Honoring our canine veterans

In honor of the Memorial Day holiday, I thought I’d take a look at some of the perhaps little known canine veterans.

Dogs have been used in a military capacity as far back as the Revolutionary War in the late 1700s. Every soldier who “brings with him a strong dog” was paid three shillings a month! Even by the time of World War I the US did not have an established K9 program while other countries already had sentry and courier dog programs. The Germans lead the field in military dogs with over 30,000, the Italians 3,000, and the US borrowed dogs from our allies or troops brought dogs with them.

The breed of the military dog in the early years was much smaller; terriers, pit bulls, collies, and some shepherds. The job of the military dog was to bring cigarettes to troops, be a courier, establish the whereabouts of the wounded, bring medical supplies, act as guard dogs, be a mascot, etc.

By the time of Vietnam, the US was still far behind the rest of the world in terms of military dogs. A little over 500 dog teams were employed in Vietnam, but over 4,000 dogs during the course of the war. While there were 3 canine casualties, not one base was taken by Viet Cong that was guarded by sentry dogs. The sentry dogs were vital in giving the soldiers enough warning when a base was being approached.

In the modern era, dogs are mostly used for bomb, drug, fire/explosive detection, search and rescue, and patrol and attack. German shepherds, Dutch shepherds, and Belgian Malinois are almost exclusively used for “sniffing” operations. The military has their own Dog School where canines are tested for temperament, physicality, gun shyness, and other items and then run through extensive training not unlike “regular” dog training.

There are so many examples of heroic dogs, from many different countries, I couldn’t possibly profile them all. Here’s a sampling.


Sergeant Stubby

Sergeant Stubby

Stubby was a pit bull mix in WWI who served for 18 months. Stubby alerted for gas attacks, attacking German soldiers, and was even injured by a grenade. Stubby was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and met three different presidents! Sergeant Stubby’s remains are in the Smithsonian.





Chips in action!

Chips in action!

Chips was a German Shepherd/Collie mix donated to the army by a New York family. Chips flushed out enemy troops to be captured and stormed machine gun nests. He was wounded in the head and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and Purple Star for bravery (these were later revoked due to a military rule about medals being given to non-humans, hmm). He returned home to his family in New York after his tour of duty.


movietinD3Everybody knows RinTinTin, but did you know that RinTinTin was a war dog? RinTinTin was a German Shepherd, a mascot for the German soldiers. However, he was part of a litter of five puppies abandoned at a German war station when American soldiers found them. And the rest they say is history…



Nemo getting checked by a vet

Nemo getting checked by a vet

Nemo is a German Shepherd that was on patrol with his handler in Vietnam when he alerted on something and gun fire broke out. He was shot in the face and his handler was also shot. Undeterred, Nemo attacked the Viet Cong which gave his soldier enough time to call in backup- who got there and cleared the area of any more enemies. To protect his soldier, Nemo laid on top of him and the medics had to get Nemo and the soldier to the hospital for care.



Cairo waiting to go!

Cairo waiting to go!

Cairo is a very special Belgian Malinois that is part of the SEAL Team Six group that stormed Osama Bin Laden’s compound. Cairo’s job was to detect bombs and explosives, flush out enemies, and detect secret passageways. Cairo even helped secure the perimeter. Cairo was even present when President Obama met with the SEALs who carried out the operation.


This Memorial Day as we honor our veterans who died while serving our country, let’s not forget the canine veterans that helped along the way.

Confessions of a clean-aholic

My favorite TV show is Hoarders. Why? Because I am a clean freak. Not an obsessive-compulsive disorder (I get the irony) kind of clean freak, but a minimalist, organized, clean, zero knick-knacks kind of clean freak. It’s probably karma that a dog like Reggie came into my life with allergies that require a diligently clean environment to keep him healthy.

So what’s my point? True to my nature, over the years I have researched- for Reggie of course- numerous things relative to cleaning to find things that are pet friendly and actually clean surfaces, not just give the appearance of clean (or smell like clean).

As we approach the new year we clean and purge, and start afresh. I bought a new vacuum, and I’m revisiting my cleaning products to keep my house safe and dust mite free for Reggie.

