Bella, a mixed-breed puppy that was adopted by Kansas soldiers overseas, died before she could make it home to Kansas.
Amanda May, the Valley Center woman who had raised money to transport the puppy from her husband's base in Afghanistan, said she learned this week that Bella had died.
The puppy was in quarantine at a shelter in Kabul run by American volunteers. She was slated to fly home to Wichita this month.
"We're all sick about it, just heartbroken," May said. "I've been crying my eyes out the last few days and just wish there was something we could have done."
According to reports from veterinarians with the Afghan Stray Animal League, Bella starting getting sick last week, May said. The puppy was weak, had a fever and wasn't eating, she said.
Vets started her on antibiotics and intravenous fluids, but "she didn't make it," May said. Officials think she may have contracted distemper, a serious viral disease, before being vaccinated in Kabul.
Sgt. Lucas May, a medic with the Kansas Army National Guard, got permission from military officials earlier this year to rescue the fawn-colored pup, which had wandered onto May's camp in Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan. Because Army regulations don't allow dogs to travel with troops, he and his wife led an effort to raise at least $2,500 to transport the puppy to Wichita.
The campaign went nationwide and raised more than three times that amount — $8,701 at last count, Amanda May said.
Now the money will be donated to the Afghan Stray Animal League, a project that helps stray dogs and cats get veterinary care and find adoptive homes, she said.
"We hope the money will help other troops get dogs out of there and back to a home where they can be loved and cared for," Amanda May said.
She said her husband and the other soldiers were "pretty torn up" when they got word about Bella's death.
"I tried to be the positive one," she said. "I told him, 'Even for the short time she was with you, she had a better life than she would have had if she was alone. She got to play and was loved and cared for.'
"But it's never easy to lose a dog," she said. "Bella had a special place in the guys' hearts — and mine. She was their support and love over there, and I just wish it wasn't this way."