Saturday, May 29, 2010


I have read several articles and viewed some videos related to dogs being used in the military in Afghanistan or Iraq and also about stray dogs being adopted by soldiers while they are serving in Afghanistan or Iraq.  The stories are very interesting and also touching.

Dogs have served in the military and have been used in combat for centuries.  There is lots of information on the Internet about the role of dogs through the centuries participating in combat.  I recently read an article about special forces dogs parachuting with their handlers from 10,000 feet and gliding down to the ground.  The dogs are not afraid of the heights, they don't have our fear and the roar of the engines bothers them more.  In the particular story that I have provided a link to, the dogs are outfitted with cameras and have been used to go into insurgent compounds so that their handlers can see activity going on.  America's Delta Forces were the first to train dogs to breathe through oxygen masks in order to be able to do high altitude jumps.

As I usually gravitate to stories about Labrador Retrievers, an eight year old British Army black Labrador Retriever named Theo, was recently awarded the Dickin medal for his bravery in sniffing out bombs while serving in Afghanistan.  The Dickin medal started in 1943 and Theo is its 63rd recipient.  Along with dogs, other heroic animals awarded this medal have included 32 pigeons, three horses and a cat.   There is a Canadian connection to the Dickin medal.  Gander, a Newfoundland dog, was killed during the battle of Hong Kong in 1941 when he picked up a Japanese grenade and moved away from a group of Canadian soldiers, thereby saving them.

There are stray dogs brought back to the UK, Canada and the United States from Afghanistan and Iraq.   Stray dogs and sometimes cats get adopted by military units, though Canadian Forces official policy forbids camp pets.  After a unit is moved or soldiers get reassigned or get to go home, none of the soldiers want to leave these pets behind.  Afghanistan and Iraq are tough places for stray animals.  Getting these adopted pets out of Afghanistan or Iraq is a mission in itself.  There are dedicated volunteers who sometimes put their own lives at risk helping to get these animals out of the country.  In the UK, Canada and United States, there are retired military personal helping out to get these animals back to the soldiers' homes.  There is an organization, ( that works to bring soldiers' dogs and cats home.  It is also an expensive proposition.  Private Roy-Hampton raised about $3,000 required to bring a young dog named Guts home to Canada.  Guts has been renamed to Gus and he is now experiencing a great life on the soldier's family farm just outside of Regina, Saskatchewan waiting for his master to come home.   This story touches your heart as Gus was a four week old puppy, orphaned and malnourished when he first appeared in a mess tent for Canadian soldiers at a remote posting in Afghanistan.

You can read more about bringing adopted dogs back to Canada in the May 3, 2010 edition of the Globe and Mail.

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