Memorial Day honors the American men and women who have lost their lives while serving in the military. It originally honored those who died in the Civil War, and now honors those who died in any war. It is also known as Decoration Day. This holiday differs from Veterans’ Day which honors all those who served in the military.
National K9 Veteran’s Day
There is no Memorial Day for the brave military K9s who served and lost their lives, often heroically saving their human partners. I can’t imagine the bond that must exist between the soldier and his or her war dog—they share things and stand against danger to protect the rest of us against horrors we don’t want to think about. And because of them, we don’t have to worry about such things. Thank you.
I’m eternally grateful to those who sacrifice for our freedom. Losing a beloved animal companion anytime cuts deep. It must be horrific to lose a comrade-in-arms, including those with four feet and fur.
And since I focus on pet issues, I want to shine a light on the dogs of the military. There is a National K9s Veteran’s Day on March 13, too. But here’s an excerpt from my book DOG LIFE to shine a light on military dogs through the ages.
The military “devouring dogs” of the ancients have evolved into dogs with specialized skills similar to those of police dogs. These canines train to work in the worst conditions: they run under bullet fire, and even have been parachuted into inaccessible areas. Between 1940 and 1945, eighteen dogs were decorated by the British military. Scout dogs used in the Vietnam War no longer exist in the military but will forever live on in the memory of the men whose lives they saved.
Edinburgh Castle Cemetery for Soldiers’ Dogs is a fitting memorial to the countless canines that have followed their masters into war. Markers commemorate Gyp, Yum Yum, Scamp, Major, and others. Dogs were laid to rest there from 1742 to 1982, and no one knows for certain just how many dogs are buried in the cemetery.
Edinburgh’s “Bob” was an army mascot from 1853 to 1860 and won a medal in the Crimean War. Former Scottish United Services Museum curator Major H.P.E. Pereira wrote, “He is said to have shown a complete disregard for cannonballs and even chased them. More than once he was reported to have burned his nose on a hot one he did not treat with respect!”
Often, lonely soldiers far from home adopt stray dogs. When Staff Sergeant Ed Lynde rescued a skin-and-bones puppy from an enemy bunker in Iraq during the Gulf War, everyone kept telling him there was no way for him to bring “Sergeant Sandy” back home. Lynde happily proved them wrong; he raised the necessary funds, tracked down a veterinarian 300 miles (480km) away to complete the forms, and in mid-May 1991, the five-month-old puppy arrived in Oklahoma. Sergeant Sandy stood on the front lawn of Lynde’s house and barked loudly at the first tree she’d ever seen in her short, hectic life.
HONORING MILITARY & WAR DOGS
Military dogs have acted as watchdogs, guard dogs, patrol dogs, message dogs, mine-detecting dogs, and ambulance dogs. There are dozens of memorials and monuments in America and around the world honoring the dedication and service of war dogs and their human partners. Some of these include the War Dog Memorial (PA) honoring dogs that served in World War I to the present; the National War Dog Cemetery (Naval Base Guam) that features “Cappy” a Doberman; the Fort Benning war dog memorial at the National Infantry Museum; and Military Working Dog Teams National Monument at the Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas featuring a Doberman, German Shepherd, Golden, and Malinois with their human handler.
Not all military dogs are large. Puskos, a 15-pound Jagdterrier, works for the United States Navy uncovering illegal drugs. His small size allows him to search small areas bigger dogs can’t access.
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!
Brings tears to my eyes — as you finish writing about the war dogs, don’t forget the horses.