Posted at 02:14 PM ET, 12/05/2011

British diplomacy dilemma: Dog troubles in Tehran

This post has been updated.

Last week on BlogPost, we mentioned that in the midst of the unfolding drama at the British Embassy in Tehran, one four-footed diplomatic staff member was rescued after staff fled the building. Few details were forthcoming about the dog’s status, but now that the ambassador and his wife have returned to England, they were able to fill us in on their pup’s tale.

Pumpkin (Courtesy of the Chilcotts)

The British Embassy in Tehran has officially closed and the diplomats have all been evacuated from the country — save one important member: Pumpkin, the British ambassador’s terrier.

Now, the pup is at the center of a “minor diplomatic controversy,” Dominick Chilcott, the former ambassador to Iran and owner of Pumpkin, tells The Post. A number of foreign embassies are competing to care for the dog as she awaits repatriation.

When 200 rioting Iranian students set fire to the embassy last week, Chilcott barred himself and his staff in a third-floor office. As his wife was away from the compound at the time of the riots, Chilcott was tasked with coordinating the defense of the embassy and consoling Pumpkin. Afraid she would run away, Chilcott brought her into the office and left her there during the hurried evacuation. Later a friendly foreign diplomat retrieved her after the fighting had diminished. Now, as countries around the world consider closing their Tehran bureaus (France is just the latest to pull out its staff), the foreign diplomats left behind in Tehran are vying for the privilege of aiding a loyal British subject in her time of need.
Dominick and Jane Chilcott with Gus and Pumpkin. (Courtesy of the Chilcotts)

Pumpkin was not the only dog at the British compound. Another staff member had a six-year-old shar pei named Baloo. During the compound invasion, Baloo helped his owner fight off students, biting two of them during the attack. The staff member, who asked not to be named for concerns about his safety, said he was working to get Baloo out of the country, as he had lost almost everything else during the invasion.

Pumpkin has been a member of the diplomatic staff for some years, serving in Sri Lanka and Washington with the Chilcotts, before their posting to Tehran. Although Pumpkin relished in her time in Washington, frolicking in Rock Creek Park and getting lost in the snowdrifts of the 2010 storms, the Tehran posting was troublesome from the start. Iran frowns on owning dogs as pets, as Muslim tradition considers them impure animals. Police have confiscated dogs from their owners off the streets and the government has considered a law criminalizing ownership of them.
Baloo in Tehran

Pumpkin, unaware of any danger, and of just the right stature to slip out the compound’s gate, had been known to flaunt her existence on the streets of Tehran. Prior to Pumpkin’s starring role in the siege at the embassy, Jane Chilcott had been documenting Pumpkin’s time in Tehran in a book tentatively titled “With Headscarf and Small Dog.”

This dramatic chapter appears to be coming to an end, though. Despite Pumpkin being the focus of a custody fight between a number of foreign embassies, the Chilcotts expect to be reunited with her in England before long.

Further reading:

Dominick Chilcott recounts the embassy siege

By  |  02:14 PM ET, 12/05/2011

Tags:  World: Dominick Chilcott, Iran, British embassy

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