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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ: LOST IN THE CHAOS

In a safer Iraq, he hopes, he'll get his dog and his life back

September 02, 2007|The writer is an Iraqi staffer in The Times' Baghdad Bureau. His name is being withheld for his safety.

BAGHDAD — I hated to send Lucky away.

Lucky is my dog. He's black and reddish-brown, with white on his paws and black spots on his face -- probably a German shepherd mix. He looks a lot like the dogs that search our cars when we go into the Green Zone.

We got him six years ago when he was a puppy. But my house is on a highway where there is a lot of shooting, and I told my brother the gunfire was so intense that even the dog was terrified. He said Lucky should live with him in his district, Mansour, which is quieter.

When my brother came over to get Lucky last month, he opened his car door and Lucky jumped into the back seat. He looked very excited.

I felt bad, because he didn't seem that upset about leaving me.

"Lucky!" I said. "What are you doing? I'm your father!"

He just sat there in the car.

This is the second time I've had to send Lucky away because of the situation in my neighborhood, Sadiya, in south Baghdad. The first time was about a year ago, when I noticed things starting to change in the neighborhood. The number of corpses on the street increased. We started hearing shooting on a daily basis.

Sadiya was originally a mix of Sunni and Shiite Muslims. But then Sunnis living in a section of the neighborhood called Ilam began being displaced and started moving across the highway to another part of Sadiya. The Shiites who had been living in this part of Sadiya got displaced and moved across the highway to Ilam.

I am a Shiite and so is my wife, so about a year ago I moved my family from our home in Sadiya to Ilam. I can actually see my old house from where we live now.

Security didn't improve, and in October I sent my wife and three kids to Syria to get them away from the violence. They stayed there seven months. During that time, I put Lucky with my brother. My brother gave him lots of treats, and with all the pampering, he became fond of my brother.

Syria is expensive, so my wife and kids came back, and Lucky moved back home, too. Whenever my brother came to visit, he would bring treats for Lucky. It was obvious Lucky really liked my brother.

Things have become much worse lately. Usually the most intense gunfire starts in the evening and goes on until midnight.

One day last week, my next-door neighbor's house was shot at. His sons were standing outside the front gate, and one of them was killed. He was 10. The other was wounded. So was a man who was working outside their house.

My own house is scarred by bullet holes. I have sent my two oldest children to live with my brother. Whenever I leave work to go home, I call home and ask, "Do you think it's OK if I come home?"

Sometimes they say no, so I turn around and sleep at the office.

When the U.S.-led invasion came, I supported it. We thought it would turn things around. Now, I think the Americans have brought more problems than freedom. My youngest daughter, who is 9, likes the Americans, though.

A few months ago we were driving and a military convoy came up behind us. I pulled over to let them pass, and my daughter waved at one of the soldiers through the car window. He waved back. Then she blew him a kiss. He blew a kiss back.

The soldier jumped out of the vehicle and walked over to our car. I was frightened. But he gave my daughter some candy, and she told me later that she loved the American soldiers. I told her, "No, you shouldn't!"

My daughter blames me for Lucky not being with us anymore. She says, "Each time we have to move, you lose my toys, and now Lucky is gone!"

Sometimes when there has been shooting, she says to me, "Daddy, are we living in a crazy world?"

I miss Lucky too. Whenever I went into the garden, he would come and play with me and run around. I would take him to the vet and make sure he had all of his vaccinations to stay healthy.

The house we are in now is our second in a year. Soon we'll move into a third house, away from the highway and the shooting.

Now that I'm moving, I'm hoping things will be a bit better. I hope one day I'll get my old house back.

My house, my family, and Lucky.

--

This report is one in a series of occasional first-person accounts of life in Baghdad by The Times' Iraqi staff members.

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