Operation Noah’s Ark

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Capt. Eric Coulson with his wife Karen

When non-essential U.S. Embassy personnel were ordered to leave Egypt without their pets during the recent turmoil there, U.S. Army  Capt. Eric Coulson and Major Alvaro Roa stepped in with Operation Noah’s Ark to care for the cats and dogs until they could rejoin their families.

As command judge advocate of the American embassy’s Office of Military Cooperation, Capt. Coulson was the point of contact for questions arising over the departure from embassy staff and their families. When questions arose over the fate of staff members’ cats and dogs Capt. Coulson had to inform everyone that the pets were not allowed to leave with their families. As he considered how he would feel in the same situation, he offered to make sure the pets were well cared for while they were separated from those who loved them.

One of the Operation Noah’s Ark cats

Here’s how  Capt. Coulson and Major Roa set up care for the animals, in the Captain’s own words:

“While the Command sought to manage the crisis in Egypt, it was recognized that an important part of taking care of our team was taking care of our team’s pets. Not only were there the pets of the evacuated families, there were also pets of our service members unable to leave the Embassy.

Fellow pet owner Major Alvaro Roa and I set up an emergency kennel for cats and dogs. Since some pet owners preferred their animals be left in their homes, we also made house calls. Some people had maids who regularly watched the animals; for those, we simply brought by supplies occasionally. Others placed animals with their veterinarians or Egyptian friends that were not evacuating. Nonetheless there was not a plan for every pet in the community.

Roa’s housing complex was completely vacated except for him. Fortunately, the buildings had roofs with small rooms and breezeways where we put several well-socialized dogs together with bowls of water and food. As well as keeping them out of the weather, this setting also gave them space to “do their business.”

For cats, meanwhile, we placed them in several apartments with the permission of the residents, making sure we checked at least daily on their water, food, and litter. We provided as much personal attention as we could spare.”

Food and litter donated by Purina

With the help of volunteers, and with food and cat litter donated by Purina’s local Cairo distribution center , the absent embassy and military personnel’s pets were housed, fed, and cared for, with adequate socialization and play.  The pets’ concerned families were able to communicate with the Operation Noah’s Ark team through a Facebook group and get updates and pictures of their beloved cats and dogs to help make their separation easier to bear.

Volunteers providing playtime fun for some of the dogs

Capt. Coulson humbly says:

“In truth, Roa and I were as much coordinators as caretakers. Many members of the US military and diplomatic community here in Cairo have been part of this mission to help our teammates out. A U.S. Army veterinarian, Lt. Col. Nancy Merrill, checked the animals’ health and provided the necessary care and documentation to help transit some the animals back to their owners in the United States. Our Egyptian friends have also been helpful partners in this endeavor.”

Capt. Coulson, Major Roa, Lt. Col. Merrill, and everyone who helped care for these animals, you’re our heroes.


Note: In an update posted 4/14 Capt. Coulson confirms that most of the pets have now been reunited with their families.

7 thoughts on “Operation Noah’s Ark”

  1. WOW! Awesome job!!! Everyone, military and civilians, no matter where they are should have emergency plans in place.

  2. So glad they took care of the pets, but when are they going to understand that pets are family and in a crisis if you have to leave they should go with you no questions asked.

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