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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I got this earlier from a Plurk post by my friend, Andre. I wish I didn't open it and read this heartwrenching article but he's right and we do have to confront this kind of unreasonably cruel conditions imposed on the American soldiers fighting in Iraq. What's wrong with having a pet in battle anyway?
US Military rips away pet of deployed US Soldier shortly before Baghdad Pups can send puppy to safety in Minnesota

(This isn't my normal fare here, but I had to write about this because it is so tragic. Please read.)

One of my good college friends is in Iraq right now. A couple months ago, she told me about Baghdad Pups, a really amazing organization that provides medical care, clearance and transport for the animals U.S. soldiers have come to love during deployment in the Middle East.

There are some initiatives that everyone - regardless of their political views - can agree are fabulous. This is one of those.
Baghdad Pups gives our soldiers hope by helping them send their pets home to safety. It's such a unique and touching idea. I couldn't wait to write about it.

Except today, I wish I could be writing about anything else. Because something so awful has happened that I'm writing this through tears.
My friend has been held in Iraq by the stop-loss policy for over 15 months longer than her original commitment to the military. It hasn't been easy for her--and the puppy she saved has been one of the few things that has kept her going.
We've been hearing about her puppy, Ratchet, on Facebook for months. She's shared pictures of him as he grew from a frightened ball of fur to an adorable young dog. We learned when he was accepted into Baghdad Pups, and how her parents were going to take care of him until she returned home. She's kept us up-to-date on his travel schedule, and badgered us into contributing money to bring him home.

He was supposed to be on his way to Minnesota right now. Except he's not.
Last Wednesday, my friend's commanding officers seized Ratchet as he was on the way to the Baghdad airport en route to his new home with her parents.

Why? Because:
"It is against military regulations for active duty troops to befriend animals"
It gets worse. According to the Baghdad Pups press release on my friend's behalf:
"Soldiers can face immediate court-marshal [for befriending animals] and some even see their animals brutally murdered by a direct gunshot to the head from commanding officers who will not bend the rules."
It was so close.... Ratchet was on his way to the airport. And now he might be killed, just because some power-hungry officers decided to flex their muscles and punish an innocent animal because Gwen dared to care about him.
And to make it even worse, she is under military investigation for caring about a helpless puppy--something hundreds of other soldiers do in Iraq.

She is absolutely devastated. I'm devastated for her. I cried for days last fall after the cat I rescued died of old age. I can't imagine how horrid it would be to save and love a pet, to be full of hope that he will be a part of your life after you finally come home - and to have that cruelly snatched away.

I don't know why this has happened to her. She has been through so much already. It's just awful.
Please help me get attention for her. She hasn't asked, but I'm hoping that we can help her.

This horrible situation is happening to Gwen, but it affects all our soldiers overseas. They're in a terrifying situation every day, and it's not unreasonable to let them have the simple joy of having an animal that loves them. Is it?

As a soldier wrote to Baghdad Pups:
“I have sacrificed a lot to serve my country. All that I ask in return is to be allowed to bring home the incredible dog that wandered into my life here in Iraq and prevented me from becoming terribly callous towards life.”
Could you take a minute to help spread the word about what is happening to my friend? We want to get news out there about her case before the military decides to "eliminate the problem" by killing her dog.

Could you please Digg or Stumbleupon this post or send it to a friend. Or, if you're in MN, could you call one of our senators?

All we want to do is help Gwen send home the puppy that has made her sacrifices bearable... who was already on his way to Minnesota before the military decided to punish her by seizing him.

Thank you so much for your help!

If you want to know how to help Ratchet, click here to go to my follow-up post giving an update about his situation.

HOW YOU CAN HELP (Added by request)

If you are in Minnesota, call one of our Senators. She's a MN native and Ratchet was going to come here.
Senator Amy Klobuchar:
(888) 224-9043 -or- (612) 727-5220

Senator Norm Coleman:
(800) 642-6041 -or- (651) 645-0323

(or, if you prefer) Candidate Al Franken:
(888) 908-2008 -or- (612) 344-2008
If you're not in MN, call your senators and representatives as well. Also, pass this along to news outlets.

DonatenowdogAND! IF YOU REALLY WANT TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE for my friend and other soldiers, donate to Baghdad Pups. It can cost over $4000 to bring back a dog or cat to the US, and Baghdad Pups receives 3-4 new requests from soldiers every week. Please help them to continue their mission.

Thank you!

*** NOTE, I can't release information such as her unit and the names of her commanding officers because I don't have it. I've been trying to get more information since yesterday because I know that it is important. Please be patient.. I'm doing my best.

~Katie

Share her story by copy/pasting this story onto your blog and in your emails. Thanks!

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