The Military Working Dog Teams National Monument at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
Today is Memorial Day, the most solemn federal holiday in the U.S. It is time to remember those who gave their lives in defense of the nation. They put duty, honor, and courage above personal safety and in doing so, made the United States freer, safer, and better. We here at Barkly Pets would like to take a brief moment to remember some of the dogs who served as well.
Sergeant Stubby — Perhaps the most famous military dog, Sgt. Stubby was the mascot of the 102nd Infantry, 26th “Yankee” Division in World War I. Sgt. Stubby was a mixed breed bull terrier smuggled over to Europe by Private J. Robert Conroy. Wounded twice, he quickly became more than a mascot. At one point he used his keen sense of smell to wake the men before a gas attack. It was his role in capturing a German spy that got Stubby promoted to the rank of Sergeant, becoming the first dog given rank in the U.S. military. After the war, President Wilson had the honor of meeting Sgt. Stubby. The brindle pup went on to become the mascot for the Georgetown Hoyas before passing in 1926.
Source: “The Price of Freedom: Americans at War”
Rags — Sgt. Stubby was far from the only dog to gain fame in World War I. Rags, a Scotch-Irish terrier, was found by Pvt. James Donovan in the streets of Paris in 1918. Rags became famous for his ability to “salute” with his front-right paw, but did more than just entertain the troops. He often carried messages and would lead medics to wounded men. Like Sgt. Stubby, Rags was wounded in the war, losing vision in his right eye during a gas attack, a gas mask had been fashioned for him, but it was apparently dislodged by the explosion. Rags lived until 1936 and was made famous by a 1930 book about his life. His New York Times obituary stated that “He became a personality in the division, a symbol of courage and of good luck. Apocryphal stories sprang up about him, but there was generally a generous basis of fact for the yarns.”
Sources: “Rebecca’s War Dog of the Week: Rags the one-eyed dog”, “Rags, Dog Veteran of War, Is Dead at 20; Terrier That Lost Eye in Service Is Honored”
Chips — By World War II, war dogs were less likely to be strays adopted by soldiers, but family pets lent to the U.S. Army. Chips was a Shepherd-Collie-Husky mix from New York who was owned by Edward Wren. After passing basic training, Chips was shipped out to Africa where he helped guard President Roosevelt at the Casablanca Conference. During the invasion of Sicily, Chips broke away from his handlers and attacked an Italian machine-gun nest, the Italians, quickly surrendered. Chips was wounded in the attack. Later that same night, Chips alerted his handlers to an Italian patrol, this allowed the Americans to capture the patrol. Chips was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star, and Purple Heart and quickly became a hero back home. Unfortunately, not all thought he was deserving, the Commander of the Order of the Purple Heart protested the awards claiming that it demeaned the service of the men who received Purple Hearts. Eventually, Chips was stripped of his medals and no dog has received one since. He eventually received an honorable discharge and was returned to Mr. Wren. Chips was immortalized in the 1990 Disney film “Chips, the War Dog.”
Sources: “Chips: Decorated War Hero”, “Honoring the first dog to be awarded the Purple Heart”
Cairo — Nowadays, military working dogs are not pets, they are raised from birth to serve in particular roles. These dogs serve largely out of the public eye alongside Special Forces units or with Military Police units in a variety of roles. Navy Seals equip their dogs with bullet proof vests, night-vision and infrared cameras, and a microphone. The most famous dog of the War on Terror is Cairo, the Belgian-Malinois who accompanied U.S. Navy Seals on the bin Laden raid. Cairo was brought along to guard the perimeter, detect explosives, and find false walls. After the raid, President Obama had the honor of meeting Cairo in the White House. Cairo appeared in the film Zero Dark Thirty and was named Time’s Animal of the Year in 2011
Sources: “A Bin Laden Hunter on Four Legs”, “Getting bin Laden”, “Zero Bark Thirty”