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Amazing Roles Dogs Played during WW1, part 2: Scouts, Sentries, Ambulance and Messenger Dogs via @patfurstenberg, #dogs #WW1 #history

During the Great War the military dogs first trained by military Scotsman Lt Col Edwin Hautenville Richardson proved invaluable as trench dogs. Other dogs of smaller size, did an amazing job as ratters.

Dogs used as scouts during WW1

These dogs were trained to point when an intruder was spotted (sniffed) and not bark since secrecy was the key to these missions. They could detect enemy scent up to 1000 yards away.

Scout dogs were trained to stiffen, raise their hackles and point their ail, thus indicated that an enemy was approaching.

Germans were the first to use scout dogs, sending them over no man’s land to spy on Allies’ positions.

Scout and dog patrol. Source metropostcard
Scout and dog patrol. Source metropostcard

Dogs used as sentries or guards

These dogs were invaluable especially during the night when they would prevent any night surprises coming from the enemy.

Either in the front lines, to guard against enemy incursions, or guarding important facilities or locations behind the lines together with their handler, dogs proved priceless.

A sentry dog watching after a soldier
A sentry dog watching after a soldier

They were trained to give a warning signal such as a growl, or snarl to indicate a suspect presence.

Sometimes dogs even worked alone in a trench, especially at night, to watch out for enemy activity while the humans rested.

Messenger dogs of WW1

Give their small size and speed, dogs soon proved to be much better at delivering messages than any human, especially when any other mean of communication was cut off or the battle was taking place in an inhospitable land, such as the jungles of Pacific Islands.

WW1 British messenger dogs and their handler
WW1 British messenger dogs and their handler

Dogs also braved the bullets, showing much determination in getting the job done.

The dogs were trained to ignore the fire of guns of all calibers, and were accustomed to the explosion of hand grenades near them.

A messenger dog during WW1
A messenger dog during WW1

Sometimes messenger dogs carried… other messengers.

Carrier pigeons in cages on back Airedales terrier WW1
Carrier pigeons in cages on back Airedales terrier WW1

Other dogs were trained as Ambulance or Casualty Dogs, Red Cross Dogs or Mercy Dogs

Although still informal, dogs helped a great deal during the Great War. It is believed that on both sides 10 000 dogs served in the Red Cross and these dogs undertook the most severe training.

A Red Cross dog trained to search for wounded soldiers while under fire, 1915.
A Red Cross dog trained to search for wounded soldiers while under fire, 1915.

One of my favorite pictures from the Great War depicts two canine buddies walking side by side, two Red Cross dogs.

The dogs were also trained to carry first aid and supplies for soldiers at the front - Getty source

Were they a team? One carrying medical supplies, the other one, with a gas mask on, trained to jump in the trenches, checking for the wounded soldiers? Were they taking strength from each other? Their body language tells me they were happy, determined on their task.

Germans were the first to begin training Ambulance Dogs, Sanitatshunde, in 1893.

A German Sanitatshunde - Red Cross Dog. WW1. Source Metropostcard
A German Sanitatshunde – Red Cross Dog. WW1. Source Metropostcard

“First Aid Dogs” were trained not to bark when they found a disabled soldier and to disregard dead soldiers. On locating a wounded soldier, the dog was trained to get close enough so that the soldier may open the first aid box the dog carried. Then the canine would tear a piece of the uniform or retrieve the soldier’s cap back to the kennel – to identify the fallen soldier.

A Red Cross dog taking a kepi from a wounded soldier back to the stretcher-bearer for identification of the wounded, The Great War
A Red Cross dog taking a kepi from a wounded soldier back to the stretcher-bearer for identification of the wounded, The Great War

Returned to the kennel the dog would bark and head back, showing he found an injured soldier.

Of course, this was in theory and real life situations forced a change in the way the Red Cross Dogs were trained as sometimes there was no cap and the loosest thing a dog chose to remove was often a bandage. Eventually dogs were fitted with a loose collar which they could grab and hold in their mouth as a sign they found a wounded soldier.

In the aftermath of a battle, the Red Cross dogs would localize the wounded and wait by their side for the stretcher bearers to arrive and pick up the soldier, transporting him to a hospital.

France, WW1. A training picture here shows a dog waiting for stretcher bearers where the wounded are lying. source doglowreporter
France, WW1. A training picture here shows a dog waiting for stretcher bearers where the wounded are lying. source doglowreporter

What is amazing is that dogs were indeed trained to recognize uniforms in order to tell friend from foe.

Mercy or Ambulance Dogs of WW1
Mercy or Ambulance Dogs of WW1

England, France, Russia and Germany – they all used military dogs trained for the the same purposes. And, true to their nature, the dogs often did more than it was expected from them.

Although some dogs were trained as messengers, when a buddy was in need they didn’t shied away from the task.

Prusco, a French dog that looked like a white wolf, is said to have saved more than a hundred men. On another occasion he dragged three wounded soldiers to a safe place, out of enemy fire, where they could wait to be removed from the battlefield.

