Every American soldier knows that you never leave a buddy behind.
Sergeant Gwen Beberg knows it. So do 30,000 other people who have signed an online petition urging the US Army to show some compassion. The maxim stands even if the buddy is a scruffy dog named Ratchet.
“I just want my puppy home. I miss my dog horribly,” Sergeant Beberg, 28, e-mailed her mother after being separated from Ratchet, whose life she saved by rescuing it from a pile of burning rubbish in May.
The split came after the sergeant was transferred from her base in Iraq in preparation for a return to the United States next month. “I’m coping reasonably well because I refuse to believe that Ratchet has been hurt,” she wrote. “If I find out that he was killed though . . . well, we just won’t entertain that possibility.”
Military sources on the ground have indicated that the dog is alive.
US soldiers in Iraq are prohibited from bringing home stray dogs but the Department of Defence has made exceptions in the past.
Ratchet’s cause has been taken up by Operation Baghdad Pups, a programme set up last year by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) International.
So far the programme claims to have facilitated the transfer to America of fifty dogs and six cats. Terry Crisp, of Operation Baghdad Pups, flew to Dubai yesterday and is due to arrive in the Iraqi capital tomorrow to speak to members of the military. “Iraqis view dogs and cats as rats, as nuisances, carriers of disease,” she said, noting that US soldiers had rescued many abused animals, such as a puppy that was being kicked by a circle of Iraqi men.
SPCA International was working with Congress, the military and mental health workers to abolish the rule banning soldiers from adopting animals, she added.
Larry Garrison, a publicist for Baghdad Pups, said that pets befriended in a war zone often helped soldiers to readjust to normal life when they returned home.
“This is a story about people and animals. This is a story about people caring about other people,” he told The Times.
It is a view shared by thousands of people who have signed the “Clemency for Ratchet” petition. Many have left comments, expressing their support and distress.
The military said in a statement that Customs procedures often prevented foreign animals from entering the US without vaccination records and other medical documents.
In June a dog brought back to America by Operation Baghdad Pups tested positive for rabies. It was put down.
Black dog down: US soldier in fight to take home war zone pet - Times Online