A Navy Seal and his dog rappelled from the scoreboard to the field of Cowboys Stadium in Texas to deliver the official game coin for the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals football game. The November 2 display was part of a military appreciation campaign called Salute to Service – the NFL is donating $100 for every point scored during 32 specific games to non-profit partners USO, the Pat Tillman Foundation, and Wounded Warrior Project.
The Internet was quick to judge whether the dog was enjoying the experience or not, but dogs in military service is nothing new. Dogs have been involved in the wars of humans since ancient times, and have been trained for parachuting at least since WWII.
With Veteran’s Day coming up in the U.S., and Remembrance Day in Canada, let’s take a moment to salute a few of the canine companions who have trained with, worked with, protected, and in some cases, made the ultimate sacrifice with, the men and women who have served their countries throughout history.
- In WWI, dogs weren’t jumping out of aircraft, but they were widely trained as messengers, sentries, scouts, and many other roles. The Belgian army used dogs who were trained to pull milk carts to put their skills to use pulling supplies, wounded soldiers, and even gun carts.
- The most decorated dog of WWI was a dog named Sergeant Stubby, who, it is said, saved his regiment from surprise mustard gas attacks, and captured a German soldier, holding him until American soldiers found them.
- Many dogs were used as mascots for military units. They were there to lift morale in the trenches, as well as on ships; a few naval dogs were officially enlisted!
- In WWII, the 13th (Lancashire) Battalion of the British Army enlisted dogs to jump with soldiers so they could perform duties such as locating mines, keeping watch and warning troops about enemies. They trained for over two months to learn their duties, and reports state that once trained, the dogs would often jump from the planes without any coaxing.
- Many dogs also joined the war in the Pacific to help take islands back from Japanese occupying forces.
- The most decorated dog of WWII was Chips, a German Shepherd-Collie-Siberian Husky cross who served with the 3rd Infantry Division in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany. It is said that Chips broke away from his handler when they were pinned down on a beach in Italy by a machine gun team, jumped into the pillbox and attacked the gunners, forcing them out of the pillbox where they had to surrender to US troops. Later the same day, he helped take 10 prisoners. Following the war, Chips was discharged and returned to his family in Pleasantville, NY.
- During the Vietnam War, K9 units were estimated to have saved over 10,000 human lives at a cost of the lives of 232 dogs and 295 US dog handlers.
- Throughout all of these wars and operations, ambulance dogs were used by the Red Cross to help find wounded soldiers in the field.
- In 2011, a Belgian Malinois named Cairo joined 79 commandos for Operation Neptune Spear, the mission that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. Cairo’s job was to help find hidden rooms and doors, and to deter opposing security forces.
- Military working dogs continue to serve as sentries, trackers, search and rescue dogs, scouts and mascots. They are also widely trained as therapy and service dogs for veterans coping with the emotional and physical aftermath of military service.
The loyalty, trainability, willingness to serve, and love that dogs have for us have made them valued members of the service. This November 11, we salute these dogs and their sacrifices.