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.

Stubby

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

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.

 

RinTinTin
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

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

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.

Summer safety (and fun!) for dogs

Memorial Day is the unofficial start to summer. While summer is the most fun season of all for a lot of dogs, there are some safety tips (and fun tips!) to keep in mind as we head into this season’s fun-for-all.

Heat

Don’t be an ass and leave your dog in the car- even if you are just running into Starbucks for that Frappucino and you can see her from the counter. Being able to see her doesn’t make her any cooler. Refer to this chart for temperature equivalencies. In 10 minutes (the

Heat chart

Heat chart

time it takes to get that Frappucino) your car can reach 100 degrees, even with the windows cracked. At that temperature, your pet can go into shock. Dogs have a very narrow range of body temperature- normal is 101-102. When their body temperature reaches 103-104 they are having heat stroke symptoms (or fever but we are talking about heat), and at 106-107 organs start shutting down and coma and death occur.

Asphalt awareness

Asphalt awareness

Pay attention to their paws too. Hot asphalt pathways and sidewalks can quickly burn sensitive paw pads when out for a walk.

Parasites

Little buggies and swarmy things are out in force. Make sure that your pooch is protected with a flea and tick and heartworm preventive. This isn’t just for those that live in rural areas- mosquitoes are everywhere, and fleas and ticks are too. Ticks are really abundant in Michigan this season, check your dog every time they come in from the outdoors to make sure they are not bringing friends with them.

Hydration and Exercise

Portable water bowl

Portable water bowl

Cooling vest

Cooling vest

Your dog will drink more when he’s hot, and probably exercise less. Reggie gives me this look like, “you want me to go where lady?” On walks we take with us this portable water bowl that clips onto a water bottle as well as the leash from Popware for Pets. It’s very handy because Reggie drinks a lot when it’s hot. Another cool tip? Wet a bandanna and put it in the freezer for a few minutes- not until frozen- and put it around her neck under the collar before you head out. A more sophisticated option is this cooling vest from Gramercy Pet. Soak the vest and the evaporating water will keep him cool.

Swimming

Does your dog love the water? Reggie does. He has his own doggy-pool for after walk cool-downs and he plays in the grown-up pool. Remember safety and get a life vest for your pooch, especially if you’re a boater. Also note that not all dogs are good swimmers, even if they love the water. Brachycephalic dogs (short muzzle breeds like bull dogs) are more likely to suffer from overheating and have breathing difficulties, and are not really good swimmers even if your dog happens to love the water.

Fun Stuff

Buoy toys from Waggo

Buoy toys from Waggo

Freezy Pups

Freezy Pups

I am absolutely going to get Reggie one of these mini-buoy toys for playing catch in the lake this summer. Last year I had to call it quits when he destroyed the toy football we were playing with, and he still didn’t want to get out of the lake.

For a cool treat get FreezyPups, the flavored pupsicles in the fun bone shapes. Reggie LOVES these (apple is his favorite). For a cheaper option, you can always just freeze chicken broth too (not for Reggie- allergies).

Get a Kong toy and stuff it with banana, peanut butter or wet dog food and put it in the freezer. Give her the frozen treat while you’re gardening for afternoon fun and it keeps her cool and occupied!

Whatever your summer passion, be sure to include your dog. Just do so in a safe an fun way!