The French war-dog Prusco was employed in carrying messages from a motor-cycle scout to headquarters. This dog and his companions penetrated the enemy lines on many occasions.
The French war-dog Prusco was employed in carrying messages from a motor-cycle scout to headquarters. This dog and his companions penetrated the enemy lines on many occasions.

Italians trained some of their dogs to carry ammunition over hard to reach mountain passes by means of a harness and strapped to their backs.

Dogs carrying ammunition strapped to their backs. Source metropostcard.
Dogs carrying ammunition strapped to their backs. Source metropostcard.

In France, WW1 saw the boom of the “Societe Nationale des Chiens Sanitaires” in France.

Allied soldier bandages the paw of a Red Cross medic-dog in Belgium, 1917.
Allied soldier bandages the paw of a Red Cross medic-dog in Belgium, 1917.

Of course, war propaganda was quick on picking up the civilian’s interest in war dogs, these silent heroes, and use it as this French postcards shows. This postcard (bellow) was banned in 1915 because censors felt its cruel spirit was demeaning to France.

French propaganda postcard of WW1
French propaganda postcard of WW1

So far we saw how the friendship between humans and dog started, some 26 000 years ago. we saw how dogs joined kings in battles and why dogs are so indispensable during war. We saw how dogs helped in the trenches. Next time we will look at dogs who pulled machine guns and sleigh and then at some mascot dogs of WW1 and WW2 as well as how the role dogs plaid during the Second World War changed. And we won’t stop there, so be sure to return and check new blog posts.

Do check out my book Joyful Trouble, A humorous read about an incredible dog and how he had found his true, yet unexpected calling. It is a book for all ages.

Joyful Trouble
Joyful Trouble, a book that reads like a movie

My adult fiction book, Silent Heroes, is a #1 New Release, a contemporary fiction novel,  filled with action and emotional twists and turns. “Silent Heroes” has a strong historical and cultural feel of the area when the action takes place, Afghanistan.

Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for
Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for – New Contemporary Fiction by Patricia Furstenberg
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Amazing Roles Dogs Played During WW1, part 1: Dogs in Trenches and Ratter Dogs via @PatFurstenberg #dogs #war #trenches #ratters #history

Although still informal, dogs helped a great deal during the Great War.

“War is hell”, said Union Army General Sherman referring to the Civil War, but he could have just as well referred to the Great War, a war of trenches, these narrow vertical graves that, ironically, are traced back to the Civil War.

A war pup and his soldier friend
A war pup and his soldier friend

Stuck in them for weeks at a time, dealing with cold, wet feet, disease, “mustard gas” (a poisonous gas), dead bodies; trapped between bayonets and deadly bullets from “no man’s land”, soldiers had little to hope for.

Soon enough, the military dogs that accompanied some regiments proved that were able not only to lift the soldier’s moral, but to save lives at the same time.

Dogs in trenches during the Great War

During one night in the French front trenches all the dogs present became suddenly uneasy. They were growling and were extremely agitated.

The soldiers knew their army dogs and their body language so they telephoned the main entrenchment for reinforcement. Less than half an hour after support arrived, the Germans attacked.

How did the dogs knew? Have they heard the Germans preparing for an attack in their trenches?

Dogs can hear a wider frequency noises than humans.

When humans hear noises in the sound wave range of 64–23,000 Hz (bass to high pitched), dogs can hear in the range 67–45,000 Hz (a much wider frequency).

Added to this there is the loudness of the sound, measured in decibels and dogs can hear sounds so quiet (at 5-15 dB) that human can’t perceive them (a whisper measures at 20 dB).

Captain with dog in trenches 1914
Captain with dog in trenches 1914

What about the dog’s ability to smell?

Have they discerned a sudden increase in gun powder scent rising from the German trenches or a sudden increase in body odor due to a combination of excitement/fear ahead of an attack and added number of soldiers?

A dog’s nose is so sensitive that even scientists struggle to quantify it. It is estimated that a dog can smell between 1 000 to 100 000 times better than a human plus dogs can smell each component in an odor. In proportion to its size, a dog’s brain has an area dedicate to smell analysis that is four times bigger than that of the human’s brain.

Ratter dogs during WW1

We need to keep in mind that WW1 was a war fought in the trenches. Soldiers lived there for many weeks at a time, facilities were nearby, food was available, wounded or dead corpses were sometimes at close quarters.

A Scottish Regiment and their Ratter Dog in the trenches of WW1
A Scottish Regiment and their Ratter Dog in the trenches of WW1

Rats were a daily reality of WW1. Small dogs were therefor kept in the trenches as “ratters”. Soldiers living in trenches encountered millions of pests during war including rats They fed on rotting food because there was no proper way of getting rid of rubbish in trenches A terrier dog shows off its catch after a 15 minute rat hunt.

Soldiers living in trenches encountered millions of pests during war including rats They fed on rotting food bc there was no proper way of getting rid of rubbish in trenches A terrier dog shows off its catch after a 15 minute rat hunt -source BBC
Soldiers living in trenches encountered millions of pests during war including rats They fed on rotting food because there was no proper way of getting rid of rubbish in trenches A terrier dog shows off its catch after a 15 minute rat hunt -source BBC

We saw why dogs were so indispensable during the war, as well as some of the tasks they had performed during WW1.

