The U.S. Military has been using Working Dogs since World War I. At that time, selfless American families donated their pets to the wartime efforts. These days, military dogs and their volunteer handlers are trained as sentry, trackers, scouts, mine/booby-trap/tunnel and water detection of enemy forces. These amazing animals were used in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. War Dogs website estimates that these courageous canine heroes saved more than 10,000 lives during the Vietnam conflict.
The website goes on to say that today, all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces are using Military Patrol Dogs who specialize in drug and bomb/explosive detection. At this time, there are roughly 600-700 military dogs in the Middle East in places such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. These valiant canines are patrolling air bases, ammunition depots, military compounds and military check points.
And it all started with a stray, mixed breed mutt named Stubby. Where he came from is a mystery; one day in 1917 Stubby just showed up at Yale Field in New Haven, Connecticut. At the time, soldiers were running drills and the pup playfully joined the ranks. All the soldiers were happy for the company but one soldier in particular, Corporal Robert Conroy, formed a swift and strong bond with the dog.
Conroy quickly noted Stubby’s intelligence. Without much effort, he taught Stubby to shake hands. Once Stubby mastered that trick, Conroy decided to teach him to raise his paw a little higher when he was given the order to ‘salute’.
The bravery and loyalty of dogs fills the pages of history with unselfish acts of heroism. Dog heroes can be mixed breed and purebred, but the one thing they all have in common is a steadfast devotion to their owner. It can be argued that dogs act purely on instinct, but I think they also act on love and recognize when the people they love are in danger. Many dog heroes were rescued themselves by their owner.
Shana, a half wolf/half German Shepherd, was rescued as a sickly two week old pup. In 2006, she was 7 years old and weighed 160 pounds, which came in handy when she saved her owners, 81 year old Norman and Eve Fertig. The couple had been tending to animals on the Enchanted Forest Wildlife Sanctuary in Alden, N.Y. when a sudden winter storm hit in early December. The storm knocked down huge trees at the sanctuary, trapping the Fertigs between two buildings. It also knocked out the electricity.
Temperatures plunged to freezing, and Norman and Eve were trapped outside without warm clothes or shelter. What Shana did next amazed the couple and firemen who made it to the sanctuary the next morning to check on the couple. Shana began to dig through the snow and dirt under the fallen trees and kept digging until she had a ditch dug all the way to the house. She returned to Eve, grabbed her sleeve and slid the 86 pound woman onto her back. Norman grabbed Eve’s legs and Shana pulled both of them through the ditch to their home. Safely inside, she then laid across the couple to keep them warm through the night. From start to finish, it took Shana almost 8 hours to dig a trench 200 ft. long. She was given an award that’s usually only given to humans – the Citizens for Humane Animal Treatment’s Hero’s Award for bravery.
We’ve all seen the stories of heroic canine rescues, and remarkable behavior of loyal and loving pets. We’ve heard of service dogs and rescue dogs, but what about the heroic dogs that aren’t trained in any way but still perform amazing intuitive acts? Some of these may not be newsworthy, but they are evidence of the intuition that dogs have, and how they use it. Dogs are naturally in tune with the weather, their surroundings, and the humans around them.
Dogs can feel and smell the changes in the air when bad weather is brewing, and if the humans pay attention to their dogs they may be better prepared for whatever is coming. Everything from earthquakes to tornados and blizzards cause dogs to adopt a pack mentality of gathering those they feel responsible for and settling in for safety. Our dog Bear can hear or feel thunder before any of us, and she begins to make rounds of the house. We can tell she’s getting nervous because she tucks her tail and constantly runs from person to person almost like she’s herding us. Once we begin to hear thunder as well, we know why she was rounding up the pack. She often hides under the bed or some other protected small space but she keeps an eye on us and will run out to check if one of us is in another room.
One thing I’ve always stood by is the belief that if a dog immediately decides not to like someone despite being “introduced” and never having any interaction with that person, there is something about the person that the dog recognizes as a threat in some way. I’ve seen it happen with even the most amiable dogs – someone triggers some sort of defense response in the dog and it simply will not warm up to that person. In all the cases I know of, the dog was right.
A few months ago I shared the touching story of a devoted dog named Ceili who became a hero when she saved her owner’s life. Ceili’s “dogged” determination prevented Danny from going upstairs to bed, and when he suffered a massive heart attack a few minutes later, she ran to alert Danny’s wife Gayle. Well, I’ve just received some exciting news about Ceili that I wanted to share. Because of Ceili’s lifesaving actions that night, she is a Top 10 Finalist for a national award given to dogs that have shown extraordinary courage or resolve to help a person in need!
