War heroes with four legs

War heroes with four legs

Ever read the book “Yorkie Doodle Dandy”? Ever hear of it? Me neither until I did a google search on animal war heroes. There are more of them than you would think but actually that shouldn’t be a surprise given that animals have accompanied us into battle since we first started domesticating them.
Smoky, a little Yorkie served in the Pacific during WWII. She warned the troops of incoming artillery shells (dogs can hear them coming much sooner than we can) thus saving many lives. She also was useful in pulling telegraph wire through tunnels (advantages of being a small dog). Her cute tricks entertained the troops and just her presence was a soothing influence during hard times. Her handler wrote a book about Smokey’s adventures called “Yorkie Doodle Dandy” to honor his little brave companion.

Smoky isn’t the only animal that has been honored for their service. Chips, a Shepherd Mix, was the most decorated animal in WWII having been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, and Silver Star for his actions. Stubby, a pit-bull, is the most well-known service dog from WWI and has the Stubby Award for Animal Heroism named after him. He is also preserved and on display with his medals at the Smithsonian Institute.

There have been statues, books and movies made about animals that served during wars. The most recent is “War Horse” a movie about a single horse used during WWI and his unique bond with the boy who raised him – but it’s really a salute to all the equines used during war. “The Invincible Sgt. Bill” is a true story that was made into a short movie about a goat that served during WWI and saved many soldiers’ lives. He was stuffed and is still preserved in Saskatchewan, where the real Bill came from.

We usually think about dogs and horses when we think of military animals but, in fact, every kind of animal has been used at some point. Dolphins, elephants, camels, pigs, pigeons, cats and even slugs! Who knew (except the scientist studying them) that they could detect mustard gas in the air at much lower particles than we could and therefore warn soldiers when they needed to put their masks on? How do you pin a medal on a slug?!

This Memorial Day, when we pause to remember all those who have served and died for our freedoms, let’s remember those with four legs (or no legs, like slugs) that have also served. They didn’t have a choice and often died doing what we bid them to do. They are heroes too and deserve to be honored as such.

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