Come back to find out more about World War 1 dog scouts, sentries, Red Cross, messenger, mascots as well as the World War 2 dogs.

Two of my books are about dogs at war.

Joyful Trouble is a book for all ages.

Joyful Trouble, Based on the True Story of a Dog Enlisted in the Royal Navy
Joyful Trouble, Based on the True Story of a Dog Enlisted in the Royal Navy – World War 2

Silent Heroes is adult fiction about the war in Afghanistan.

Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting
Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting
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Why dogs Were so indispensable during warfare AND how dog training began via @PatFurstenberg #dogs #wardogs #war

It was 1895 when Lt Col Edwin Hautenville Richardson, a Scot military man, noticed a German man buying a sheepdog from a shepherd.On engaging the two, Richardson learns that the German army was buying British collies to train and use in their own military service.

On engaging the two, Richardson learns that the German army was buying British collies to train and use in their own military service.

German Imperial Army
German Imperial Army

In the eve of WW1 Richardson and his wife Blanche Bannon, both dog lovers, were already training dogs. Soon the military asked them to begin a British War Dogs training school in Shoeburyness, Essex. The Richardsons trained hundreds of hounds for military service during both world wars.

Richardson particularly liked the Airedale Terrier.

Edwin Richardson trained Airedale terriers for the police in Glasgow before supplying canine recruits for World War One.
Edwin Richardson trained Airedale terriers for the police in Glasgow before supplying canine recruits for World War One.

“They’re very determined. They’re very single-minded and there’s no stopping them.”

Lt Col Edwin Hautenville Richardson

Right about this time, but a woman, her dog and her Harley-Davidson Motorcycle took the journey of a lifetime.

While in Europe Airedale Terriers were even taught to use gas masks as part of their military service.

Airedale Terriers were taught to use gas masks as part of their military service -Getty source
Airedale Terriers were taught to use gas masks as part of their military service -Getty source

The dogs were also trained to carry first aid and supplies for soldiers at the front.

“The dead and badly wounded are easily found; they lay where they fought; but the lightly wounded, those that had still strength to crawl and hunt shelter or water to quell their thirst, are the ones that te hospital corps is apt to miss. Speaking from the viewpoint of military efficiency these slightly wounded are the very soldiers that should be specially cared for, for on their speedy recovery they may prove in a long-drawn-out war the deciding factor that will end it, when they have again returned to the fighting line. Good Red Cross Dogs will quickly clear a battle-ground of all wounded soldiers.”

(Scout, Red Cross Army Dogs)
The dogs were also trained to carry first aid and supplies for soldiers at the front - Getty source
The dogs were also trained to carry first aid and supplies for soldiers at the front – Getty source

Richardson even paid unemployed locals to pretend being injured or dead people, lying around the dunes, and helping the dogs to train.

“We also served” is the special bandana of The Airedale Terrier Club of Scotland today.

"We also served" -The Airedale Terrier Club of Scotland today.
“We also served” -The Airedale Terrier Club of Scotland today.

Richardson’s contribution to the development of the military and Red Cross dog units was in-commensurable through his assiduous research, work and dedication towards canines. The first Army Dog School in England, at the start of The Great War, would not have been possible without his work.

Before his aid was required at the beginning of the Great War, the fame of Richardson’s highly trained dogs had reached far away, as proved by his services being required by Sultan Abdul Hamid, Empress Eugenie, of Bulgaria, the Abor expedition in India, the Gordon Highlanders, the Norfolk Regiment, and the King’s Durham Light Infantry, and Queen Mary on the eve of WW1.

Why were dogs so indispensable during warfare?

There is nothing like a dog’s loyalty and determination. Once a dog is taught a s skill, he will be happy to apply it to please his human master and friend.

It is our responsibility to be mindful of what we teach our dogs for they will do anything we ask them in order to make us happy.

A helpful dog
Helpful dog

Once a dog knows his destination he will get there at all costs. Pigeons cannot be sent in a fog or in the dark. Dogs will go in all weathers and at all times. During heavy bombardment by the enemy the casualties among the runners (soldiers sent to deliver messages) are heavy, especially when they have to cross n pen field where they are exposed to snipers, machine gun fire, or a heavy barrage. A runner would take two or three hours to do a journey from the trenches, while a dog only half an hour or less.

Richardson on training the his war dogs:

“The drill yesterday began with an obstacle race by a squad well advanced in training. Across the road were placed a barbed wire fence and a few yards further on a hurdle, and beyond that a barrier made of branches of trees. The dogs were taken about a mile up the road and then released. There was a great race for home. The bigger dogs leapt clear of all the obstructions; the smaller ones wriggled their way through; but two wily sheep dogs, strictly in accordance with the rules of the game preferred to leap a ditch and make a detour, arriving home as quickly as the others.