I really hope Ceili wins, because she is a true canine hero and definitely deserves this wonderful award. But what I find most intriguing about this story is that several very important things had to happen before Ceili could save her owner’s life. I’m always fascinated by miracle stories that illustrate how things could have turned out differently “if not for X.” The “X” is always different, but the end result is pretty much the same.
So what needed to happen in order for Ceili to be able to help Danny? First, a great man named Larry Chusid had to have both a dream and unwavering resolve to see it become a reality. Larry wanted to open a pet food bank in Portland, Oregon, and his passion and vision for achieving this dream attracted the attention of CANIDAE Natural Pet Food Company. CANIDAE donated $125,000 of their pet food to Larry’s nonprofit organization to get the ball rolling, and the Pongo Fund Pet Food Bank opened in November of 2009.
As pet owners we all think our own animals are wonderful and even heroic critters. After all, they save us from being lonely; they provide exercise and companionship, comfort and entertainment. But there are some pets that are a step above when it comes to loving and caring for their families and even strangers.
There are dogs that are trained as therapy animals and do an amazing job of being heroes for the people they encounter. CANIDAE Natural Pet Foods sponsors many heroic pets through their Special Achievers program, including Therapy Dogs Stitch, Riley, Sophie, Dexter, Barker and Sadie; Avalanche Rescue Dog Scout; and Surf Dog Ricochet, the SURFice dog who raises funds and awareness for a variety of human and animal causes. The people of CANIDAE feel that these wonderful dogs deserve some recognition, which is why we make a point to share their stories here.
September 11, 2001 will always be remembered as the day two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center. When the Twin Towers collapsed, they created a mountainous heap of smoldering rubble that burned for months. Countless firefighters and rescue workers risked their lives to search for survivors in the Ground Zero wreckage. Among them were an estimated 250 to 300 K-9 search and rescue dogs and their handlers.
I thought it fitting that on this fateful day, we take a moment to pay tribute to the heroic efforts of these amazing canines that have helped humankind for so many years. Beyond the 9/11 disaster, search and rescue (SAR) dogs have come to our aid during hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and other calamities. Although most of the handlers maintain that their search and rescue dogs are just doing the job they were trained to do, many people – dog lovers and the general public alike – regard them as extraordinary.
Disaster response dogs are called upon to work under the most extreme conditions, in highly dangerous and often toxic environments. Most of the K-9 teams at the World Trade Center disaster site rotated on 12 hour work shifts. The SAR dogs bravely dug in the fiery rubble at Ground Zero despite getting their feet singed by white-hot debris. They courageously nosed through the noxious smoke and dust despite its potential to harm their lungs. Who among us mere mortals could withstand such an ordeal? Not I, which is why I consider these dogs to be heroes of the highest order.
Many different dog breeds are used in search and rescue operations, but they typically come from the herding, hunting or working breeds. Some of the more common SAR dogs are German Shepherds, Bloodhounds, Golden Retrievers, Border Collies and the Belgian Malinois. More important than the specific breed, however, is the dog’s disposition. Each search and rescue dog has its own unique set of skills and endurance abilities, but all are hard-working and focused on the task at hand.
I recently came across a wonderful book on this subject, titled DOG HEROES of September 11th:A Tribute to America’s Search and Rescue Dogs. Written by Nona Kilgore Bauer and the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, this oversized pictorial book is a riveting account of search and rescue work, and the dogs that play such a vital part in it. Profiles of various SAR teams show them hard at work at Ground Zero and the Pentagon, accompanied by descriptions of what they are doing. This is a very moving book, and a must-read for all dog lovers.
The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) is a non-profit organization founded in 1996 and based in Ojai, California. According to their website, their mission is to “strengthen disaster response in America by recruiting rescued dogs and partnering them with firefighters and other first responders to find people buried alive in the wreckage of disasters.” There are currently 69 SDF-trained search teams located in California, Florida, New York, Oklahoma, and Utah. SDF offers the professionally trained canines at no cost to fire departments, and they ensure lifetime care for every dog in their program. If you would like to support on-going search canine efforts, contact the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation at 888-4-K9-HERO.
In memory of 9/11, please join me as I pay homage to all the remarkable search and rescue dogs that help us when disaster strikes. These dogs provide an invaluable service that saves lives, and they deserve our utmost respect.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.