Operation Baghdad Pups: Help save beloved “Ratchet”

“I couldn’t have made it through this deployment without his wagging tail and understanding eyes,” said Sgt. Gwen Beberg, shown with Ratchet in Iraq. An animal group hopes to pick up Ratchet and five other pets this week. Star Tribune Photo

See October 18, 2008 update here.

Such a sad tale.

A mutt named Ratchet has helped Gwen Beberg survive Iraq. Now, will Ratchet survive?

Army Sgt. Gwen Beberg isn’t having an easy year in Iraq. When the Spring Lake Park native bonded with an abandoned puppy found whimpering in a burning trash heap in Baghdad, she wanted to make sure the black-and-white mutt named Ratchet made it home with her.

On Oct. 1, Beberg placed 6-month-old Ratchet on an Army convoy to the Baghdad airport, where he was to be flown to her parents’ home in Minnesota by a rescue group called Operation Baghdad Pups. But the dog was taken away by an Army officer before it reached the airplane. Beberg’s family and Operation Baghdad Pups officials now fear Ratchet will be shot.

Beberg’s sorrow has become an international cause célèbre, with online petitions signed by almost 8,000 people worldwide, bloggers taking up Ratchet’s plight and a story in a London newspaper.

Beberg, who is scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of this month, also has signed one of the Internet petitions.

Sgt. Gwen Beberg befriended puppy Ratchet while serving in Iraq. The U.S. military confiscated Ratchet as Sgt. Beberg prepared to fly home from Baghdad Airport. Operation Baghdad Pups, a program run by SPCA International, is pleading with the U.S. Army to allow Ratchet to fly out of the country – amid fears the dog awaits almost certain death if left behind.

Gwen’s mom, Pat, has been trying everything to get Ratchet home safely, noting how much this would do for her daughter’s mental health.

“There are a lot of ways of being scarred other than the physical,” Pat Beberg said. “My daughter has had a really tough time over there, living in those circumstances, and the dog has been just a godsend to her.”

Pat Beberg has called the offices of Rep. Keith Ellison and Sen. Amy Klobuchar for help, but it’s not clear what will happen. She also said it is not clear where Ratchet is, but he apparently is still alive.

“We’re all sending e-mails back and forth,” she said. “Everyone is working on this. I know the military has its rules, but I think it could be some very positive PR if they were to revise and review that ruling … The military is very concerned about post-traumatic stress and high rates of suicide. When my daughter called here a week ago, she had trouble talking on the phone. She’s devastated.”

Please help our service men and woman keep their beloved pets in Iraq & Afghanistan. You can sign a petition here.

And, do go learn more about Operation Baghdad Pups, a quite special organization.

Terri Crisp, program director of Operation Baghdad Pups, said the group has gotten 56 dogs and cats that had been adopted by military personnel out of Iraq. As a part of SPCA International, the group uses donations to fly the animals to the U.S. on commercial and private airlines. On Oct. 1, the group had flown to Baghdad to get Ratchet and 14 other animals after suspending operations during the heat of summer. Crisp said the group has tried to keep a low profile so there’s no “ruckus” over the Army’s no-pet rule.

“There are commanding officers there who are animal lovers and recognize that these animals make a difference,” Crisp said. “We’ve had high-ranking officials bring out animals themselves.”

Ratchet, she said, has been the only animal confiscated once the evacuation process had begun, but at least 36 other animals that soldiers were trying to get out of Iraq have been destroyed.

“To me, it’s totally senseless, because they took away something that could help soldiers, and this just causes more trauma for them,” Crisp said.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s