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Bring 'Em Home: The Dogs, That Is [10/19/2008 11:09:00 PM]:
Anybody who knows me knows, most likely, that I'm a big, big sucker for animals of all types -- hell, I don't even like squishing spiders or ants unless I absolutely need to (mosquitoes are another story, but hey, I've gotta draw the line somewhere). So when I heard about Operation Baghdad Pups, it smacked me right between the eyes.

Check out the site for full details, but the basic goal of the campaign is to help bring home the dogs (and heck, maybe other pets, too) befriended by soldiers stationed over in Iraq. As in a lot of places, there are a ton of stray dogs roaming the Iraqi streets and alleys, and troops desperate for something that feels like home have started taking them in, caring for them, and falling in love with 'em. A lot of units apparently end up with one of these dogs as a mascot and keep them secretly on their posts.

Unfortunately, military regulations are apparently very stringent when it comes to befriending animals taking pets on military flights, meaning that when troops get rotated back home, the dogs are left behind in Iraq to fend for themselves, something that breaks the hearts of both the soldiers and the dogs. Through Operation Baghdad Pups, SPCA International aims to keep these dogs together with their new owners, flying them back to the U.S. on any flight they can arrange.

I know, I know -- there are a ton of stray dogs to care for right here at home, all of whom deserve love and caring and all that. I like Baghdad Pups, though, because A) the idea isn't just to bring stray dogs to the States so they can go in a shelter, but so they can go to a loving home that's already waiting for 'em, and B) I firmly believe that anything that can be done to keep a soldier trained to kill sane and human in the insanity of a war zone where everybody's a potential enemy. Anybody who can hurt an animal and not feel anything is a lot more likely to be willing to hurt a fellow human being; by that logic, I think people who have and take care of pets like these dogs are less likely to cross the line when it comes to dealing with innocent people also stuck in a war zone.

Anyway, I think this is one heck of a worthy cause, and apparently I'm not alone -- thanks to letter-writing and donations, the latest Baghdad Pup, a dog named Ratchet, has successfully made it here to the U.S., where he'll be reunited with his new owner, Sgt. Gwen Beberg of Minnesota, who rescued Ratchet and raised him from puppyhood. It's nice to see a happy ending every once in a while.

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