Novices who go astray in these and other test are never punished. They are caught by the keepers and gently led back for another try.”

Airedale Terriers of War
Airedale Terriers of War

Sadly, most of the Dog Messenger Service heroes are anonymous as officially they were known only by the numbers on the collars.

Dogs, the Silent Heroes of World War One

After some trial and error, medium sized dogs with grey or black fur were preferred, with good eyesight and “character”. Breeds varies, from a cross between a bulldog and a mastiff to German shepherds, retrievers, pointers and large Airedale terriers.

But above all, “character and training” was wanted.

We saw how dogs became man’s best friend.

How well dogs helped during the Great War and the Second World War we will see soon, as well as finding amazing stories about dog war mascots and other mongrels.

Do return to find out.

My latest book is‘Silent Heroes’, a highly emotional read, action-packed, a vivid story of enormous sacrifice and bravery that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

It is a book extremely well researched, with authentic details and an epic sense of the place. The war and the military involved, Marines and dogs, are described with reverence, as are the civilians caught in the middle of the fire.

Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for
Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for
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5 Remarkable Places You Will Want to Visit After Reading Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for via @PatFurstenberg #travel #castle #monument #history #culture

Whenever I read a book depicting real locations, actual places I can find on a map, a novel in which genuine artwork is described, and tangible, concrete buildings I know I can also visit are part of its setting, I tend to be more immersed in its story-line. The storytelling becomes more credible and, if by chance or choice, I visit those place I find myself immersed in that particular book again and, often, I pick it up and read it again.

On researching location for my latest novel, “Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for” I discovered a few sensational places; some new to me, secrets buried by history and war, others I have heard of but had not known how inspirational and amazing they were. I know, now, that I’d like to visit them all, one day when traveling to Afghanistan for tourism will be a safe endeavor once again.

1. Buddhas of Bamyan

The two Buddhas of Bamyan - the taller and the smaller one, as they once stood since their construction around 500AD and before the Taliban attack in March 2001
The two Buddhas of Bamyan – the taller and the smaller one, as they once stood since their construction around 500AD and before the Taliban attack in March 2001 – Source Wikipedia

“The Taliban did not succeed in wiping out the two Buddhas, but they became unrecognizable as the figures they once were. A cultural, religious, historical and entomological symbol and landmark.
It was a bleak day in human history when something that watched over the valley for 1 500 years was destroyed in a matter of weeks.”

( Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for)

The Buddhan of Bamyan were two colossal statues carved during the 6th century into the side of a cliff in the Bamyan valley, once along the Silk Road, in the central highlands of Afghanistan, 230 km NW of Kabul, its capital city.

The bodies of the Buddhas were carved in the mountain cliff, while delicate details have been modeled out of mud and straw and coated with stucco for resistance. The faces, hands, and folds of the Buddhas’ robes were painted for an enhanced effect. The big Buddha, 53 m tall, was painted carmine red while the smaller Buddha, 35 m tall, was painted in multiple colors. They represented the Buddhas Vairocana and Sakyamuni.

“Taliban forces operating in Afghanistan had destroyed these colossal statues in March 2001. They started by damaging the Buddha with anti-aircraft firearms and cannons. Yet the damage inflicted was not enough for the Taliban. They returned with anti-tank mines that they placed at the statues bases. When sections of rock broke off, the statues suffered further damage.

And still, they did not stop here.”

( Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for)
Destruction of Buddhas March 21 2001. Source Wikipedia
Destruction of Buddhas March 21 2001. Source Wikipedia

“The Taliban dropped men down the face of the cliff. They had placed explosives into the various grooves found in the Buddhas. The plan was clear, to completely destroy the facial features of the two statues. Maybe a bad understanding of the Quran: Islam condemns idolatry. When one of the blasts could not destroy the facial features of one statue, a rocket was used in its place. It left a hideous gap in whatever was left of the Buddha’s head.”

( Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for)
Taller Buddha of Bamiyan before and after destruction. Source, Wikipedia
Taller Buddha of Bamiyan before and after destruction. Source, Wikipedia

But there is hope.

7 June 2015: Xinyu Zhang and Hong Liang , a Chinese adventurist couple, created a 3D image of the Buddhas and donated projector used for the installation, worth at $120 000. The 3D projection was able to fill once more the void cavities where the two majestic Buddhas once stood.

2. Qala-e Bost Fortress

“Qala-e-Boost or Bost Fort is the remnant of Alexander the Great’s Fortress in Afghanistan. What still stands today from this millennial old fortress is an impressive ruin. Helmand’s crown jewel is located on the east bank of the Helmand River, near Lashkar Gah, a city in southwestern Afghanistan and the capital of Helmand Province.”

( Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for)

Lashkargah, or Lashkar Gah, means “army barracks” in Persian language.

