Today is Remembrance Day. Not only should we remember the soldiers who fought for us, but also the many animals who also played an important role.
Dogs were trained to use gas masks. Some dogs alerted soldiers to the presence of gas long before humans could detect it.
Dogs had a vital part in our World Wars. They had many uses and many breeds were employed. Some of the important roles that dogs performed included:
Messenger Dogs – these dogs were faster than any human, could cross any terrain and presented less of a target to an enemy. Dogs were able to take messages across ground when no other means of transport was able.
Mascot dogs – these dogs lived in trenches and kept the spirits of the men up. A small reminder of home, a warm body to snuggle up to.
Ratting dogs – some smaller, Terrier breeds were kept in trenches to free the trench of rats. Cats were also known to live in trenches.
Sentry dogs – gave a warning signal, such as a growl or bark, when an unknown entered a camp or military base
Scout dogs – accompanied soldiers on foot, staying one step ahead, patrolling the terrain. They were able to detect enemy scent long before any human could and would signal (hackles up, body stiffening, tail raised) to alert the presence of an enemy.
Casualty dogs – these dogs were trained to find the wounded and were equipped with medical supplies, enabling the injured soldiers to tend to their wounds. Gravely wounded soldiers would have the company of the dog until they died. These dogs were also known as Mercy Dogs.
Dogs, of course, still help in war zones today. Dogs are trained to detect explosives, to search for missing comrades or to target enemy combatants. They are on the front line and they also help behind the scenes – comforting soldiers and doing the thing dogs do best – loyal companions.
Let’s pause and remember our animals of war