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Staff Sgt. Melanie Campbell-Orellana couldn’t help herself, even though she had that bad gut feeling.

“I thought, ‘What am I doing?’” she said. “But when I saw the dog it was, ‘Awww, a puppy.’”

Nevermind that the “purebred” miniature schnauzer had brown on its paws and ears. Or that it was being sold from the trunk of a car during a rendezvous at an autobahn rest stop.

“I fell for it,” she said. “Four hundred euros.”

The puppy died four days later at a veterinarian’s office. A 270-euro vet bill added insult to injury.

Campbell-Orellana, of the Würzburg Medical Activity, is one of a several soldiers who have recently bought puppies from dealers who advertised in Stars and Stripes only to discover the pups were infected with parvo or other viruses.

An Army veterinarian is warning soldiers to do their homework before buying.

“You need to do the research and legwork, and try to find out where these animals are coming from,” said Maj. Rebecca Evans, a doctor with the 100th Medical Detachment. “You need to go out there to the facility, meet the breeder and see facilities that these dogs are living in.”

That’s not always easy.

Private 1st Class Michael Burcham said he believed the ad in which the puppies were “guaranteed healthy.”

“It was an early Christmas present for my daughter,” Burcham said. “She had been wanting a puppy.

“After contacting [the seller], he said it was only 440 euro. I figured that was a good price for purebred, so we went ahead.”

After his puppy died, Burcham, of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, learned that other soldiers had similar experiences.

On Sept. 30, German police set up a sting. The dealer, who was from Poland, brought eight puppies to Vilseck, only to have them confiscated because their paperwork was incorrect, said Arvid Stelter, a Vilseck veterinarian who took custody of the animals.

Stelter said the puppies were bred at puppy mills, where overcrowded conditions make puppies more susceptible to sickness. All eight were sick, and four of them had parvo, a virus that can be fatal. They are recovering, he said.

“Everybody knows about these mass-breeding farms in Poland,” Stelter said. “It’s very cheap.”

Stelter said Americans who are interested in buying purebred puppies could contact the Verband fur das Deutsche Hundewesen in Dortmund — the equivalent to the American Kennel Club — for a list a reputable breeders.

Evans, the Army veterinarian, warned that there were no guarantees when buying a pet.

“An animal is a huge undertaking for everyone,” Evans said. “We’re heading into the holiday season, and a lot of people are thinking a pet is a great idea for a present.

“Don’t make it a hasty decision. Do your homework.”

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