Qala-e-Bost, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Source Wikipedia
Qala-e-Bost, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Source Wikipedia

“The stones of Qala-e-Boost have seen wars as well as the joys of celebrations. They have known wealth and ruin. Early hymns of the Zoroastrian religion, one of the oldest religions in the world, were once performed here. One of them was the Nowruz, the famous ceremony dedicated to the Sun and marking the Iranian New Year and the Spring Equinox. Along the years Bost fortress has been used as a guard post for the traditional caravan trade from Iran to India. The Mongols, then the Persians have been here too, then the Arabs, even the Russians. Leaders and warriors came here as attested by the terracotta figurines, the inscribed seals, and the many coins discovered here, and then they left. Still, Bost remained.”

( Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for)
The famous arch at Qala-i-Bust or Bost, in Helmand. Source Wikipedia
The famous arch at Qala-i-Bust or Bost, in Helmand. Source Wikipedia

” At noontime, the sun spat yellow venom over the desert surrounding the ruins of the Qala-e-Bost fortress, over this war-cursed land where a misconceived culture and an overpowering international necessity to meddle fatalistically merged, long-stalling the Afghan peace process.”

( Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for)

What is amazing about Qala-e-Bost Fortress is not what is visible above the ground, but what is hidden underneath, the entire Bost castle, 5 levels, being in the shape of a well hidden underground.

Qala-e-Bost Fortress as seen in“Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for"
Qala-e-Bost Fortress as seen in“Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for”

“As an eerie glow spread over the flat expanse of sand, from his high point Marcos caught a glimpse of what Qala-e-Bost’s crumbling walls would have been in its time of glory. No longer a ghostly silhouette, a mere reminder of an existence long forgotten, but a castle again.”

( Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for)

I researched so much about this underground castle that stood the test of time. It would be incredible to walk its corridors, to see the light bouncing from the walls of its shaft, to hear the echoes of history as it was buried in its secret rooms.

3. An Afghan garden

Gardening says a lot about the nurturing abilities of a person. When an entire population has a gift for gardening it means that they have peace in their hearts and know the value of life.

An Afghan garden
An Afghan garden

I was amazed to discover how much gardening means to the Afghan people and how connected they are to their roots, to the soil of Afghanistan, nurturing or arid. How inventive the Afghans proved to be, making the best out of each situation, when it comes to gardens.

I tried to depict their nurturing nature in the pages of “Silent Heroes“.

“Afghans are gardeners at heart, did you know? Before they are mujahideen or insurgents or Taliban-bloody-criminals, they love to garden.”

( Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for)

4. A Military Base in Afghanistan

Military camp at Bagram, Afghanistan. Source Wikipedia
Military camp at Bagram, Afghanistan. Source Wikipedia

During the two years plus it took me to research and write “Silent Heroes” I researched in depth the living conditions of the US Marines deployed in Afghanistan and of all the military fighting there.

2012 army photo competition.Amateur Portrait category runner-up Cpl Dawson and his dog Lightning rest up in TCP West.Picture Captain Richard Willing MoD Crown Copyright via Getty Images
Army Photographic Competition 2012. In this handout image supplied by the Ministry of Defence Crown Copyright, photo entitled ‘LIGHTNING AND HIS HANDLER’, depicting Cpl Dawson and his dog Lightning rest up in TCP West. (Army Amateur Portrait category runner up; Photo by Captain Richard Willing/MoD/Mandatory Credit Crown Copyright via Getty Images)

What is outstanding is the level of organization and, at the same time, the little comfort these amazing soldiers put up with every day in order to do their duty towards their own countries and to keep peace for us all.

And anything reminding them of home is treasured. Like the small American flag in the image below.

A U.S. Marine looks out from his post in September at Bost airfield in Helmand province. Andrew Renneisen-Getty Images
A U.S. Marine looks out from his post in September at Bost airfield in Helmand province. Andrew Renneisen-Getty Images

“Between the building and the sheet of the tent was a corridor-wide enough for a human to pass through, two would have to negotiate. From a drain pipe facing the main door hung a small size American flag, the one civilians wave on the 4th of July, its sole purpose of connecting them with home.”

( Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for)

5. A field of poppies

In Afghanistan, poppies – opium poppies – mean death and poverty. I, “Silent Heroes” I tried to explain the vicious cycle that poppy cultivation in Afghanistan means. It was fascinating to learn how it started, why, and what its consequences meant for the Afghan population as well as internationally.

A soldier walking past a poppy field in Afghanistan
A soldier walking past a poppy field in Afghanistan

“The hamlet’s reputation of frightfulness came from the complete lack of vegetation. As if the poppy field that once flourished nearby sucked away any drop of water that might have concentrated in the adjacent earth, like some type of incongruous alien.”

( Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for)

International affairs and their local implications are never as simple as they appear at the beginning.

“So ‘The Golden Triangle’ (Burma, Thailand, Laos) was soon replaced by ‘The Golden Crescent’ (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran).”

Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for)
World Map Opium Heroin. Golden Triangle. Golden Crescent. Source Wikipedia
World Map Opium Heroin. Golden Triangle. Golden Crescent. Source Wikipedia

Still, there is something magical about a field of poppies. I think that poppies seeds, with their ability to remain dormant throughout the years, are a fantastic representation of what hope and resilience is all about. Never give up.

