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Soldier's adopted dog finally leaves Iraq for U.S.

  • Story Highlights
  • U.S. soldier adopted dog in Iraq; military prohibits such adoption
  • Military took dog during soldier's first attempt to send it home, group says
  • Dog helped soldier cope with her deployment, group says
  • Animal could be in Minnesota by Wednesday
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(CNN) -- An animal rescue group on Sunday picked up a U.S. soldier's adopted dog from Iraq, ending the soldier's weeks-long struggle to send the animal to her Minnesota home.

Operation Baghdad Pups, which said the U.S. military prevented its first attempt to take Ratchet the dog on October 1, picked up the animal in Baghdad with military clearance and flew it to Kuwait on Sunday.

The dog is expected to be flown to Washington on Monday, and if a veterinarian determines it is healthy, sent to Sgt. Gwen Beberg's home state on Wednesday, Baghdad Pups publicist Larry Garrison said.

Beberg, who adopted the dog after soldiers rescued it from a burning trash pile in May, tried to have the group fly Ratchet to the United States on October 1 as her deployment neared an end.

But the military, which prohibits soldiers from adopting pets abroad and bringing them to the United States, confiscated the animal after Beberg put it on a convoy bound for Baghdad Airport, according to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which runs OBP.

Ratchet and Beberg, 28, drew the attention of thousands of people who signed two online petitions -- linked through the SPCA's Web site -- urging the military to let Ratchet go to the United States.

The military cleared OBP to take Ratchet on Wednesday, but not in time for the group's flight from Baghdad that day, the SPCA said.

On Sunday, private security contractors took Ratchet from a base to the airport, where OBP -- which works with soldiers to help them bring adopted animals home -- put Ratchet on the charter flight to Kuwait, Garrison said.

Northwest Airlines will donate the flights from Kuwait to Minnesota, Garrison said.

The SPCA said Ratchet helped Beberg deal with her Iraq deployment, which started in September 2007 and is scheduled to end in November.

"She was absolutely miserable in the war and was really struggling to keep going every day. Ratchet turned it around for her," SPCA spokeswoman Stephanie Scroggs said last week.

Beberg's mother, Patricia Beberg, in a statement released by the SPCA, said Ratchet "was the savior of her [daughter's] sanity" in Iraq.

SPCA representatives said the military euthanizes some animals that it confiscates, and that Gwen Beberg worried that Ratchet would be killed.

Beberg was thrilled to hear last week that the military would let OBP take Ratchet, the SPCA said.

"Your persistence and amazing work has astonished me throughout this whole thing," Gwen Beberg said in an e-mail to the SPCA, according to the society.

Scroggs said one of Beberg's friends helped spread the news about Ratchet through blogs. One of the petitions, which had more than 65,000 signatures as of Sunday night, was started by a blogger, Scroggs said.

The SPCA says although active-duty soldiers aren't allowed to adopt animals in the Middle East, many soldiers befriend animals in the course of their service there.

Garrison said the program relies on donations, saying it generally costs $3,000 to $4,000 to bring a servicemember's animal to the United States.

"This isn't a one-time story This is a program making a difference for our soldiers," Garrison said.

All About IraqThe Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

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