A German woman has adopted this dog, which was left outside by an American family that went to Puerto Rico for three weeks during the Christmas holiday.

A German woman has adopted this dog, which was left outside by an American family that went to Puerto Rico for three weeks during the Christmas holiday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Military police may charge the American owners of a dog left tied up outside while the family went on a three-week Christmas holiday to Puerto Rico.

Grafenwöhr resident Angelika Berlinski said she and other locals became concerned about the dog, which was tied up on the front porch of a house in Grafenwöhr during one of the coldest winters on record in Germany.

In Bavaria nighttime temperatures have been as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit in recent weeks.

Berlinski said the dog’s owners left a fan heater running on the porch and a large quantity of dry dog food. There was also a bowl of water but it was frozen because of the cold, she said.

Two weeks after the dog’s owners went on holiday, Berlinski contacted German police to report a case of animal cruelty. But when the authorities failed to act she took matters into her own hands.

On Jan. 6, after she saw reports of more cold weather, Berlinski pinned a note on the dog owners’ door that read: "We live in Germany, not ‘Rocky Docky.’ Did you really think that a heater would warm the dog?"

Then she took the dog home and renamed it "Opa" (German for "Grandpa").

Berlinski said an American woman who claimed to be the dog’s owner later contacted her and admitted she was wrong to leave the dog outside alone. Berlinski said the two agreed that Berlinski would keep the dog.

Shawn Driscoll, Provost Marshall for U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr, said the incident is under investigation and that the owner could be charged with animal cruelty. Stripes was unable to ascertain the family’s identity and therefore could not interview them for this story.

The issue was indirectly addressed during a town hall meeting at the Netzaberg off-post military housing community on Wednesday.

Grafenwöhr’s director of public works, Tom Hays, told residents: "Pet ownership is very much on the minds of the German community."

Hays said local nationals take very good care of animals and have excellent veterinarians.

"They allow dogs to come into restaurants which would never be allowed in the States," he added.

An ongoing concern is that U.S. personnel leave pets behind in Germany when they change duty stations, he said.

"The animal shelters have some problems with the number of animals being abandoned and sent to them," he said. "People have to take pets with them or pass them onto another owner before they depart."

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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