By Suzanne Alicie
How many real life dogs can you think of who lived an adventurous and heroic life and then had a Disney movie made about them? Well, now you know of one: Chips, the War Dog! This is also the title of the 1990 Disney movie.
Chips is known as the most decorated war dog from World War II. A private citizen named Edward Wren was Chip’s owner until he donated the German Shepherd/Collie/Siberian Husky mix to the military for duty. In 1942, Chips attended the War Dog Training center in Virginia to become a sentry dog.
Once his training was complete, Chips traveled the world. He went with his handler Pvt. John P. Rowell and the 3rd Infantry Division to North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany. In 1943, Chips and his handler were trapped on a beach in Sicily by an Italian machine gun team. Rather than simply survive, Chips broke free from his handler and jumped into the enemy’s “pillbox” (a type of barricade) to attack the gunners. The four men were forced to leave their station and surrender to U.S. troops. Later that same day, Chips helped take 10 Italians prisoner.
Chips was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and Purple Heart medals, but they were revoked due to an Army policy that prevented awarding official commendations to animals. In recognition of his sacrifice, bravery and loyalty to his unit, the 3rd Infantry Division unofficially awarded Chips with a Theater Ribbon with an Arrowhead for an assault landing, and Battle Stars for each of his 8 campaigns as their fellow soldier. His fellow soldiers realized what the Army did not – that a dog is not just equipment!
During his time in the military, Chips sustained a scalp wound and powder burns, but was returned safe and sound to the Wren family in 1945 at the end of his tour of duty.
There are many inspiring pets and animals in the world, but military working dogs have a special place in the hearts of many. In today’s patriotic political climate and the constant presence of war in our lives, we have a special reverence and respect for our soldiers and there’s nothing like seeing a soldier and his dog together to instill that feeling of pride, and possibly bring out a tear or two.
Our soldiers overseas today often have specially trained canine troops along with them. These dogs are well trained and function as part of the unit, doing what they have been trained to do, but the deep devotion between the handlers and their dogs is just as intense as the feeling of family that all soldiers have toward one another.
Photos emerge online showing our soldiers in full battle gear with their dogs right alongside them, and it just brings tears to my eyes every time. The dogs that are our soldier’s friends aren’t always fellow soldiers, either. The troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have rescued and cared for many stray dogs, and programs such as the Puppy Rescue Mission were created to help bring these adopted dogs home with their soldiers.
The War Dogs Association encourages everyone who is sending a care package to a soldier to include some dog toys, treats and even sunscreen for our canine compatriots. They too are far from home and in a dangerous land, and they count on their handlers and the other soldiers to keep them safe and cared for. So, the next time you look at your cuddly puppy lying on the sofa, keep in mind that he’s capable of greatness – he could be a hero and you are lucky enough to have him to love! Give him an extra snuggle and a few CANIDAE Tidnips treats, and be thankful that he’s safe at home.
Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie
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