War Dogs

The story of "The Animals Going to War" tells how, one by one, the wild

creatures, then the enemies of man, were made his friends and learned

to be his helpers. In the World War, the horse has borne man into the

thick of the conflict, the mule has drawn his big guns into place, and

the dog has wonderfully come to his aid, so that now, whenever the

"dogs of war" are let loose, the war dogs go with them.

Battle of Verdun had been raging for months; Fort Douaumont had

been taken, lost, and finally retaken by the French. The Germans still

poured against it a terrific rain of shot and shell, and within the

battered fortress the guns were disabled and the ammunition nearly

exhausted. Help was needed and needed at once. Long ago the wireless

had been shot to pieces, and the telephones had been destroyed. It was

sure death for a man to venture outside, let alone trying to reach the

lines behind, where he might secure help.

Still the defenders stood firm, and in their hearts, if not with their

lips, over and over they repeated those magic words, "They shall not

pass!" But the shells continued to fall in their very midst, and unless

that battery could be silenced, the fort and all the men in it would be

lost. What could be done when no messenger could reach the lines


Suddenly, as the men were straining their eyes almost hopelessly in the

direction of those lines, they saw a small, dark speck moving across

the fields, stopping only here and there behind a rock to take shelter

from the bursting shells. Now and then it dashed wildly over the open

fields. But ever straight on toward the fort it came. Swiftly the

entrance of the fort was flung open, and in dashed one of the faithful

dogs, unhurt. In the wallet, fastened to his collar, was found a

message telling that relief was coming. Strapped to his back was a tiny

pannier, inside of which were two frightened carrier pigeons. On a slip

of paper the commander quickly wrote his message: "Stop the German

battery on our left." Then adding any necessary facts as to pointing

the guns, he fastened the message to the trembling bird and let it

loose. Straight to its home, above shot and shell, flew the pigeon. In

a few moments the German battery was silenced, and Douaumont and the

brave defenders were saved.

All along the lines, the dogs were busy bearing important messages back

and forth from one commander to another, and from one fort to another.

Zip, an English bulldog, ran two miles in heavy shell fire and

afterward had to go about with his jaw in splints; but he delivered his

message and seemed anxious to get well enough to carry another. One of

the other messenger dogs, it is said, carried orders almost

continuously for seventy-two hours, hardly stopping to eat or drink;

for no war dog would eat or drink anything given him by strangers. The

faithful animals were in danger of being taken prisoners, as well as of

being struck. Indeed, in one instance a heavy cannon rolled over upon a

big mastiff, pinning him there until help came.

When the battle ceased, the dogs sprang from the trenches and searched

the fields and woods for wounded men. They could find them much more

quickly and with less danger of being seen than any Red Cross man.

In former wars among civilized peoples, the firing has always been upon

armed forces, and the guns were silent after each battle to allow both

sides to find and care for the wounded soldiers in the field. The

Germans, however, have used the Red Cross doctors and stretcher-bearers

for targets, so that to send them out only means to add them to the

number wounded. But the dogs, creeping among the men, can seldom be

seen by the enemy, and besides are able to find the wounded quicker and

more easily. As soon as a dog finds an injured soldier, he seizes his

cap, a button, or a bit of his clothing, and runs back with it to the

doctor or a Red Cross nurse, for he will give it to no one else. The

stretcher-bearers then follow the dog and bring back the wounded man.

Often the man may lie in a dense thicket where no one would think to

look for him, but the dog, by his keen sense of smell or by hearing the

deep breaths or some slight sound made by the injured man, creeps in

and finds him.

Sometimes, to attract the attention of an ambulance driver, the dogs

give several short, quick barks; but usually they do their work

silently, for if they bark, the enemy will fire.

Many times a dog finds a man unable to get back to the lines, but not

so seriously wounded but that he can help himself somewhat. In such a

case, before running for help, the dog stands quiet, close to the

soldier, and allows him to take the flasks and first-aid bandages from

the wallet which is hung about the dog's neck or pinned to the blanket

on his back.

Thus, by the help of these faithful friends, the lives of many hundreds

of men have been saved. Over one hundred were rescued in one night

after a battle. A big Newfoundland, named Napoleon, had the credit of

saving as many as twenty. One of the men, in speaking of him, said,

"Part of his tail has been blown away, and once he was left for dead in

No Man's Land, but he is still on the job, working for civilization."

When not fighting or on watch, the men in the trenches enjoy the

company of the dogs and teach them to perform all sorts of tricks, the

fox terriers proving especially intelligent. They also do good work in

keeping the trenches free from rats.

At night, a French sentinel sometimes crawls through the entanglements

on his way to a "listening post" out in No Man's Land. With him goes a

sentinel dog. The sentinel's purpose is to discover if the enemy are

getting ready for a surprise attack. Lying flat on the earth, or

crouching in a shell hole, he listens with bated breath for any

telltale noises. The dog, listening too, creeps along beside him, or

slinks silently out into the darkness. He can tell, when his master

cannot, if an enemy is abroad. Making no sound, giving no betraying

bark, as soon as he discovers the enemy the dog draws near to his

master, stands at attention, his ears pricked up, his hair bristling,

his tail wagging as he silently paws the ground or growls so low that

only his master can hear him. If the German soldier attempts to fight,

the dog springs at him and throws him to the ground.

