Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Military Dogs

Veterans' Day isn't until tomorrow, but I found so much interesting info about war dogs that I decided to start writing about the subject today.  And then I can write about it again tomorrow!  Woohoo!  Are you excited yet?

Anyway, to begin, I will tell you that people have been using dogs to help them fight wars for a long, long time, going all the way back into ancient history.  I am not going to try to explain why people have been making wars for so many years, because, to be honest, I don't really get it.  I understand why dogs fight each other, but when humans fight, it's usually way more complicated.  So I will just tell you about how Man's Best Friend, the Dog, has bravely and loyally helped Man (and Woman) fight all their many wars.

Lots of people in the old days had war dogs.  These people included the Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Romans, and Britons.  The way people used war dogs back then was that during a battle, the dogs would attack the enemy and try to kill him.  Romans had great big dogs called molossers, but the Britons had mastiffs, which could fight better than the molossers.  So the Romans switched to using mastiffs, too, because the Romans were very smart about things like that.  The Irish used Irish wolfhounds, and one or two of them could pull a man wearing armor right off his horse, and then it was easy for a soldier to kill him.

But after a while, more modern sorts of weapons were invented, so it didn't work any longer for dogs to attack the enemy because the enemy would shoot the dog first.  This meant that people had to think up new ways to use dogs in a war.  Some of these ways were:  as messengers, as sentries, for medical experiments, as mascots, and as scouts.  Dogs made good scouts because of their superior sense of smell and hearing, so they could warn soldiers if there was a sniper or a booby trap or an ambush about to happen.  All of which were useful things for soldiers to know.

During World War I, the Belgians used dogs to pull stuff like guns mounted on wheels, or to pull carts for supplies or wounded soldiers.

Dogs were used in most of these same ways in World War II, in Korea, and in Vietnam.  And now soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are also getting help from dogs.  Today war dogs are called MWDs, which stands for Military Working Dog.  The military police use dogs in many of the same ways that civilian police do, including for sniffing out explosives and doing search-and-rescue work.

One thing bad thing that some soldiers did with their dogs was they used them to help do mean and scary things to enemy prisoners.  Lots of people were angry when they found out about this, and the Big Wigs in the military said not to do it anymore.

There are a bunch of photos of MWDs that are in the public domain, so I will share a few of them with you.  Here is a picture of a doberman guarding his soldier while the soldier is sleeping.  This photo was taken on Iwo Jima in 1945.

And here's a photo that was just taken in Iraq in February.  It's of an Army dog named Andy, who is helping his unit try to find hidden weapons and bad guys.

This photo is of a dog named Hanna.  She is working with the Military Police in Afghanistan to make sure this building is safe for soldiers to enter.

You might have noticed that these last two dogs are wearing body armor, which helps protect them from getting shot or blown up, but sometimes military dogs die anyway.  This is very sad, just like it's sad when any dog dies.

Here is a link that my basenji girlfriend, Zest, sent me to a story about an Australian bomb-detecting dog named Nova:  http://www.theage.com.au/world/army-dog-nova-killed-in-afghanistan-20091026-hfr4.html  Unfortunately, Nova was killed in a car accident, and all the soldiers who knew her were extremely sad.

On a side note, though, I will just say that one interesting thing I learned from reading the article about Nova is that the word farewell can be used as a verb.  I never knew this before and neither did Mom, even though she has a master's degree in English.  Maybe it is just an Australian thing, but Mom says it's a good example of how language is always changing.  Which means that if they talk that way in Australia, they will probably start doing it here, too.

So anyway, I will farewell you now, and I am hoping that I have not upset anyone by talking about war dogs or by mentioning that sometimes, tragically, they get killed.  Tomorrow I will tell you the story of a very special war dog hero named Sergeant Stubby.


  1. Dear Piper-

    Excellent blog today and very timely. A couple of those military dogs are Belgian Malinois. I know this because I have one. When I first came here as a small basenji puppy, there was already a Malinois living here. Her name was Mucha and she became my BFF. She was very nice and let me cuddle up with her on cold nights and kept me safe (because that's what Mali's do - they keep their family safe)
    You can see picutres of her here:
    She could fly!

    Sadly she died about a year ago. She was only 5 and everyone in the house missed her, especially me and dad. Mom thought we needed another so Pearl came to live with us. I don't cuddle with her, but she's fun to play with.

    Thanks again for a great blog today.

    Zest the superstar in training

  2. Dear Zest,
    I'm glad you liked my blog today. My Research Assistant (Mom) helped me pick out the photos to use, and she really thinks Belgian Malinois are cool-looking dogs, even though she doesn't know any personally, and neither do I. I think it is great that you have your very own malinois. I looked at all the photos of Mucha, and I am very sad to know that she died. Maybe Pearl will let you cuddle with her eventually. I don't have a malinois. I only have Barry, the German Shepherd mix. He lets me cuddle with him sometimes, but mostly I cuddle with Gabe.
    Your friend, Piper