Military dogs are true heroes. They are brave, loyal, and they selflessly protect their owners and military team members’ lives. While many are able to retire to civilian lives; sadly, many are badly wounded or have paid with the ultimate sacrifice - their lives - while in service over the years.
Since March 13, 1942, more than 30,000 dogs have served in the military, according to Working Dog Magazine. Hundreds of dogs still work with their military pet parents today serving and protecting. On this year’s National K9 Veterans Day, celebrated on March 13th, we want to take a moment to highlight just a few of these amazing dogs and their stories in honor of all fido heros.
A courageous brindle bull terrier, Stubby was the mascot of the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division during World War I. Because he was almost killed during a chemical warfare attack, after his recovery, he became very sensitive to the smell and turned his near death experience to a life saving skill where he would warn soldiers of impending mustard gas attacks. He was also adept at locating wounded soldiers and would alert medical personnel to their location. This incredible soldier even helped to capture a Germany spy. Stubby is the only dog to be given a rank and promoted to sergeant, and he was also the most decorated dog in World War I.
You can still ‘visit’ Stubby today at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. To preserve and help future generations remember his bravery and contributions, he was taxidermied and put on display. Stubby’s story is actually being made into an animated movie, coming to you in April, 2018.
On May 2, 2011, Cairo was part of the covert Navy SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden, the founder of the terrorist group Al Qaeda. While little is known about this highly trained dog's exact actions during the top secret operation in Pakistan, it is believed that Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, would have been wearing a Kevlar vest and a night-vision camera that had a 180-degree field of vision. After parachuting in with its handler, Cairo's duties would have probably included bomb detection, tracking down suspects, helping to secure the perimeter and, if necessary, attacking enemy fighters.
Photo Credit: 3milliondogs.com
Of almost 3,000 K9 dogs trained by the military, only a handful are a part of the special forces. Only the best of the best are chosen and their training is every bit as vigorously as their human counterparts.
True heroes don't stop, even when they risk losing their own lives. That is exactly why Layka, a stunning Belgian Malinois, is a hero. Layka was on her eighth military tour in Afghanistan when she came under fire while clearing a Taliban compound. Instead of running from the fight, Layka charged at the gunmen and was shot four times at point blank range with an AK-47. According to her handler, “if it wasn’t for Layka going inside of that enemy compound, it would have been a ranger (who got shot)”.
Although seriously injured, the heroic dog was able to subdue the gunmen, and her actions are believed to have saved the members of her team. Due to the severity of her injuries, Layka had to have her right front leg amputated. She was medically retired in August, 2012. Today, she is living with one of her former handlers in the United States.
Here’s a tribute video from Layka’s handler for the 2016 American Humane Hero Dog Awards
Chip was one of more than 11,000 dogs ended up serving with the Army and Marine Corps during WWII. “He was a rascal,” recalls John Wren, Chip’s owner.
Photo Credit: Washingtonpost.com
During World War II, Chips charged into oncoming machine gun fire to grab a German soldier by the throat. He also helped capture at least 10 other enemy soldiers on that day. After his three years of service, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star and a Purple Heart. Unfortunately, all of those distinctions were then taken away from him because he wasn't a human.
It took 75 years, but this heroic U.S. Army dog was finally given the honor he deserved. In January 2018, Chips was awarded posthumously the Dickin Medal, Britain's highest honor for animal bravery. With or without those medals, Chips was and still is a true hero.
You know you're good when the enemy places a bounty on your head, right? Well, that's what happened with Taylor, a yellow lab who was so skilled at finding IEDs that the Taliban actually put a bounty on her head. Taylor, also known as Princess Taylor or Tay Tay, served two deployments in Afghanistan and during her service, she alerted her handlers to the whereabouts of many explosives that could have seriously wounded or killed her team members.
After her military service was over, Taylor was reunited with one of her handlers after almost 2 years apart and she now lives with him in the United States. Watch the happy reunion here and let us give our gratitude to these military dogs for their bravery, intelligence, and loyalty.