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Afghanistan rescue dogs settle in to life in Maine after 7,000-mile journey

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Afghanistan rescue dogs settle in to life in Maine after 7,000-mile journey


After months of planning, Kabul Small Animal Rescue (KSAR) organized the transfer of nearly 300 pets from Afghanistan to the United States, and 13 of those dogs are now settling in Maine foster homes while seeking new families.

A Kabul Small Animal Rescue staff worker shares a loving moment on June 1 with a golden retriever, who later flown to the U.S. and put up for adoption. Charlotte Maxwell-Jones photo

On June 3, 194 dogs and 100 cats left Kabul en route to Poland, then Washington D.C. After arriving in the nation’s capitol, the animals were unloaded from wooden crates, inspected and dispersed to 40 different rescue organizations, including Woolwich-based Passion for Pets.

Two days and four ground transports later, 13 canines arrived in Maine.

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The $800,000 endeavor was spearheaded by American founder of KSAR, Charlotte Maxwell-Jones.

Maxwell-Jones first arrived in Afghanistan in 2010 to conduct fieldwork for her doctorate from the University of Michigan. She later returned in 2015 to found KSAR — one of the few animal welfare groups in the country.

Since 2019, the organization has grown to maintain 85 staff members, all of whom were instrumental in the June expedition, Maxwell-Jones said.

This was the first time Passion for Pets, a group of Midcoast animal rescue volunteers, teamed up with KSAR.

Passion for Pets Adoption Coordinator Leann Ryan handles adoption applications and intakes. She was tasked with the feat of sorting through all 300 photos to select 10 dogs to transfer to Woolwich.

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“At first I told KSAR we’d only take 10 dogs,” Ryan said. “But as the transport grew closer, there were still 60 dogs without anywhere to go. [Maxwell-Jones] looped back around, asking each rescue to take another dog. That’s how we ended up with three more.”

Nearly 300 pets arrived at Dulles Airport in Washington DC from Kabul, Afghanistan, on June 3. They were unloaded from wooden crates, inspected by the CPC and sent to 40 different animal rescues. Charlotte Maxwell-Jones photo

When asked how she chose which dogs to take, Ryan said she had focused on the dogs’ facial expressions in the photos. She explained that large brindle dogs and black dogs are harder to place.

“I know what people tend to look for,” Ryan said. “Regardless, in my heart of hearts, I have a soft spot for dogs with special needs, so of course I chose one with three legs.”

Lois Kilby-Chesley was one of the volunteers who helped transport the dogs from Dulles International Airport to Woolwich. She signed up to foster Mish, a 5-year-old mixed breed.

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Over the past decade, Kilby-Chesley has fostered dogs with Almost Home Rescue and Wynne Friends of Animals. In fact, the three dogs she currently has are a result of “foster failures,” in which the foster ends up adopting the animal outright.

“Some dogs I just can’t give up, so I adopt them,” Kilby-Chesley said. “Years ago, I was a flight buddy for Baku street dogs on a flight from Azerbaijan to NYC. Their stories stuck with me. So, when I saw that dogs from Kabul needed rescuing, I had to step up.”

So far, Mish has been adjusting well. Kilby-Chesley said she has already befriended her other dogs.

“Mish had two transport legs from D.C. to Sturbridge, Massachusetts, then to Durham,” she said. “Everything is a new experience for her — running water in the sink, the refrigerator humming, a grassy play yard and even a toilet that flushes. New sounds, smells and language are a lot to get used to. She spent her first few days catching up on sleep and exploring.”

Ryan emphasized that patience and compassion is crucial for those interested in adoption/fostering.

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Mish plays outside at his foster home in Durham on June 7. Lois Kilby-Chesley photo

“A lot of people forget there’s a language barrier,” Ryan said. “It’s important to remember these dogs aren’t ignoring you. If you Google Translate words, they will listen and engage. And decompression is huge; they need to feel secure, so don’t expect too much too soon. If they start alligator rolling, just be patient — they aren’t used to collars. In time, they’ll become more cooperative for a walk.”

On average, Ryan said the adjustment phase takes 10 days. While forever-fostering isn’t an option for many, she acknowledged the price of nonengagement is often death.

“We’re called to see the bigger picture,” Ryan said. “Without fosters, we can’t save lives.”

For those interested, Passion for Pets still has eight animals up for adoption and two more looking for foster homes. To inquire, visit pprorg.com/available-pets for more information.

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Maine

Maine Democrats launch Seniors for Biden-Harris coalition

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Maine Democrats launch Seniors for Biden-Harris coalition


The fall presidential campaign season heated up Wednesday in Augusta with the formation of a new group aimed at urging older Mainers to support President Joe Biden.

The Seniors for Biden-Harris coalition will target a key demographic and important voting bloc in Maine with messaging around Social Security and Medicare.

“We’re here today because I, like so many, am deeply concerned about Donald Trump’s attacks on Social Security,” Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli (D-Arrowsic) said.

She said Trump proposed cuts to Social Security while president and that she’s concerned about what a second Trump term would do to the program.

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In response, Karoline Leavitt, Trump Campaign National Press Secretary said, “President Trump delivered on his promise to protect Social Security and Medicare in his first term, and President Trump will continue to strongly protect Social Security and Medicare in his second term.” She added, “President Trump will quickly rebuild the greatest economy in history, protect seniors, and put Social Security and Medicare on a stronger footing for generations to come.”

