Ratchet's rescuer, Army Specialist Gwen Beberg, arrived home on Saturday, and their happy reunion made it clear that the bond that helped each survive Iraq was mutual. "I decided this was an animal I couldn't part from."
Army Spec. Gwen Beberg gets a kiss from her dog Ratchet after returning to the States from duty in Iraq and being reunited with her parents Pat and Ted Beberg and Ratchet. Beberg fought the military to get the dog out of Iraq and online petitions set up to encourage Ratchet's release garnered over 77,000 signitures.
Let the record show that Pat Beberg got her daughter's first homecoming hug. But when Ratchet, the dog that Army Specialist Gwen Beberg rescued last fall in Iraq, moved in for a slurpy kiss, everyone in Fridley's VFW hall sighed with a collective, "Awwwwww."
"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, completing a tour of duty that unexpectedly led to a cause célèbre. Rachet arrived in October, after Beberg's efforts, coupled with almost 70,000 people signing online petitions and a little congressional nudging, prompted military officials to loosen the prohibition on U.S. troops adopting pets in Iraq.
Friends, family and supporters gathered at VFW Post 363 to witness the reunion, as well as to pay tribute to Beberg for her service. "I wish every soldier in the world, past, present and future, came home to a welcome like this," she said to about 60 people.
Then she made a pitch for supporting 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 pile of burning trash. The pet's unconditional love proved a comfort to Beberg during a difficult stretch.
Her parents, Pat and Ted Beberg, have been caring for Rachet, a feisty substitute for the daughter they hadn't seen in person since September 2007. Beberg already is registered for fall classes at Northwestern Health Sciences University to study massage therapy. She also wants to train Ratchet to be a therapy dog.
So far, the transition from the scorching desert to subzero Minnesota has gone well.
Beberg bent low and nuzzled her dog, who acted as if he'd left her only that morning. "He loves Minnesota. He thinks it's one gigantic field of treats."
Kim Ode • 612-673-7185