Maybe because poppy has a long association with Remembrance Day. Why? Scarlet poppies (popaver rhoeas) grow naturally in conditions of disturbed, arid earth throughout the world. Poppies grew naturally after the Napoleonic wars of the 19th Century and again on battlefields of WW1.

An old, happy short-haired pointer dog in a poppy field at sunset
An old, happy short-haired pointer dog in a poppy field at sunset

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, “In Flanders Fields”

I hope you enjoyed reading about the five locations that inspired and amazed me while writing “Silent Heroes“.

Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for
Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for – New Contemporary Fiction by Patricia Furstenberg

Do you have a favorite place you read about in a book?

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Symbolism in Silent Heroes, the Story behind it via @PatFurstenberg #symbolism #fiction #history #writerslife

I still remember attending my first lecture on symbolism . My own studies were as far from literature and art as the moon is from the man who occupies it.

I was studying medical dentistry when a friend and I went to the University of History and Art to attend a lecture on symbolism in art. It was late one evening when we opened the massive door leading to a cosmic-size amphitheater packed with excited faces.

Happiness can be found anywhere. Sometimes you just need to search harder or ask for someone to help you discover it. A US Marine, his MWD, military working dog and Afghan boys.
Happiness can be found anywhere. Sometimes you just need to search harder or ask for someone to help you discover it. A US Marine, his MWD, military working dog and Afghan boys.

Used to look at dead bodies laying on an autopsy table, to squint inside them while trying to discern the shriveled femoral nerve from the already gray artery, I was struck by the excitement short-circuiting everyone attending the lecture and the amount of information hidden in plain view, underneath layers of colorful paint.

I was hooked and, although I may not have earned a degree in art, the keen interest in symbolism has sipped into my pores for good.

Symbology - 'In God we Trust'.  (Army Photographic Competition 2012 - Pro Portfolio winner; Photo by SSgt Nesbit RLC/MoD/Mandatory Credit Crown Copyright via Getty Images)
‘In God we Trust’. (Army Photographic Competition 2012 – Pro Portfolio winner; Photo by SSgt Nesbit RLC/MoD/Mandatory Credit Crown Copyright via Getty Images) These include a simple disk with a cross cut out which he wore with his identity (Dog) tags, and an American coin dated 1988, the year of his birth. The soldier who wanted to remain unidentified carried these with him all the time whilst he served in Afghanistan on Operation Herrick 15 for luck.

Was symbolism introduced in “Silent Heroes” intentionally?

On writing “Silent Heroes” I did not plan to include symbolism. It wasn’t a voluntary act, like research had been, or plotting the outline of the story, building my characters. Including symbolical elements was a work of my sly subconscious mind. It’s been the work of my cerebellum, you can say. Anatomy having its own play over art.

I do not expect readers to pick up on the symbolism used or to interpret it in the same way. I think this is very much connected to how our minds are wired. Some of us see things that others don’t, because they are not important to them. I does not mean that the first group hallucinates, or that the second group is inattentive.

The Purple Sunbird, (Cinnyris asiaticus) is found in the dry zone from the Arabian Peninsula into Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan until the dry zone of Rajasthan and Gujarat.
The Purple Sunbird, (Cinnyris asiaticus) is found in the dry zone from the Arabian Peninsula into Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan until the dry zone of Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Has symbolism in “Silent Heroes” been consciously manipulated at any stage during the writing process?

Now, this would imply that, at some stage during the writing of “Silent Heroes“, I picked up on some symbols introduced in the story-line. Which I did. Once I became conscious of the implications these symbolism will have on the narrative, I kept developing that thread. I did not removed it, since it was introduced organically and not voluntarily.

I felt that if I will remove the symbols, the story will be less rich, the characters, at least some of them, will lose their credibility. And myself, as a writer, will lose the passion for the telling of the story of these “Silent Heroes“, passion that had fueled me for over two years.

A book thrown in the dust.
A book thrown in the dust.

Can other symbols be discovered in “Silent Heroes”?

Other symbols, besides the ones my subconscious mind placed and my conscious mind picked up? I believe so, as I trust the reader’s creative minds as well as the connection I hope they will establish this book.

Lady Tulip - Tulipa clusiana From Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and the western Himalayas
Lady Tulip – Tulipa clusiana From Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and the western Himalayas

Is symbolism for real?

Is air real? Is the language we speak real? Is the sky blue? Humans have a innate ability and desire for creating things out of nothing. Buildings out of dust, worlds out of words, art out of dreams.

And humans also need to communicate. Writers communicate through their books. Language itself is a symbolic form of communication. Symbols used by artists, and therefore by writers, are placed – subconsciously or not – to help channel the results of their work. The end product. Much like a painter creating a portrait, an architect, a building that lasts, writers stir their stories using symbols, where appropriate.

The journey a writer takes when creating a book is anchored in his dreams and imagination, but it is stirred by the hidden symbolism which is also a product of his own mind.

A gardener and his garden in Afghanistan. Afghans are avid garners.
A gardener and his garden in Afghanistan. Afghans are avid garners.