The back-and-forth is just a preview of coming attractions for a campaign season likely to be filled with attack ads, glossy mailers and spirited debate about the future of the country.

In fact, a poll released Wednesday shows 55% of Mainers believe the country is on the wrong track, with just 11% choosing “right direction,” according to Critical Insights. The remainder chose “not sure” or “mixed.”

The announcement of the new coalition followed Tuesday’s primary election in which Mainers chose candidates for the state’s two congressional seats and dozens of state legislative posts.

The presidential contest between Biden and Trump is the marquee race across the country, but in Maine, voters will decide other key matchups as well.

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That includes deciding whether to reelect Sen. Angus King, an independent seeking a third term. He’s facing three challengers — Republican Demi Kouzounas, Democrat David Costello and independent Jason Cherry — for the right to represent Maine for six years in the upper federal chamber.

On Tuesday, Republicans chose Trump-backed former NASCAR driver Austin Theriault of Fort Kent to challenge U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat running for his third term.

In southern Maine, the GOP chose Ronald Russell as their nominee to take on U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat seeking her ninth term.

And while most legislative primaries turned out to be low key affairs, in Waterville, Democrat Cassie Julia defeated fellow Democrat Rep. Bruce White, who sought a fourth term in the Maine House.

In that race, abortion took center stage, with Planned Parenthood backing Julia because of White’s votes against the expansion of abortion rights over the last two years.

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At the Seniors for Biden-Harris event on Wednesday, the Biden supporters warned of cuts to Social Security and Medicare, pointing to a CNN story in which Trump was quoted as saying “There is a lot you can do in terms of entitlements, in terms of cutting and in terms of also the theft and bad management of entitlements.”

CNN then quoted a Trump campaign spokeswoman as saying Trump was referring to cutting waste, not the entitlements themselves.

Biden supporter Rep. Bill Bridgeo (D-Augusta) said support for seniors is especially important in Maine, where one in five people are over 65 years old.

“Our seniors as parents, coworkers and neighbors have always had our backs,” he said. “We need to have theirs.”



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Maine public libraries face issues with pending swapping suspension

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Maine public libraries face issues with pending swapping suspension


ORONO, Maine (WABI) – The ability for libraries to swap books is being temporarily suspended throughout the state of Maine.

Beginning July 1st, for at least six weeks, there will be a suspension on interlibrary loan requests due to a change in vendors within the state. Effects have already been felt with empty shelves as libraries have anticipated the suspension.

Libraries such as the Orono Public Library take pride in their ability to keep a new collection of books thanks to other nearby libraries. Despite the temporary challenges, these libraries hope to flourish throughout the summer months with a collection of concerts, gardening sessions and special events for people of all ages.

“What we’re choosing to do is look at this in a positive way, and look at our local resources,” said Orono Library Director Laurie Carpenter. “We have 36 thousand titles here in the library, and we’re encouraging people to come explore their own library, check out things, maybe books they’ve forgotten about or new books that they weren’t aware of before.”

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The library will begin hosting concerts in early July on Tuesday nights as well as welcome local Maine author Monica Wood at the end of August. Staff also mentioned Maine card holders at participating libraries can use their card for material at a number of libraries throughout the state.



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Trump-backed Maine candidate wins right to challenge Rep. Jared Golden for U.S. House

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Trump-backed Maine candidate wins right to challenge Rep. Jared Golden for U.S. House


AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s state primary Tuesday set the stage for a race in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District that could help determine which party controls the U.S. House and Senate next year.

Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat who is running for his third term, will face Donald Trump-backed state Rep. Austin Theriault, R-Fort Kent, in the general election in November. 

In a deep red district that has twice voted for Trump, Golden is particularly vulnerable to a Republican challenge. The Cook Political Report has rated the 2nd district race as a toss up. It encompasses all of Maine except the southernmost areas.

Theriault, 30, is a former NASCAR driver who received endorsements from both Trump and U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson. The day before the primary, Trump encouraged Mainers to vote for Theriault in a post on Truth Social. Theriault beat out state Rep. Michael Soboleski, R-Phillips, in the Republican primary Tuesday, 66.2% to 33.8%.

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“This the honor of my life – being selected by the people of the state that I love so much,” Theriault said in a post on X Tuesday night. “I deeply appreciate the support and want folks to know: I am running to fight for you. It’s time to put People over Politics.”

Golden, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan while in the Marines, publicly changed his views on gun laws after the mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, in 2023. He remains a Second Amendment defender but now favors ending the sale of AR-15 style rifles.

Chellie Pingree to face Donald Russell

Maine’s 1st district, on the other hand, leans heavily Democratic. Veteran Donald C. Russell won the primary, advancing to the November general election to face Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat who has served in Washington since 2009 and was unopposed in the primary.

Russell, who won the Republican primary against Andrew Piantidosi 56.1% to 43.9%, will have an uphill battle against the long-time congresswoman.

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Who will run against Angus King?

Republican Demi Kouzounas and Democrat David Allen Costello both won their respective primaries, running unopposed. 

They will be running against popular independent Sen. Angus King, who has represented Maine in the U.S. Senate since 2013. As an independent, he did not have a primary, instead qualifying for the ballot by petition with over 5,000 signatures.

Jason Cherry, an independent and political newcomer from Unity, will also be on the general election ballot in November.



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