Loyalty, courage, and speed in dogs are the characteristics that have been admired by human beings since antiquity and have brought us closer as reliable friends. Not every breed of dog is equally courageous. Some, like German Shepherds, excel in this respect. Not all German Shepherds are even equally courageous, and this is why they are evaluated for this purpose in a specific manner as in the Sieger Show Courage Test. The dog being tested is observed after being unleashed for its swiftness and effectiveness with which it attacks the helper or criminal to save its handler or master. The judges of the event evaluate the grip work in accordance with the USA’s Schutzhund Rule Book requiring ‘The dog should counter the attack securely and energetically in stopping the attack by the helper.’ A lack of confidence in the grip work designates a dog as sufficient in courage but does not entitle it for a ‘V’ or ‘excellent.’ The out command should show the dog clearly off from the sleeve to be considered as compliant. Dogs are also subjected to a gun sensitivity test. Dogs are then evaluated from different angles to evaluate gait, musculoskeletal function, strength of ligaments, bones, and dental health.
Appollo was a German Shepherd born in 1992 and died November, 2006. He graduated from the New York Police Department Canine Special Operations Division. He passed both the Type-II and Type-I trainings from Florida and Indianapolis in 1997 and 1999 respectively. Appollo was the first Search and Rescue dog to arrive at the site of the World Trade Center along with his handler Peter Davis just 15 minutes after the 9/11 attack. He was badly affected by the falling debris and fell into a pool but resumed his rescue work soon after being dried by his handler. In recognition of his services and on behalf of all the other Search and Rescue dogs, he was awarded the Dickin Medal, which is an animal’s equivalent of the Victoria Cross. The citation for the award was ‘For tireless courage in the service of humanity during the Search and Rescue operations in New York and Washington on and after September 11, 2001. Faithful to words of command and undaunted by the task, the dog’s work and unstinting devotion to duty stand as a testament to those lost or injured.’
Gander was a big family pet originally called Pa. Accidentally, he scratched the face of a child and was handed over to the Royal Rifles Regiment of the Canadian Army. He was posted at Gander International Airport Newfoundland, and the Labrador was renamed as Gander. He fought the Japanese invaders in the Battle of Hong Kong which began on December 8, 1941 a day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. While throwing back a grenade towards the enemy, he sacrificed his own life. He was awarded the Dickin Medal on October 27, 2000. The citation read ‘For saving the lives of Canadian infantrymen during the Battle of Lye Mun on Hong Kong Island in December 1941…In a final act of bravery, the war dog was killed in action gathering a grenade. Without Gander’s intervention, many more lives would have been lost in the assault.’
‘Laika’ meaning ‘barker’ was a stray dog originally known as ‘Kudryavka,’ meaning ‘little curly.’ She was trained and selected for being sent in space. She was the occupant of the Russian spacecraft Sputnik 2 sent into space on November 3, 1957. She was the first animal to orbit around the Earth. It is considered that she died within hours after being sent into space due to overheating. She paved the way to success for the following astronauts. A monument was built in the research facility in Moscow which prepared her for the space journey. Romania issued commemorative postal stamps in 1957, and the United Arab Emirates issued Laika stamps in 1971.
Barry der Menschenretter was an Alpine Mastiff dog. The breed originally known as Kuherhund is currently known as a St. Bernard. Better known as Barry, he was born in 1800 at the great St. Bernard Hospice, Pennine in the Alps and died in 1814 at Bern, Switzerland. He is the most famous St. Bernard known for saving more than 40 lives during his lifetime. After his death his body was handed over to the Natural History Museum of Bern where his skin is preserved through taxidermy. A monument was erected in his honor in CimetiÃƒ¨re des Chiens near Paris. Since 2004, a dog is always named Barry in his honor at the great St. Bernard Hospice.