Images of symbolism in “Silent Heroes” *****SPOILER ALERT*****

Without spoiling the plot, I will list a few of the symbols I unconsciously introduced in my latest work of fiction “Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for”.

An Afghan butterfly on a soldier's sleeve.
An Afghan butterfly on a soldier’s sleeve.

You do not have to read past this point if you have not read “Silent Heroes” yet. You can have a sneak peek here.

You could skip the very short, last paragraph, and return to it after reading “Silent Heroes”.

Silent Heroes, When Love and Faith Are Worth Fighting for
Silent Heroes, When Love and Faith Are Worth Fighting for

Some of the symbols found in “Silent Heroes” are:

Qala-e-Bost Fortress, Afghanistan
Qala-e-Bost, Afghansitan

The blue bird.

The book in the dust.

Qala-e-Bost Fortress.

Poppy flowers.

The Afghan garden.

What do they symbolize?

I suggest you don’t go past this point if you haven’t read “Silent Heroes” yet. First read the book, then return and see if your thoughts and mine converge.

Symbolism in Silent Heroes
Symbolism in Silent Heroes

To me, the blue bird symbolizes the spirit of Emma’s mother, as well as hope in another chance for happiness. A reminder that hope exists, no matter what situation we find ourselves in.

The book in the dust symbolizes the disrespect for human life and human wrights. Books are a well of wisdom and the product of hard, assiduous work. They don’t belong in the dirt, just like human life does not.

Qala-e-Bost Fortress symbolizes the upright spirit of the Afghan people, still standing after centuries of wars and oppression. And just like the people of Afghanistan, through its architecture, it is deeply rooted in its land, drawing strength from it.

Poppy flowers are both a symbol of the blood spilled in Afghanistan and of the never-ending struggle for survival of the Afghan people. Poppies are extremely resilient, they can grow under harsh weather conditions, although they look so fragile. But poppies are also deadly plants in the sense that farming them caught so many innocent souls in the loop of poverty and addiction.

The Afghan Garden symbolizes Heaven and hope in a land devastated by wars. Just as Heaven transcends all spirits and gods, being present in all religions, all people, no matter of their religion, sex or skin color, are equal in the eyes of God.

Have you discovered other symbols after reading “Silent Heroes“? Tell me about them, I’d love to hear from you.

Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg
Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg

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Dogs, Man’s Best Friend, as Illustrated by Art, From Once Upon a Time to the 20th Century via @patfurstenberg #dogs #art #history

The old claim that a dog is one’s best friend is validated through historical records, be it art, folklore or books. Yet it requires no proof to anyone lucky enough to enjoy the company of a dog in modern day’s society. The stories and the inspiration behind art such as this is what fuels my writing.

I invite you to travel with me through a fast-paced, awe-inspiring journey from the past’s “once upon a time” to the 20th century illustrating the human-dog bond.

More to come in the following weeks on the astounding role dogs, these silent heroes, played during the Great War, World War II, the Vietnam Wat, and the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as what it takes to become a Military Working Dog.

How dogs helped the human brain to evolve

There isn’t a shadow of a doubt that, at some stage during their passing on this planet, humans decided to domesticate wolves (the grey wolf). Why they did it, choosing a breed they will have to compete against for food, is mysterious enough to feed the imagination of many writers.

How dogs helped the human brain to evolve
How dogs helped the human brain to evolve . Source ancestry

Perhaps domesticating the cunning foxes failed or it was the super-olfactory ability of dogs that triggered the human determination. Or was it all a coincidence? Theories speak of more than one time when human attempted to domesticate dogs, starting as far as 20 000 – 32 000 years ago.
What is certain is that the canines evolutionary journey from wolves to dogs happened simultaneously with the human’s development of speech (about 150 000 years ago). The time when our ancestors’ acute olfactory capabilities began to diminish, their brain accommodating the extra neural synapses and cortex area dedicated to verbal communication.No wonder that dogs , with their super-olfactory ability, looked, all of a sudden, so much more appealing to have as companions. Not mentioning the cuteness of their puppies.

Footprints in the Chauvet Cave: a child and his dog

Chauvet Cave located in the southern France is renowned as the site of some of the world’s oldest mural paintings, and not only.
At the back of the cave the soil and rock have preserved the footprints of a small child (estimated at about 1,4 m height and 8-10 years old) walking beside a dog. The trace is 45 meters long, enough for scientists to analyze and conclude that the child was walking and not running. What is amazing is that the prints he left show that at some stage the child slipped in the soft clay and that at some stage he stopped to clean his torch (proven by the stain of charcoal left behind).
Alongside the child’s footprints are those of a large dog or a wolf friend.

Chauvet Cave: human child and dog footprints 26 000 years old
Chauvet Cave: human child and dog footprints 26 000 years old

Dogs in Mesopotamia: The Epic of Gilgamesh

I still remember learning n school about oldest piece of epic world literature, written c. 2150 – 1400 BCE – that is 1500 years before Homer even put pen on paper.

It explores a theme as old as humankind, he quest for the meaning of life.

