UPDATE: Last week we detailed this special tale about puppy Ratchet. Well, this special pup just got a reprieve from the U.S. military and could be headed for Minnesota by the weekend. Some US Senators and about 50,000 petition-signing dog lovers prompted the military to agree to release Ratchet, the Iraqi pup an Army sergeant is trying to get to her Minnesota home. But, due to a slow release on the part of the military, Ratchet missed the flight that would have gotten him out of Baghdad. Luckily, Operation Baghdad Pups will be trying again as they make a special trip back to Iraq this Sunday to try to retrieve him.
Thanks to Mary Jane Smetanka of The Star Tribune who is continuing to cover this touching story.
Sgt. Gwen Beberg, who adopted Ratchet as a tiny 4-week-old pup after fellow soldiers in Baghdad rescued him from a pile of burning trash, sent her mother a short e-mail Wednesday when she heard the news.
“I AM THRILLED THAT RATCHET IS GOING HOME,” she wrote.
But Beberg’s mother, Pat, said she won’t relax until the dog is in the hands of Operation Baghdad Pups. The branch of SPCA International, which was founded a year ago and relies on donations to rescue dogs and cats adopted by American military personnel in Iraq, has flown more than 50 dogs and cats to the United States. “It’s wonderful,” Pat Beberg said. “But until he’s in the hands of the Operation Baghdad Pups people, we still have to be a little reserved and cautious.”
Gwen Beberg has described the puppy as a comfort during a rough year in Iraq. She is supposed to return to the United States next month, and she tried to get Ratchet to her parents’ home in Spring Lake Park before she was transferred to a new base in Iraq last week. But a superior officer confiscated the dog on the way to the airport. Military regulations prohibit soldiers from adopting pets in Iraq.
Pat Beberg learned that Ratchet’s departure from Iraq had been cleared when Sen. Amy Klobuchar called her cell phone as she was driving to the dentist. She hopes Ratchet’s case might get the military to reconsider its policy against pets. “I want to make sure that other soldiers do not encounter this,” Beberg said. “[Gwen] is using a puppy to handle stress. Isn’t that so much better than popping a handful of pills?”
Ratchet’s case has ignited a firestorm of interest on the Internet. By Wednesday afternoon, petitions demanding clemency for the dog had been signed by more than 50,000 people around the world, and the pup’s story was posted on almost 27,000 websites. Supporters called congressional offices and Army headquarters this week demanding that something be done to save the dog. The offices of Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., and Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., also pushed for the dog’s release.
Northwest Airlines has offered to fly Ratchet from Kuwait to Minneapolis. Beberg’s parents would keep Ratchet until Beberg leaves the Army early next year.
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.”
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.