Each year on November 11th, we take the time to remember and thank those who have given their lives in service to our country. Parades are held, ceremonies of remembrance abound, and wreaths are laid at war memorials all over North America and Europe. But how many people remember or even know about the many thousands of horses and dogs who have taken to the battlefield over many hundreds of years? Horses have been replaced by machinery now, but war dogs are still actively on duty around the world.
In World War I and II, many different breeds and types of dogs were used. Everything from a Yorkshire Terrier, to a Cairn Terrier cross, to a Pointer, as well as German Shepherds and Dobermans were used. In earlier times, a black poodle named Moustache served in the French Army in 1805 and a Staffordshire Terrier named Sallie served in Pennsylvania during the American Civil War.
Canada has its own war dog hero, Gander, who became the mascot of the Royal Rifles of Canada, stationed in Gander, Newfoundland during World War II. The unit was deployed to Hong Kong Island in 1941 to defend against Japanese attacks. Gander went with them and saved numerous lives whilst there. In 2000, Gander was posthumously awarded the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent to the Victoria Cross.
Today most war dogs are German Shepherds or Belgian Malinois, with Labradors and Golden Retrievers often used for scent work. These dogs are used for a multitude of tasks: sentry dogs, scout or patrol dogs, messenger dogs, mine detection dogs and casualty dogs.
It’s a testament to the amazing bond we have with dogs that so many have served with such courage and loyalty. They have given their lives in the process and they continue to do so to this day.
This Remembrance Day when you give thanks to those who have served their countries to protect our freedoms, remember to include our animal soldiers as well.