Bobbie was a Scotch Collie or English Shepherd dog. He was also known as Silverton Bobbie after the town he lived in and was more known as Bobbie the Wonder Dog on account of his unparalleled adventure in the history of dogs. He traveled from Silverton to Oregon along with his master’s family when he was two years old. He was separated there, and after an extensive search, the family lost hope of ever seeing him again and returned to their hometown of Silverton. After six months, Bobbie appeared on the doorsteps of his master’s home badly exhausted and in a precarious condition. During the ordeal, he had traveled 2,551 miles in plains, deserts, and mountains during the harsh winter. After confirmation of the truth of his ordeal, he rose to unparalleled fame.
6. Sergeant Stubby
Stubby was a stray Pit Bull and Terrier mixed breed. He intended to make friends with the soldiers who were on their routine drill at Yale Field in New Haven. Corporal Robert Corony liked him and secretly carried him on board the troop ship. After getting training, he served in the 102nd infantry, 26th Yankee Division in the trenches in France. After he experienced poisoning by mustard gas, he learned to warn the soldiers against it. He saved many soldiers from surprise attacks of mustard gas and recovered many wounded and gassed soldiers from no man’s land. He was also known to have caught an enemy spy. He participated in 17 battles and 4 offensives. He won many medals and awards and was the most decorated war dog.
Nemo was an Alsatian who is best known for attacking and killing two VietCongs in Vietnam at the command of his handler Airman Robert Throneburg. Nemo was shot in his left eye and jaws while Throneburg was wounded in the battle and could not be sustained. Even after being wounded, he laid across the body of Throneburg and did not allow anyone to come near till the arrival of soldiers from his own unit. He died in December, 1972 at Lackland where a memorial kennel was built in his honor. His master, Airman Robert Throneburg, received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star medal.
Cairo was a canine member of the 24 U.S. Navy SEALs which attacked and killed Osama bin Laden in Abbot Abad, Pakistan. While he was being briefed about the operation, President Barack Obama expressed interest in knowing the role of Cairo. He interrupted the briefing and asked, ‘There was a dog?’ On being informed that Cairo was next door, Obama said, ‘I want to meet that dog.’ He remarked ‘Our intelligence professionals did some amazing work. I had 50-50 confidence that bin Laden was there, but I had 100 percent confidence in you guys. You are, literally, the finest, small, fighting force that has ever existed in the world.’
Judy was a purebred liver and white Pointer born in Shanghai in 1937. She was a ship’s dog on the HMS Gnat and HMS Grasshopper. She was the only prisoner of war officially named 81 A Gloergoer Medan. She helped and saved the lives of many soldiers after a shipwreck and during imprisonment. She was awarded the Dickin Medal and the citation read, ‘For magnificent courage and endurance in Japanese prison camps which helped to maintain morale among her fellow prisoners and also for saving many lives through her intelligence and watchfulness.’ Frank Williams, who took great care of Judy and vice versa, was awarded the PDSA’s White Cross of St. Giles ‘for his devotion to Judy.’
‘Saihu,’ literally meaning ‘racing tiger,’ was a dog living in Jiujiang, Jiangxi Province, southern China. She is famously known for sacrificing her life to save the lives of many people. A Chinese cook, while cooking meat, threw some pieces of meat towards her pups who were repelled from its smell. When some people prepared to start eating, Saihu barked trying to prevent them from eating. But finding them bent upon eating, she ate some meat and died soon after due to consumption of the poisoned meat. Seeing this, the people refrained from consuming the poisoned food and their lives were saved. In recognition of her great sacrifice, the people of Jiujaing built her tomb in a human graveyard as a memorial.
Lord Morgan’s Anatomy of Courage is enlightening reading, and in its preface he quoted Michel de Montaine, ‘The thing in the world I am most afraid of is fear’¦’ Fearlessness is the single most important personality trait for a soldier and the most desired trait in a war dog. Some historic events reflecting the courage of dogs have occurred from time to time and have left indelible imprints on the pages of history. Perhaps next only to loyalty, courage has made the dogs man’s best friend in animals.