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Tag: operation baghdad pups

Old soldier’s dog keeps his memory alive

laiaBy day, Army Maj. Steven Hutchison — a Vietnam veteran who came out of retirement at age 59 to fight in Iraq — was rough and tough, crusty and disagreeable, a man with little respect for the rules.

He violated one of them nightly, sleeping with his arms wrapped around Laia, a stray yellow puppy he had taken in from the streets.

Hutchison died in May, killed when a roadside bomb exploded near his truck — the oldest soldier to die in the Iraq war. But Laia lives on.

Laia was transported back to the U.S. by Operation Baghdad Pups, preserving not only the pup, but — as described in the Detroit Free Press yesterday — the memory of Army Maj. Steven Hutchison, as well.

“Whenever Laia was around,” Hutchison’s “demeanor and personality changed 1,000%,” Sgt. Andrew Hunt wrote in an e-mail to Hutchison’s family. “He was never without a smile; he was so much happier in life.” When a senior officer ordered Hutchison to get rid of the dog or face disciplinary action, Hutchison sent her into hiding with a friend at a far outpost on the border of Iran. The puppy broke free and ran away, returning one day to Hutchison’s base with a broken leg.

The day Hutchison was killed, Laia was spotted chained up outside a tent by Jerry Deaven, an employee of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Detroit. He was visiting Iraq to research terrorist funding.

“What’s going to happen to her, now that the major is gone?” Deaven asked. A few members of Hutchison’s team said they wanted to take her, but they were getting redeployed. “If I didn’t take the dog, they would have had to put the dog down,” he said. Read more »

Another soldier reunites with Iraqi dog

A Navy soldier has been reunited with the dog she rescued in Iraq.

Construction Mechanic First Class Joan Steates, who along with fellow Seabees took in a stray shepherd-mix pup named Sako, was forced to leave her behind when she came home in October.

On Monday night, they reunited at Dulles Airport, throught the efforts of SPCA International’s Operation Baghdad Pups, which provides veterinary care, clearance and transportation for animals that U.S. service members can’t bear to leave behind in the Middle East.

In the past year year, Baghdad Pups has brought 79 dogs and cats from Iraq and Afghanistan. 50 other reunions are in the works.

The SPCA says the program, funded entirely by donations, spends about $4,000 to ship each animal to the U.S.

Home from Iraq, soldier reunites with dog

Three months after shipping her adopted dog, Ratchet, home from Iraq, Army Specialist Gwen Beberg was reunited with him, her tour of duty completed.

“Hey, baby. Oh, you got so big — Oh, you got so big,” said the soldier to the pup. “Yeah, who’s home? Who’s home, huh?”

The two were reunited Saturday as Beberg returned to Spring Lake Park, Minnesota, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

Friends, family and supporters gathered at VFW Post 363 to witness the reunion. “I wish every soldier in the world, past, present and future, came home to a welcome like this,” Beberg said.

Beberg urged support for Operation Baghdad Pups, a branch of SPCA International that rescues dogs and cats adopted by U.S. military personnel. More than 50 pets have been relocated to the United States.

Beberg adopted Ratchet as a month-old pup after fellow soldiers rescued him from a burning pile of trash.

Although the Army balked at Beberg’s plan to send the dog home, Beberg’s efforts, and those of Operation Baghdad Pups — along with 70,000 signatures on online petitions and some help from congress — led military officials to loosen the prohibition on U.S. troops adopting pets in Iraq.

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.

Ratchet is coming home

A worldwide outcry by dog lovers has led the U.S. military to agree to release Ratchet, the Iraqi puppy they had confiscated from an Army sergeant who wanted to bring him home to Minnesota, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports.

Fifty thousand signatures on online petitions, and some help from politicians, prompted the Army to make an exception (as it has before) to its ban on soldiers adopting and bringing home pets from Iraq.

Operation Baghdad Pups, a program of SPCA International, had hoped to get the pup on a flight Wednesday, but the Army moved slowly in releasing the dog, causing it to miss a scheduled flight.

Program officials will make a special trip back to Iraq on Sunday to try to retrieve him.

Sgt. Gwen Beberg, who adopted Ratchet as a 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.”

Her mother, Pat Beberg, said 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?” 

Operation Baghdad Pups was founded a year ago and relies on donations to rescue dogs and cats adopted by American military personnel in Iraq. It has flown more than 50 dogs and cats to the United States.

Gwen Beberg, whose saw her duty in Iraq extended, is supposed to return to the United States in the coming months. When she tried to get Ratchet to her parents’ home in Spring Lake Park, a superior officer confiscated the dog on the way to the airport.

The case, through coverage by the mainstream media and intrepid dog bloggers, prompted a “firestorm of interest” on the Internet, the Star-Tribune said. 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.

In addition to the petitions, 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.

(Photo courtesy SPCA International)

20,000 say bring Ratchet home

More than 20,000 people have signed an online petition urging the Army to let Ratchet — an Iraqi dog adopted by a U.S. soldier — come to America.

And the soldier’s congressman, Democrat Keith Ellison, has written to the Army, asking it to review the case, the Associated Press reports.

As we reported earlier, Sergeant Gwen Beberg of Minneapolis took in a puppy in May that she and another soldier rescued from a burning pile of trash.

She went through the channels to allow it to be shipped home, only to find those channels have grown narrower than they once were. Defense Department rules — though they’ve been relaxed from time to time — prohibit soldiers in the U.S. Central Command, which includes Iraq, from adopting pets.

Beberg has since been separated from the dog, which was confiscated by the Army on its way to the airport, and she fears it will be killed.

“I just want my puppy home,” Beberg wrote to her mother in an e-mail Sunday from Iraq. “I miss my dog horribly.” Beberg, 28, is scheduled to return to the U.S. next month.

Operation Baghdad Pups Program, which is run by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, International, is hoping to rescue the puppy. Its program coordinator is flying to Iraq this week to try to get Ratchet out.

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