a steady source of income.” Ozzie said.

            “Sounds like you got everything covered, what do you need me for?”

Ozzie smiled, “I’ve been following your career and I like your style and respect your dedication. I want to help in any way I can. I have a cargo plane fueled and fully loaded with the equipment that I just mentioned. It’s just waiting for you.”

Johnny stated firmly, “Just so there is no misunderstanding, I’m going back to save the animals, this better not be some initiation to join your ‘Deep State Swamp Club.”

Ozzie clarified his offer, “Save the animals and send the Taliban to hell in a handbasket, that’s all. Besides you’ve got too much integrity to ever be admitted as a member.”

 When they reached the vehicles, Ozzie tossed Johnny the keys to the Chevelle.

            “What’s this?” Johnny asked.

            “A small token of my appreciation, the title is in the glove box with your name on it”

The retrofitted C-5 Galaxy took off from a private airfield in the Mojave Desert. It was loaded with equipment, fifty high trained technicians and Johnny.

The Taliban were preparing for a massive show of force against their sworn enemy, Warlord Mohamed Ismail Noor. They intended to use the massive amount of American military equipment left behind to crush their sworn enemy. It would also set an example for other warlords who thought about resisting that it was a futile endeavor, and would be met with merciless retaliation.

The Taliban intended to use their recently acquired Blackhawk helicopters, artillery and thousands of well-armed fighters to crush Noor and his militia.  Once they had control of his province, they would begin the public executions.

Noor breathed a sigh of relief when he received word that the plane was inbound. He was waiting at the landing strip with Pen Farthing when it touched down.

Pen smiled, “Remind me to never-underestimate you.”

            “I wish I could take credit,” Johnny said.

The technicians off-loaded the equipment and immediately began setting up. They had gone over the map of the area during flight and were knew exactly what to do.  A dozen EMP cannons (AnEMP is a massive burst of electromagnetic energy that can destroy or shut-off electrical and mechanical equipment.) The team also had sound wave cannons that could focus a powerful vibration at a target. In humans it caused massive internal bleeding and cerebral hemorrhage. Chemical booby traps were place along the road and once they were activate they filled the entire area with a deadly gas. A dome similar to Israel’s Iron Dome was activated to prevent missiles and artillery from raining down on the town.

Johnny and Pen manned two of the EMP cannons. A drone was sent out and it relayed images of a massive convoy heading in their direction.

            “They’re on their way!” Johnny called out.

The twenty five Blackhawk helicopters appeared first and the EMP cannons disabled their engines and electrical systems before they could do any damage.  They crashed into the desert. The convoy tripped the chemical booby traps and everyone in the vehicles were killed within minutes. The thousands of Taliban ground troops walking across the open land walked into the impenetrable sound barrier. Their insides turned to mush and they fell over dead.

Johnny looked at watch and commented, “Sixteen minutes and twenty-three seconds, but who’s counting.”

When the technicians said the chemical gas had dissipated, Noor sent his militia to gather all the weapons and vehicles left behind by the Taliban.

Three hours later, Ozzie Morgan arrived in his private jet with his armed entourage. He casually surveyed the human carnage and commented, “Let me see the animals.”

For the next hour, Ozzie played with the dogs like a child without a care in the world. That evening, Johnny, Pen, Ozzie and Noor had dinner together. The mood was lighthearted and festive and no business was discussed. Ozzie was scheduled to leave for an unknown destination the next morning.

When he awakened, Ozzie went to the shelter for some quality time with the animals. When Noor approached, he was lying on the floor with a dozen dogs around him, “Sorry to disturb you, sir, but there is a convoy coming up the road. The lead vehicle is flying a white flag.”

Without getting up, Ozzie responded, “Secure the perimeter around the vehicles and search the occupants thoroughly. Tell Johnny and Pen that I’ll meet them when I’m done here.”

Noor nodded and left. Ozzie stayed a few more minutes and hugged a Belgian Malinois, “Sorry guy, but I’ve got to go.”

Forty men were standing next to a dozen Humvees when Johnny, Pen, Ozzie and Noor drove up. Two hundred heavily armed men provided security for them. Included in the group were Americans, Taliban officials and a dozen Chinese men.

Ozzie walked up, followed closely by his personal bodyguards, “What’s this…a traveling circus?”

One of the Americans nervously responded, “I am with the State Department and I am here under direct orders of the President of United States. He has prohibited all offensive actions against the Taliban. America is trying to develop diplomatic relations with the new Afghan government and your actions jeopardize that objective, The President orders you to surrender.”

