Every November we honor and thank our veterans on Veterans Day. We often overlook the K-9 Veterans who also served, so every March 13th, we have set aside a day to recognize the sacrifices of America’s amazing dogs of war.
In every military conflict there are canine heroes. Dogs are mascots, guards, trackers, hunters, fighters, alert systems, detectors, scouts, medical research candidates, sentries, and morale companions. They’ve saved thousands and thousands of lives. Here are just a few of the more famous American veterans who just happen to be K-9s.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. military announced that they were looking for dogs to serve in their new military dog program. Patriotism was strong after such an attack on the U.S. and hundreds of families volunteered their pets for service. Chips was a German Shepherd-Collie-Siberian Husky mix who famously served in Germany, France, North Africa, and Italy during World War II. He saw plenty of action and even caused the surrender of gunmen who had American troops trapped on a beach in Sicily. He is one of the most highly decorated dogs of all time. When the war was over, he was returned to his family, who had volunteered him for service.
Judy was a naval dog who was stationed on two ships and was embedded with troops during several battles. She survived multiple sinking ships, saving several passengers from drowning in the process. When shipwrecked on an island, she detected a freshwater source for soldiers, saving their lives. Judy then traveled 200 miles through the jungle and survived a crocodile attack, only to become the first canine prisoner of war during the second world war. She was almost put to death by Japanese guards, but was saved by her fellow captives. They hid her until allied forces arrived to rescue the soldiers, including Judy. She lived out her days with one of the soldiers from her time as a prisoner of war and was the recipient of several medals in recognition of her service.
Known for heartbreaking loyalty, Lex was a German Shepherd who served with Cpl. Dustin Lee. In 2007 while serving in Iraq, the corporal died outside Falluja. Lex was with him and pulled him away from the location of the mortar attack to where medics could treat Lee. Our hero, Lex was also injured by shrapnel and was eventually discharged from the Marine Corp later that year to be lovingly adopted by his handler’s family. (Lex Image Credit: By L.Rich - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)
This little Yorkshire Terrier was rescued from a foxhole by Corporeal Bill Wynne during World War II. She helped him string communication lines between military outposts in the Philippines. After the war, Smoky and Wynne traveled across the U.S., toured Hollywood, and even performed as guests on television shows. When she passed in 1957, a statue was erected in her memory in Cleveland, Ohio.
Sallie Ann Jarrett
As the canine mascot of the 11th Pennsylvania infantry, she accompanied the soldiers of the American Civil War in battle and lived the army life, complete with drills and color guard at parades. She was killed in action in 1865, during the Union advance on Hatcher’s Hill in Virginia. Prior to her death she was a courageous soldier and loyal companion. There is a full-size granite and bronze monument to her on the Gettysburg battlefield to honor the soldiers who fought beside her and who she guarded on the Gettysburg fields.
A famous newfie called, Seaman, was the official dog of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. He belonged to Captain Meriwether Lewis and references to him can found in several journal entries and books. His companionship was often noted and he was a source of protection and morale throughout the entire trip. Toward the beginning of the expedition, he was kidnapped by Native Americans and later returned when Lewis threatened to attack and wipe out the entire tribe. There are monument including him and the expedition in over eleven states and a monument dedicated exclusively to Seaman, stands in Cairo, Illinois. For more working dogs, please take a look at our Work Like a Dog Day article from August 5th. Though there are many famous dogs from around the world, these represent important jobs and milestones worth noting on Labor Day and anytime we want to remember just how important dogs are to the health, well-being, and in some cases, the very existence of humankind.
This mixed breed was one of only two animals to be classified as non-commissioned officers by the United States military during WWII. While most soldier dogs are classified as military property, Sinbad was enlisted and served aboard the USCGC Campbell with the rank, K9C Chief Dog. He spent 11 years at sea and even saw combat in WWII. He was eventually retired and lived out his days frequenting a favorite bar and watching the sea. Sinbad - the first of his kind to provide morale, companionship, and canine patriotism.
This Boston Terrier was the other dog to be classified as a non-commissioned officer by the United States military. He was the official mascot of the 102nd Infantry Regiment, assigned to the 26th (Yankee) Division. Always on alert, this hero saved his regiment from surprise mustard gas attacks, comforted the wounded, and once detained a German soldier, holding him by the seat of his pants until American soldiers could find him. He returned home in 1921, a decorated war hero and died in his sleep a few years later. Sergeant Stubby was the first of many pet-riotic canine soldiers to see and fight along the front lines, protecting human rights and freedoms.
While post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is recognized as a common diagnosis among veterans, our war dogs are only now being recognized for their experiences with PTSD. Unlike humans, our brave dogs can’t talk about or understand what they are going through. They’ve been subjected to the same traumatic events and suffer the same emotional scars, but recognition of their situation and treatment aren’t available. Some veterans are able to prescribe medications for anxiety, and some have been lucky enough to go through rehabilitation, however, these dogs need our help and understanding. They need voices to speak in their defense, and homes that can provide the special care they need.
If you have the kind of home and abilities to take in a K-9 veteran, there are organizations you can reach out to including Mission Canine, Vets Adopt Pets, the United States War Dog Association, and more.