Those of you who know long-term Homeward Bound volunteer, Tatia Taylor, have felt her presence missed at Homeward Bound. Now that her return date is set, we’re allowed to tell you where she has been.

Tatia is many extraordinary things: human mom, dog mom, camper, hiker, adventurer, and recognized dog whisperer.

But we bet you didn’t know that she’s as comfortable in a hard hat as she is in her backpack. Tatia is also a Geologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) whose work has included construction of the Folsom Auxiliary Spillway and Control Structure at Folsom Dam. So where was she last winter when we needed her at the Oroville Dam? She was/is 7,257 miles away at the Mosul Dam in Iraq.

Tatia is the lead geologist for the USACE Mosul Dam Task Force. Their mission: to stabilize a critically unstable dam in Iraq that is upstream of millions of people. A dam in urgent need of maintenance and repair – located in a war zone. A dam once held by ISIS, which the USACE has called “the most dangerous dam in the world.” Its failure would threaten 500,000 to 1.47 million Iraqis.

Tatia left last fall on this adventure – going to a place where women are not allowed to drive, much less work on a project of this magnitude. There, our dog-whisperer drives a work truck (in pants!) directing project operations and telling men what to do “which makes me an alien the likes of which none of them have seen. It makes me angry and infinitely sad at the same time,” says Tatia.

To do this work, she not only took leave of Homeward Bound but of her son and her two amazing pups, Shamus and Gino. We wanted to know what inspired Tatia and gave her the courage to travel half way around the world on such a dangerous assignment.

“I volunteered because of the technical complexity of the problem – the rocks of the foundation are not the type considered competent for building a dam on, and the challenge of finding a solution that reduces the risk of dam failure was huge. I also volunteered because my District Commander who I know and trust was asked to lead the task force. And, I volunteered because of the level of humanitarian and geopolitical disaster at risk if the dam fails: millions would be impacted and displaced, which could, in turn, impact the stability of the Middle East.”

Tatia oversees a team of 15+ geologists performing all of the foundation grouting operations – the repair/stabilization work necessary to prevent dam failure. There are moments of profound beauty along with the long, difficult days –

and countless dogs she wishes she could scoop up and bring home.

The enormity of the job, the risk, and the contribution are paled by the perspective gained when working in a war zone. “From my view sitting here, surrounded by refugees desperate for their lives, I will never take our way of life for granted again. From over here, the things we worry about seem a lot smaller.”

What has she learned and gained from the experience? “Stop wasting any more time. Stop fearing anything. Fight inertia. Begin again.”

If all goes as planned, Tatia will be home mid-May. We have missed her, and she has missed us, her friends and family (two and four-legged), and the dogs of Homeward Bound – particularly the seniors. We KNOW Red has missed her!

Godspeed, Tatia! We wish you a safe journey home – and we offer our inspired gratitude and appreciation for your contribution and courage.