Ozzie laughed, “The President has lost his authority to order anyone to do anything after his decision to withdraw like he did. Tell him to take a nap because he’s got no jurisdiction here.” He then approached the Taliban leader, who had a ten million bounty on his head, and stared him straight in the eyes, “You can come back later and pick up your dead” that is the only thing you’re going to get.

I’m not from the United States, so when I say any aggressive action in this province will be met with extreme and overwhelming deadly force, you can bet your life that I mean it” Ozzie spit in the Taliban leader’s face to show him how much that he held him in contempt.

The leader instantly reacted and grabbed Ozzie by the shirt. In an instant Johnny stepped forward, grabbed the terrorist around the neck and snapped it like a dried twig. The lifeless body fell to the ground and Johnny commented, “That doesn’t make up for all the Americans that you’ve killed, but it sure felt good.”

Ozzie walked up to the Chinese contingent, “Your deal for the lithium mines is canceled.”

Johnny noticed that the group was driving newly acquired American Humvees, “These belong to the United States so we’re confiscating them in the name of hard-working American taxpayers.”

Pen said, “Keep them here for a minute, I’ve got an idea.”

He drove off and returned with ten dogs in the back of the truck. He let them out and commented, “The dogs can use a little exercise.”

            “Start walking,” Ozzie said, “On the way, consider a change in careers before it’s too late. You’re too feeble to be this evil.”

As the American bureaucrats, Taliban terrorists and Chinese officials turned to leave, the dogs began chasing them down the road, nipping at their heels and biting them.

Ozzie and Johnny weren’t too worried about the current American administration coming back into Afghanistan to get them. If the Taliban was looking for trouble, they could have as much as they wanted. China on the other hand would have no qualms about using their immense power to kill thousands of innocent people in their quest for world dominance. They needed to be strongly discouraged from returning.

It was a quiet Sunday morning in Beijing when their entire infrastructure and defense capabilities crashed for 30 seconds from an intricate and complex coded computer worm. When things returned to normal, the warning on every government screen had these four words; Stay Out Of Afghanistan.

Chinese Communist officials put their best people on trying to find the elusive ransomware, but to no avail. They came to realize that they would suffer trillions in damages if the computer worm became active again, so they heeded the warning.

The mission was simple; Leave No Dog Behind and two of the men who lived by this code were an unlikely duo, Johnny Kilo, an American Patriot and Deep Stater Ozzie Morgan.

The End


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  1. Craig says:

    A wonderful and heartwarming story Tom. It seems I have owned one (or more)dogs ever since I can remember. And any person who abuses or mistreats an animal is a coward.A dogs unwavering love and loyalty for its owner has no equal. I always remember what a close friend told me years ago: To us humans,our dogs are Part of our lives, but to dogs,their owners Are their lives. That is absolutely right ! Keep the good stories rolling in Tom.


  2. Tom says:

    Tom…I really wish that this could be true!

    Well done, Sir!

  3. Clyde says:

    Ozzie Morgan was the lesser of many evils and he loved dogs. Good enough for me

  4. John michels says:

    Great story wish it were possible and true. The spineless administration and traitors n the defense and state department unfortunately would keep it frm happenng

  5. Robert says:

    Good dog story. As well as a enjoyable read.

  6. Tony says:

    A heart warming story and positive solution to our country standing down in Afghanistan, one that I enjoyed reading much more then what occurred.
    MR. Calabrese nipped at the politics involved with the ending of our 20 year involvement in Afghanistan. Our sorry and hasty exodus does not bode well for America that has helped many countries around the world. Mr. Calabrese places the politicians at the center of this fiasco. I thoroughly enjoyed his ending so much more then the one that occurred, with the faithful canines nipping at the heels of the Taliban when they were fleeing for their lives. Thank you for the uplifting story.

  7. Jeremy says:

    Great story…had me cheering for the good guys and the dogs.

  8. Margarita Rogers says:

    Reading this on one if my dog’s 14th birthday, I am in full support of Johnny and Ozzie. I also applaud Chris and Rhonda for their work.

  9. Dave says:

    Hey Tom,
    Another really good story. I enjoy reading your short stories . Keep them coming . Hope you have an enjoyable Sunday.

  10. Cary says:

    Every time I read or heard about the mess in Afghanistan, I got angry. This story let me escape to a more calmer place.

  11. Bart says:

    Wish it were true, good story

  12. Roger says:

    Excellent story, I really enjoyed it for several reasons.

  13. Mike says:

    I’m a regular reader and am always surprised with the subject matter that Tom’s comes up with each week

  14. Guy says:

    Thanks for another good story. liked it alot.

  15. Joceyln says:

    I like a good action story with dogs

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