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Canine veteran 'Fluffy' coming to America

Iraqi-born dog trained by Special Forces

"Fluffy," an Iraqi-born dog trained by U.S. Special Forces, is coming to America.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An Iraqi-born dog who became a U.S. Army unit's best friend during fighting in Iraq will arrive in his adopted country in days, according to Pentagon officials.

"Fluffy," the hungry and abused German shepherd who became a U.S. comrade, is expected to be flown from Iraq to Germany and arrive Saturday night at Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina.

U.S. Army officials will pick up the canine and drive him to Fort Bragg, North Carolina where he will be reunited with his likely new owner and former handler.

"As his handler, I grew attached to him," Sgt. Russell Joyce told the Army News Service. "But the reason I really wanted to see him in the States was because he supported us the whole time we were in Iraq."

Fluffy's long journey began when a U.S. Army Special Forces team trained him in canine force protection. The 12-man team used him as its guard dog.

"We purchased him from the Kurds to perform military operations, but the officer in charge of loading said that since he didn't originate in the States ... he was not authorized to travel to the United States," Joyce told the Army News Service.

When the unit concluded its work in Iraq and returned to Fort Bragg, Fluffy was left behind -- not allowed to return with the team because of military policies preventing unauthorized "items" returning to the United States.

Fluffy's fate was uncertain for a while and Joyce was told the dog could be kept by military personnel in Iraq, but only for a limited time, a Pentagon official said.

After the serviceman returned home May 11, Joyce sent e-mails about the fate of the dog and Fluffy's story was told on a Web site dedicated to dogs who have fought in wars.

Public opinion may have helped move the military to subsequently approve the guard dog's trip stateside.

Because there is no requirement for a dog in a Special Forces unit, the dog will be deemed "military surplus" and offered up for adoption, an official at Fort Bragg said. Fluffy is technically U.S. government property because he was trained by military personnel.

Once paperwork is complete, he will be officially up for adoption. A law passed by Congress in November 2000 allows retired military working dogs to be adopted by their handlers or by law enforcement agencies.

Joyce is the first in line to adopt and, officials at Fort Bragg say he will take the newly retired veteran home to be his personal pet.

CNN Pentagon Producer Mike Mount contributed to this report.


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