Ingredients To Avoid
Look at labels and avoid products with ingredients of phenol, isopropyl alcohol, formaldehyde, phthalates, and perchloroethylene.
Phenol is more harmful to cats than dogs, but in either case is harmful to the respiratory system and caustic to mucous membranes.
Isopropyl alcohol poisoning occurs most often from inhaled vapors, and is very common in cleaning solvents. Some dogs like the toilet bowl, what do you clean it with?
Formaldehyde is used in products such as carpet, furniture, building materials, and insulation. If you have extreme sensitivity, and new carpet for instance, the off-gassing of this material could be a problem. Formaldehyde is still used in China, Vietnam, and Indonesia as a food preservative so check where your pet food and treats come from!                                                                  Phthalates are that vinyl smell in plastic items. This isn’t a cleaning item necessarily, but phthalates keep the vinyl soft and pliable. As it leaches into the environment it becomes dry and brittle over time. It can be absorbed into the skin, or inhaled. The damage is to kidney and liver, and the reproductive system. No more vinyl dog toys for Reggie!                                                                The last one is less common for most probably, perchloroethylene, and is found mostly in dry cleaning, rug and carpet shampoos. If you do this yourself be aware that your pets are lower to the floor and breathe at a faster rate than we do.

What To Use Instead
Look for cleaners that utilize essential oils as cleaning agents. However, pine and citrus are toxic to pets so avoid these as main ingredients. Eco-Care has a great stain and odor remover that’s ok if your pets lick the surface. Method, Target’s brand of eco-friendly cleaning products, has many items in it’s line that I use and LOVE.

A Word About Floors
I just bought a new vacuum. One of Reggie’s allergies is dust mites and he had a hard time this past year with reactions. My house is majority hardwood floors, but I do have a couple of area rugs. Bagless vacuums are where it’s at right now, but after researching, I found that HEPA filter bag vacuums really trap and seal the dust and debris the best, and remove (depending on what you buy) 99.9% of allergens. I also looked at steam mops, because I have majority hardwood. It makes sense, right? Hot water, no chemicals, clean surface, perfect for kids and pets. Not so fast. The majority of steam mops run continuous steam at about 160-170 degrees, with steam bursts at higher temperatures which vary by manufacturer- most at around 200 degrees. Most steam mops also claim to kill 99.9% of bacteria…kind of true. At 160-170 degrees you can kill dust mites and you can clean spills or a soiled floor. To clean bacteria (like a spill in your kitchen, or a pet accident) such as listeria, salmonella, e.coli, influenza, etc., the steam has to be 212 degrees for at least 90 seconds.
Bottom line? Steam mops can be great depending on manufacturer and if used properly. I will stick with my new German engineered vacuum and wood floor cleaner.

Here’s to a happy, healthy new year!

Reggie’s letter to Santa

Every year I selfishly get Reggie whatever I want, assuming he must love it. Well this year I am going to do something different. Reggie has had a tough year. He didn’t get to live in his own house for a good chunk of the year, and he had some debilitating health issues this summer. But he was a good boy, he’s on the nice list!

So I decided to follow the lead of my fellow dog bloggers and let Reggie write a letter to Santa and let him ask for what he wants, instead of me just getting it. Here is Reggie’s letter, as dictated to me of course.

Dear Santa,

I have been a very good dog this year. My human made me move and I didn’t complain (much). I faked a stomach flu for about 2 months and barfed in her bed and I kind of feel bad about that…but I saw how upset she was and I did get used to the move so I take it all back. Please don’t hold that one thing against me. Here is my list in no particular order:

1. Squeaky tennis balls. Preferably the Kong ones. My human hides them from me because I do something they call “resource guarding.” I don’t know what that is other than I must need more.

2. Get rid of that pesky neighbor dog. He has a great haircut but bad manners. I tried to teach him once but he didn’t get the hint.

3. A heated dog bed. My human’s bed is heated but she turns it off when she leaves. I prefer my side to stay heated throughout the day but the human won’t do it. Something about “dying in a blazing inferno.” Must be a human thing.

4. A GoDogGo automatic ball thrower. Enough said.

5. Squeaky tennis balls. Refer to #1 and #4.

6. Peanut butter bacon bones. The homemade ones from my Aunt Dao. Maybe you could give her a hint and tell her to send me some? If I knew where she lived I would escape and go there. I hear the humans say my cousin Stewie is chubby and not-so-smart so I think I could take him, even if I am older.

7. A new GoFit ball for Grandma. I found it in Grandma’s house. Santa this is the ball humans exercise with- it’s the biggest ball I’ve ever seen! I bounced that ball all over the house and down the stairs it was awesome…but I broke it. Grandma says she doesn’t care but I feel bad.

8. A pool. I can ask for anything right Santa? I have a pool at the other human’s house, but maybe I could have an in-ground pool at this house? Then I can climb in and out easier? And jump for balls into the water? Refer again to #1, #4, and #5.

Overall Santa I think I have been very good this year and deserve all these things. I don’t ask for much (except maybe #8). I have met deer before and I was nice to them if that sways you at all.

Paws and licks,