Remembering the brave military working canines that served our country.
Remembrance Day is observed on November 11 every year here in Canada. 11/11 is the day when the First World War ended in 1918. On this day, Canadians come together to honour the courageous women and men who served our country. At this time, we stop and observe a moment of silence for those who lost their lives in war and think or pray for those still protecting our beautiful country for it is through their enormous sacrifices that we have a peaceful country to call home.
It is with that same love and pride that we Canadian animal lovers recognize the role Canadian dogs have played in the military over the years. Red Poppies are worn on Remembrance Day as an enduring symbol of remembrance to commemorate our war dead and the Purple Poppy commemorates the contributions and sacrifices of animals in war.
Several breeds served as military working dogs during World War I including German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Airedale Terriers, Standard Poodles, Boxers and more. Generally, these dogs had several characteristics in common, including good temperament, medium build, agility, good eyesight, a strong sense of smell, firm paws and deep chest.
The dogs were between the ages of one and four year. Their colouring had to be black, greyish brown or grey. White dogs were considered inappropriate for war purposes as were bitches due to the fact that their heat cycle could throw off the other working dogs.
In times of war, dogs have been and are still today used in a variety of roles. Apart from acting as morale boosters by keeping soldiers company, military dogs of World War I served our country and many other countries by acting as:
Instead of barking, military dogs growled quietly and/or stood at attention. This signaled quietly and allowed soldiers to get ready for their foes. On patrol, military dogs could often sense a human or chemical enemy presence much sooner than could their human handlers thanks to their keen sense of smell.
In the trenches, communication was often a problem. Heavy shelling destroyed telephone lines. Dogs made ideal messengers as they could run fast and were small targets. A messenger dog’s job was certainly not easy. These dogs had to travel long distances with obstacles like fire, shell holes, rivers, trenches and gases in their path.
Medical Assistant dogs (also called “Ambulance Dogs”, “Red Cross Dogs,” “Casualty Dogs” and “Mercy Dogs”) did some of the most dangerous tasks on the battlefield: finding and assisting the wounded in between the trenches. These dogs carried medical packs to soldiers so they could treat themselves if they were able. Dogs would also carry a wounded soldier’s cap back to the medics and then bring the medics to the injured soldier. Dogs also lay with the severely wounded in their final hours.
As it still is today, during war, a common threat is explosives hidden on a person, in a vehicle, or roadside location. With their superior sense of smell, Explosives Detection dogs are trained to alert on the scent of chemicals used in explosives.
Today, Service Dogs serve veterans who suffer from physical and mental illness, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Service Dogs quickly become a veteran’s constant companion, providing important reality affirmation to alleviate flashbacks and nightmares. Dogs also relieve the veteran’s hyper-vigilance for they learn to rely on the dog to detect danger, which improves both mental health and sleep. Dogs can bring back lost emotions and reconnect their humans with feelings of love and loyalty. They can take away a lot of loneliness and can help greatly with detachment and depression.
This Remembrance Day and every one that follows, let’s remember the millions of men and women who gave their lives on behalf of our country and also remember the thousands of fearless, hardworking dogs who served our country as well.
The Role of Animals in World War I, Orange City Council. Retrieved from: http://www.centenaryww1orange.com.au/stories/the-role-of-animals-in-world-war-i/
Uses of Military Dogs in World War I, Family Search. Retrieved from: https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/military-dogs-world-war/
Famous Dogs in History. Retrieved from: https://dogs-in-history.blogspot.com/2016/03/satan-world-war-i-messenger-dog-hero_27.html
War Dogs of First World War (WWI, First Great European War) 1914-1918, Chaz, Owlcation. Retrieved From: https://owlcation.com/humanities/War-Dogs-of-WWI-First-Great-European-War-World-War-One-1914-1918