Throughout history, heroic humans have received medals for their courage and valor, especially in times of war. During World War II, a woman in Britain felt that animals used during wartime should receive distinction for their service as well. She created the Dickin Medal, Britain’s highest animal award; it’s given to animal heroes worldwide in the service of their country for their loyalty, outstanding gallantry and devotion to duty.
Maria Dickin lived the comfortable life of British high society. The shabby living conditions of the poor in London’s East End were far from the exquisite dinner parties and social gatherings of the wealthy. Like many well-to-do women of her time, Maria occupied her days doing charity work. One day, her work took her to the poor section of town. She was shocked and appalled by the overcrowded living conditions and disease surrounding her. However, it was the plight of animals living among them that caught her attention. Horses and donkeys were thin and crippled from hauling too many heavy loads. Sickly looking goats and rabbits were crammed into ragged backyards. Hungry cats and dogs had severe leg injuries, mange and other assorted ailments. Maria saw many animals in need of medical attention, but their destitute owners had trouble feeding their families and couldn’t afford medical care for pets or work animals.
We traveled all over when I was growing up, which made having a dog of any size something my father was not willing to deal with, much to my disappointment. Friends’ dogs were my exposure to the world of canines. Everywhere we went, there were always people we knew who traveled and moved with their families, too. That was the norm for all of us; we were expat nomads who made each new place home. This group of people became “family” to us. A few of the adults became loved aunts and uncles. One of our closest set of family friends, the Camerons, had a Beagle dog named Mity. Later in Germany, they added another Beagle named Schroeder to the family.
Mity’s full name was Mity Mite. He was a registered miniature Beagle with championship lines. Mity was a Beagle of determined personality. Although small, he made his presence known. He was a bit of a food hoarder, and often got into mischief trying to get food he wasn’t supposed to have.
He would steal and try to eat anything that was not nailed down, including two small pet turtles that were kept in a bowl with a miniature plastic palm tree. They disappeared one day and were found later under a couch, alive, one with a punctured shell but otherwise fine. That didn’t match the time Mity ate two whole loaves of sliced bread and swelled up like a balloon until he looked like he would pop, or the time in Paris he stole a whole pot roast off the kitchen table and hid with it behind an antique Victorian couch in their apartment living room. Little Mity had a royal appetite that fit his lineage.
A hero is often willing to put his or her life on the line to help someone in need. When a dog performs an unselfish act to protect his family, and sometimes even a stranger, it makes you realize the unique and special relationship we have with canines. Even small dogs have the courage and heart of a lion, and understand when someone needs help. These are six stories about the littlest dog heroes.
Archie, a Yorkshire Terrier, lived in San Antonio at an army residence community with retired Navy Capt. William Wakeland and his family. The little dog was trained to never bark at people he saw outside his window, and he always obeyed. One morning, Archie surprised everyone when he began frantically barking. When Archie wouldn’t stop barking, Wakeland went to the window to see if he could figure out why the dog was so upset. He saw his neighbor who suffered with Parkinson’s lying in the road unable to get up. Thanks to Archie who disobeyed a direct order to stop barking, Wakeland was able to assist his neighbor and help him get back home.
Zoey, a 10 month old Chihuahua, was playing in the backyard of her Denver home with owner Monty Long and his one year old grandson. Suddenly, the tiny dog dashed past the toddler who was playing next to a birdbath, and stopped between him and a rock on the other side. A rattlesnake on the rock was coiled and ready to strike the boy. Zoey put herself between the snake and boy, taking a bite to her face. Long whisked the boy to safety, killed the snake and then rushed Zoey to the vet. She was treated with antivenin and blood plasma, and made a full recovery. The boy was unharmed thanks to Zoey’s quick actions. Read More »
Late one night while outside with my three dogs, the sudden presence of a coyote startled us all; my dogs quickly gathered around me. I thought it was because they were scared, but they were ready to protect me. When a dog gives us their trust, the bond we share will never be broken by the pet. The following four dogs illustrate the importance of loyalty, love and a bond that can’t be broken.
When Mari gave birth to three Shiba Inu puppies the morning of October 23, 2004, she had no idea that by the end of the day, she’d be fighting to save her puppies and a human member of her family. That fateful day, a devastating earthquake rocked Japan. The village Mari’s family lived in was hit the hardest and most of the homes collapsed, including the one Mari was in with her pups. Violent tremors, and a leash restraining her, separated Mari from her pups. She struggled to free herself, but the leash wouldn’t budge. As more tremors came, Mari gave a last desperate pull and broke free. She quickly moved her pups to a safe place before racing back into the demolished home.
The grandfather had been in his room upstairs when the quake hit. Mari found him trapped under a dresser. As the old man slowly regained consciousness, she licked his face to let him know she was there. Mari ran back and forth checking on her pups and the grandfather, her paws cut and bleeding from walking over broken glass and porcelain. The grandfather eventually found the strength to push the dresser off and with Mari’s help, got out of the collapsed home.
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!
Stories and photographs of soldiers bravely serving our country move me. Many of the stories depict another type of soldier, the four-legged type. The U.S. Military has been using working dogs to help defend our country since World War I. In fact, brave canine soldiers were used in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. War Dogs website estimates that these amazing military heroes saved more than 10,000 lives during the Vietnam conflict alone.
A quote on the U. S. War Dogs website says it all: “The capability they (Military Working Dogs) bring to the fight cannot be replicated by man or machine. By all measures of performance their yield outperforms any asset we have in our inventory. Our Army (and military) would be remiss if we failed to invest more in this incredibly valuable resource.” – GENERAL DAVID H. PETRAEUS, USA. 9 February 2008
While that’s impactful and inspirational, there comes a time when these military dogs are released from serving our country and must find a forever home. These dogs are at various stages in their lives; some are young dogs who didn’t meet the training standards of the military K-9 boot camp, some are older dogs that have completed their tours and it’s time for them to retire from service, and some are dogs that have been medically discharged from service due to sickness or injury that interfered with their ability to perform their mission. In all of these cases, the dogs need to find a safe and loving place to live out their years.
That’s where The Military Working Dog Foundation gets involved. This 501c3 non-profit organization’s mission is to help the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Center find suitable homes for our four-legged soldiers after their period of service to our nation.
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