Dogs have always had a special place in our hearts. Perhaps, it’s because of their unbelievably loyal and selfless nature; their willingness to put themselves on line for others, no questions asked. Well, the four-legged members of the army take those sentiments to the next level when they enlist to become an official member of the military and save countless lives!
To show our appreciation for our furry heroes, we celebrate National K9 Veterans Day every March 13th. The special day was founded by Joseph White, a retired military dog trainer, and falls on the exact date when the “K9 Corps” was formed, marking the day when dogs were officially recognized as a part of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Top 5 Legendary War Dogs
1. Sergeant Stubby
Sergeant Stubby, a stray bull terrier mix that simply wandered onto a military training site in 1917, was the most decorated World War I military dog. He was known for his charming personality, bravery, and keen sense of smell.
After surviving a gas attack, he learned to recognize the smell of mustard gas and ended up alerting and saving sleeping soldiers during a second gas attack attempt. He also became an expert in locating wounded and dying soldiers, staying by their side until help came to accompany them in their last moments of life.
One of the things Stubby was most famous for was catching a German spy mapping the position of the soldiers by biting him until he was arrested. The incident led to the amazing pup being promoted as sergeant and becoming the first dog to ever receive an honorary rank.
Valdo is a military working dog based in Afghanistan that specialized in sniffing out mines and IEDs or roadside bombs, however, he did so much more than that. In 2011, he, together with his handler and 10 other soldiers, were on a mission and got caught in large firefight with and enemy force.
The troops took cover in a dilapidated building nearby, but when rocket-propelled grenades started raining over them, Valdo didn’t hesitate to jump in front of four soldiers. He ended up with a massive wound in his colon and injuries to his tail and hind legs. Thankfully, the four-legged hero was able to make a full recovery.
Afterward, Pfc. Bradley, who was just feet away from Valdo during the attack and sustained minor injuries, said: “If Valdo wasn’t here, I’m pretty sure I’d be dead right now.”
Our third legendary dog of war is Lucca, who sustained severe injuries in the line of duty. In 2012, Lucca lost her leg during a mission while protecting a platoon of marines from a bomb explosion. And for that, she was honored with the PDSA Dickin Medal—the highest British Military decoration awarded for acts of valor.
Our next furry hero proved to the world that size really doesn’t matter when it comes to saving lives. Smoky, a 4-pound Yorkshire Terrier who was bought by American soldier Bill Wynn, received great honor after alerting Wynn of an incoming attack during World War II.
Last on our list, but definitely not the least is Rags, a Cairn Terrier mix who was found by Pvt. James Donovan. Rags became a carrier dog and navigated through the dangerous battlefield to deliver messages to Allied troops.
However, one day, a gas attack seriously hurt Rags and Donovan. Donovan wasn’t able to make it due to complications, but Rags made a full recovery and was given the official honorary rank of lieutenant colonel. When he passed away, he was buried with military honors.
How to Celebrate K9 Veterans Day
1. Adopt a K9 veteran.
While military dogs are rightfully honored and loved during their period of service, many of them are left without permanent homes when they retire. Sure, some of them get adopted by their own handlers, but that’s not always the case. So if you’re looking for a furry companion, you may want to consider opening your home to a K9 veteran.
However, take note that because these canines are highly trained on doing very specific tasks, most of them aren’t suitable for first-time dog owners, or sometimes even homes with other pets or children.
If you decide to adopt a K9 veteran, you’ll be interviewed to see if you’re a suitable candidate and which dog would suit you best. There’s also a list of home requirements, which could vary for every dog. For more details, you can check out this article.
2. Support a K9 charity.
If adopting a K9 veteran isn’t an option for you but you still want to help, you can do so by supporting a K9 charity through donations, sponsorships, and many other things! Here’s a list of reputable K9 charities you may want to support:
Honors retired K9s by helping ensure that they live a great post-service life, whether by reuniting them with their previous handlers, providing rehabilitation to those that are injured or traumatized, and so much more!
Provides a sanctuary for homeless retired K9s that are listed to be euthanized.
Provides assistance, financial or otherwise, to retired K9s to ensure their quality of life after their period of service.
Provides support to both active and retired K9s, including training and veterinary care, across the nation.