[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/US/10/14/iraq.puppy.ap/art.puppy.ap.jpg caption="Sgt. Gwen Beberg and another soldier rescued the puppy, Ratchet, from a burning pile of trash in May."]
WASHINGTON (AP) – More than 10,000 people have signed an online petition urging the Army to let an Iraqi puppy come home with a Minnesota soldier, who fears that "Ratchet" could be killed if left behind.
"I just want my puppy home," Sgt. Gwen Beberg of Minneapolis wrote to her mother in an e-mail Sunday from Iraq, soon after she was separated from the dog following a transfer. "I miss my dog horribly." Beberg, 28, is scheduled to return to the U.S. next month.
Ratchet's defenders are ratcheting up their efforts to save him. On Monday, the program coordinator for Operation Baghdad Pups, which is run by Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals International, left for a trip to the Middle East to try to get the puppy to the U.S.
And last week, Beberg's congressman, Democrat Keith Ellison, wrote to the Army urging it to review the case.
Beberg and another soldier rescued the puppy from a burning pile of trash back in May. Defense Department rules prohibit soldiers in the U.S. Central Command, which includes Iraq, from adopting pets, but exceptions have been made. Operation Baghdad Pups says it has gotten 50 dogs and six cats transferred to the U.S. in the last eight months.
"I'm coping reasonably well because I refuse to believe that Ratchet has been hurt," Beberg wrote in the e-mail to her mother, Patricia Beberg. "If I find out that he was killed though - well, we just won't entertain that possibility."
The mother said her daughter sent another e-mail saying that she confirmed that the dog was still alive and doing OK.
Operation Baghdad Pups' program coordinator, Terry Crisp, is scheduled to arrive in Baghdad on Wednesday. Crisp said the adopted dogs left behind face death on Iraqi streets.
She said Iraqis view dogs and cats as nuisances and carriers of disease, and U.S. soldiers have rescued many of them from abuse.
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