Marine Sergeant Craig Grossi first saw Fred in 2010 when the soldier was under heavy fire in Afghanistan. His team had endured a week of attacks from the enemy, and when things finally calmed down a bit, Grossi went looking for the dog he had seen earlier.
“As I got closer to him, I could see he was covered in bugs, he was uncomfortable and his fur was matted,” Grossi told People. “And as I got a little bit closer he started to wag his tail, and that really just froze me, because that is the last thing I thought he would do.”
At that point, Grossi knew that he had to do what he could to save the dog from a life as a stray in a war-torn country. He began to devise a plan to save the dog. His first step was to figure out how to get Fred onto a helicopter and back to base.
“I had a little conversation with Fred. I said ‘Look this is risky man, if you really want this, I just need you to follow me to the helicopter,’” Grossi told People. Fred followed the marine onto the helicopter and into a duffel bag.
That was the easy part. The next step was a little more involved. Grossi told People that he had to hide Fred on the base because soldiers could get in a lot of trouble for being out of line, and a stray dog on base was definitely out of line. Fred had to spend as little time as possible on base.
Grossi first had Fred looked at by a veterinarian with the British Army. The veterinarian told him that Fred should be vaccinated once he arrives in the United States and the dog would be just fine.
Grossi then “fudged” the forms to get Fred out of the country and successfully shipped his new best friend to his family.
“That was all I wanted, because I wasn’t sure if I would make it back or not,” Grossi told People.
But he did, and being with Fred both in Afghanistan and in the United States seems to have changed his outlook on life. Fred has become an inspiration to Grossi, so much so that Fred’s demeanor has become Grossi’s mantra of sorts.
“Fred’s message to all is one of stubborn positivity,” Grossi told People. “To take all that emotion and energy you use to be stubborn about something and put it into the idea of being positive.”
Grossi turned that positivity into a book about him and Fred, but he wasn’t sure at first if their story would resonate with others. He embarked on an eight-week road trip around the country with Fred and a fellow veteran and told their story to anyone who would listen. It turned out that folks loved it.
So Grossi penned “Craig & Fred: A Marine, A Stray Dog, and How They Rescued Each Other.” It was released Oct. 31, 2017.
Grossi and Fred live in Maine, and are currently on a book tour. Both have come a long way from the battlefields of Afghanistan.
“It could’ve gone wrong 100 different ways at any moment, but that just makes our story more special,” Grossi told People.