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Ratchet touches down on U.S. soil

Decked out in a red, white and blue bandanna, a once homeless Iraqi mutt named Ratchet jumped out of his crate and wagged his tail at the airport Monday, three flights and two days after his much-postponed departure from Iraq.

Discovered by Army Spc. Gwen Beberg and fellow soldiers in a burning trash pile on the streets of Baghdad, Ratchet was taken in by Beberg, whose efforts to have him shipped home led to the dog being confiscated by U.S. military officials.

Later, the Army relented — its rules forbid soldiers bringing dogs home from foreign lands — and Ratchet was placed aboard a flight to Kuwait, another to Amsterdam, then another to Washington.

He will spend two nights in a kennel before flying to Minneapolis, where Beberg’s parents will pick him up. Beberg is scheduled to return home next month, the Associated Press reported. Northwest Airlines is donating the flight to Minnesota.

“I’m very excited that Ratchet will be waiting for me when I get home from Iraq! Words can’t describe it,” Beberg said in an e-mail to friends and family. “I hope that Ratchet’s story will inspire people to continue the efforts to bring more service members’ animals home from Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The dog was rescued by Operation Baghdad Pups, run by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals International. The group, which has now brought 63 animals to the U.S., says the effort both saves dogs and cats and helps soldiers who benefit from the bond with the animals.

Ratchet frolicked on a grassy patch outside the airport before heading off to Clocktower Animal Hospital in Herndon, Va., for a checkup and some shots, where he was pronounced “extremely healthy.


Comment from Marie
Time October 21, 2008 at 11:02 am

Yeah Rachet! This is fantastic news for Rachet and Gwen. I am so happy this was able to happen. There was no reason it shouldn’t, besides red tape and mean people. It’s a small victory for the good guys!

Comment from dougw
Time October 21, 2008 at 6:19 pm

I don’t mean to make people upset. No matter how happy people feel about this story… she violated General Order 1 – and every other Soldier who “adopt” pets. I wonder why she did not receive an Article 15 for disregarded a written order from a General Officer? I wonder why her leadership did not receive one either? I know why…I think anyone who has been in or is in military knows why too.

For those who simple think that this rule is about pets and not about the incurable, disfiguring, and potentially deadly diseases that these animals are a key link in are sadly mistaken. Dogs, cats, monkeys (found in Afghanistan), birds, etc all carry potentially hazardous diseases. What emerging diseases are in Iraq and Afghanistan? What medical symptoms will the military now have to question because of lack of military bearing and lack of leadership?

FYI – many Gulf War Soldiers believe they were exposed to “unknown” diseases while deployed to Saudi Arabia. Oddly, many of their long term symptoms are similar to Leishmaniasis.

And I don’t want to forget the fact that she unlawfully placed this dog on a convoy, which could have led to lives being lost if the convoy was attacked. Just imagine someone having to be MEDEVACed or put on a convoy because a pet they had bit them and they were not sure if they had rabies or not? And what if that helicopter was shot down or that convoy was attacked? What if someone else was wounded during combat and that medical treatment was taken away because of a rabies scare? If you think this is far fetched…YOU ARE WRONG! FYI – rabies in the Middle East is one of the highest in the world! That is why they have that rule. That is why she should not be praised. That is why as good intentions go; this is not right. This will kill people. This will drain resources. This will complicate the medical plan for the future care of veterans, if allowed to have close proximity to local animals.

Pets are great things to have and care for…but not in a combat zone. The Veterinarians in the Army are not intended to take care of pets. They are overworked and understaffed as it is…and don’t have the time to take care of dogs and cats that run the streets of Iraq while trying to take care of thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen.

Comment from Anne-n-Spencer
Time October 23, 2008 at 6:34 pm

I duno. I haven’t read the site at leisure since this was posted, and from where I sit as a civilian, I have a few thoughts. Well, more than a few, and probably most of them are offtopic.

We’re sitting here watching more and more of our sons, daughters, spouses, and neighbors being poured into a war in Iraq that we were basically snookered into. We’re pouring our tax dollars into it, yet we find that:
– Soldiers on the battlefield don’t seem to be getting the equipment and protection they need. We’re treated to the sight of moms and dads purchasing and sending things like bulletproof vests or whatever the military calls them.
– Wounded soldiers come home and get housed in concrete-block barracks with no bedding in Georgia or in rodent-infested paint-peeling rooms at Walter Reed, of all places.
– Disabled veterans find themselves shunted out of the military without the benefits they’re entitled to, leaving them homeless, jobless, or otherwise in severe distress. There seems to be a great fad for saying a soldier is 20% disabled when an objective doctor would peg it at 80% or higher.
– The spouses and families of active-duty military are having their medical benefits cut–it’s about to happen if it hasn’t already. I have a friend with breast cancer, and the Army has suddenly cheaped out on her treatment. She has kids, and her husband is going to be lucky if she’s still alive to take care of them until he gets back from Iraq. Ditto for veterans’ benefits.
– When a soldier makes the ultimate sacrifice, his family sometimes can’t even have the dignity and solemnity of a proper funeral because loudmouthed, foul-mouthed religious lunatics destroy the peace with their so-called demonstrations.

The list goes on and on and on, and it’s only getting worse as this drags on. I think you’re going to find a lot of Americans saying that if bringing a dog home helps, then a way should be found to do it. Rabies is always a problem. Rabies vaccine is pretty cheap, and if we need to find a way to fund it through donations, then maybe we ought to do that. As for the Leishmaniasis, I don’t understand that point at all. Dogs are bitten and infected. Humans are bitten and infected. I don’t think anybody’s demonstrated that it can be passed from one species to the other. And it certainly is endemic to the Middle East and Africa. (Dogs get it in the U.S., too…)

It is possible to support those serving in the military while deploring some of the actions of the government that has put them where they are. Warfare is very different now than it was a generation ago or two generations ago. Maybe it’s time to step back and find some ways to mitigate the effects of all this on the people who are suffering the most–the soldiers and their families.