A group of soldiers were on watch one night in one of the front

trenches, when all of the dogs suddenly became uneasy, growling low,

and growing more and more excited. The soldiers knew their dogs and

trusted their warnings, so they telephoned back to the main trenches

for help. In less than half an hour, an attack was made from the

German trenches opposite. Meanwhile, however, reënforcements had

arrived for the Allies, which sent the enemy back to his own lines

again. How the dogs knew so long before that the attack was coming,

whether they could have heard the first faint signs of preparation in

the enemy trenches, the soldiers could not tell.

When a front line trench of the enemy is captured, it is the faithful

dogs who draw up the many cartloads of ammunition and supplies, and

some of the smaller guns. For this, the Belgian dogs are especially

well fitted.

Happy as long as they can help in the fighting, restless and uneasy

whenever sent back to the hospitals for treatment or rest, these dogs

have shown the worth of all the training they have received, as well as

a great amount of natural intelligence.

While Zip, Napoleon, Spot, Stop, Mignon, and Bouée have been doing

their bit on the firing line, still others have been taking their

training in readiness to go to the front. And very hard training it is.

Sheep dogs, fox terriers, bulldogs, collies, St. Bernards,

Newfoundlands, Alaskan wolf dogs, mongrels,--all must be carefully

trained by expert dog trainers.

First they must learn to distinguish between the uniform of their

country and that of the enemy. They must not bark, because then the

enemy will be sure to shoot. In carrying letters from post to post,

they must learn to recognize the posts by name.


Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N.Y.]

About three months of training are necessary to teach the dogs to

travel as far as three kilometres in this work. Two of the dogs are put

into the care of two trainers, and taught to recognize both as their

masters, and to carry dispatches from one to the other.

The dogs must be trained to obey implicitly. If the master stops

abruptly in his walk, the dog must do the same; if the trainer runs,

the dog must keep in perfect step, ready at a given signal to lie down,

or follow a scent, or find a wounded soldier. For many hours he must be

trained in jumping, because of the great heights over which he must

spring, carrying heavy weights in his mouth or upon his back or around

his neck. He must learn to make no sound except when ordered to do so,

to find objects which have been most skillfully hidden, to distinguish

between a dead man and one wounded and breathing, to deliver the token

of a wounded man only to the doctor or Red Cross nurse, to allow

nothing to hinder him from carrying out any task, to refuse food and

water from strangers, and to aid soldiers on the watch. These watch

dogs must learn to give a signal when they scent poison gas or hear the

enemy creeping up. And they must guard prisoners very carefully.

Some dogs cannot learn all of these duties, and so specialists examine

every dog that is enlisted. There are tests for health, intelligence,

speed, quick tempers, and even tempers. When a dog has been in training

for several weeks, he is sometimes found in the end to be unfit for

service, and the trainer has to admit a new recruit in his place and

start all over again. Often a dog can do certain tasks much better than

others, and so each one is assigned to the kind of service which he can

do best.

It is marvelous what great services these dogs have rendered in the

World War. The governments have recognized their worth, and societies

have been formed to train and protect them. The French people, in 1912,

organized the "Blue Cross." It is a Blue Cross officer who examines the

dogs and a Blue Cross doctor who gives first aid and orders an injured

dog to the hospital for further treatment. The Blue Cross also has been

at work in Italy.

The American Red Cross Society has taken over the task of securing and

protecting dogs on the American front, but instead of the red cross,

the animals wear a red star, so that the field is blest with three red

symbols of mercy--the red cross, the red triangle, and the red star.

The number of dogs added to the war service during the first four years

of the war was about ten thousand on all fronts.

Not only have dogs been provided by various societies, but many have

been given by private families. One elderly French father wrote to the

French War Department, "I already have three sons and a son-in-law with

the Colors; now I give up my dog, and 'Vive la France!'"

The French government officials, as well as the various societies, have

shown their gratitude by awarding honors to the canine heroes. Many

have been mentioned in the orders for bravery and heroic conduct.

Several have been presented with gold collars. The French government

has even published a "Golden Book of Dogs," in which are recorded some

of the heroic deeds of these brave and faithful friends of man. One of

the dogs wearing a French medal of honor is a plucky fox terrier, who

is said to have saved one hundred fifty lives after the Battle of the

Marne. Bouée, a fuzzy-haired, dirty, yellow-and-black, tailless little

fellow, is another hero, who has been cited three times for his

bravery. During a heavy action, when all the telephone wires had been

destroyed, Bouée carried communications between a commandant and his

force, fulfilling his duty perfectly without allowing anything to

distract him.

Shall we not change the old proverb from "As brave as a lion," to "As

brave as a dog"?