Dogs are mentioned and shown their importance in everyday life: they are the companions of one of the most popular goddesses of the region, the goddess Innana (Ishtar). She travels with seven prized hunting dogs in collar and leash.

Innana (Ishtar) and one of her seven dogs - source wikipedia
Innana (Ishtar) and one of her seven dogs – source Wikipedia

Dogs in Mahabharata, the longest epic poem ever written

Also from school (who would have thought?) I remember the Mahabharata as being one of the most important texts of ancient Indian and world literature.

Written 400 BCE the Mahabharata features a dog that might have been an Indian Pariah Dog.

“The dog must come with me,” said Yudhisthira
“That is not possible,” said Indra. “All cannot attain heaven. The dog is old and thin and has no value.”
“In that case, I do not seek heaven, “replied Yudhisthira. “The dog was my faithful companion and I cannot abandon it. It sought my help and gave me unconditional love. The pleasures of heaven will mean nothing to me in comparison to its grief. It has done nothing to deserve abandonment and had none of the weaknesses of my wife and brothers. If it does not deserve to go to heaven, then neither do I.

Mahabharata
Yudhisthira with a dog as a chariot from Heaven arrives - source Wikimedia
Yudhisthira with a dog as a chariot from Heaven arrives – source Wikimedia

More proof that dogs have been part of human life before they were even mentioned in written is depicted by art. Plenty of canines decorations are found in temples, mosaics, artifacts, paintings from all over the world.

The Colima Dog

One of the first tangible proofs of human-dog interaction is the Colima Dog, West Mexico, dating to the Late Formative Period (300 BC-300 AD).
Art often represented themes important to the culture: weddings, children’s births, and royal feasts.
Made of terracotta (earth) clay burned in an oven, the Colima Dog shows a hairless dogs symbolizing both life and death themes, through its association with the places where he was found, near food (grains) remains and graves.

Colima Dog -a pot-bellied dog figurine from Mexico, State of Colima, 300 BC - 300 AD, ceramic - image source Wikimedia Commons
Colima Dog -a pot-bellied dog figurine from Mexico, State of Colima, 300 BC – 300 AD, ceramic – image source Wikimedia Commons

Dogs in antiquity: China

I feel I should mention dogs in ancient China because modern dog’s DNA analysis shows that all present dog breeds stem from the grey wolf in China that was tamed around 16 000 years ago. At the same time wild rice was used extensively, agriculture developed and first villages appeared.
Furthermore, the Chinese honored the dogs for thousands of years. Remember that Dog is one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. People born under this sign are said to be loyal, trustworthy, and kind, qualities often associated with the dog.
There is a lovely Chinese saying translating in:

‘a dog would not mind if its master is poor, a son would not mind if his mother is ugly.’

Chinese proverb

Let’s skip past sacrifices and dogs as a food source.

The Dog from Pompeii

Pompeii was an ancient Roman city near modern-day Naples, in Campania, Southern Italy. It became renowned after Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, burying the city and its inhabitants in 4 to 6m of ash and pumice. Today Pompeii is a precious, well-preserved archeological site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A dog mosaic was found in “The House of the Tragic Poet” – proof of the Pompeian love and appreciation for canines.

Pompeii -The House of the Tragic Poet - dog mosaic - source Wikipedia
Pompeii -The House of the Tragic Poet – dog mosaic – source Wikipedia

“CAVE CANEM” = BEWARE OF THE DOG

A Roman dog footprint, a Greek pot and a dog cameo

I particularly love this dog footprint on a Roman terracotta, next to a statuette of a dog displayed in Vidy Roman Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland. I think it depicts the human’s affection and longing towards his departed dog.

Dog footprint on a Roman terracotta, next to a statuette of a dog – source Wikipedia

This typical Leagros Group artwork of the 6th century Greek art is striking. And it depicts the close relationship between men, dogs and horses. So much is said with the use of only a few colors.

Riders and dogs, art by Leagros Group, Louvre. Source Wikipedia
Riders and dogs, art by Leagros Group, Louvre. Source Wikipedia

In the Georgian National Museum there is this Roman cameo of a dog. It looks like it is carved in stone with an oval frame hand made out of ceramic and, perhaps, sealed with gold. I love the dog’s playful pose. It tells of his comfortable life. Romans appreciated the dogs for their fidelity. I wonder if the woman wearing this cameo led a happy life.

Did you know that the Greeks were the first to carve stone in relief, in fifth century B.C., the antecedents of cameos? The carving principles they implemented are still in use today.

A Roman cameo of a dog - source Wikimedia
A Roman cameo of a dog – source Wikimedia

Dogs frolicking in The Wedding Feast at Cana

Fast forward to the 16th century and I want to mention The Wedding Feast at Cana (1563), by the Italian artist Paolo Veronese because I got to see it with my own eyes.

The Wedding Feast at Cana (1563), by the Italian artist Paolo Veronese - and some very happy dogs. Source Wikimedia
The Wedding Feast at Cana (1563), by the Italian artist Paolo Veronese – and some very happy dogs. Source Wikimedia

Don’t be out off by its size (70 m², taking Veronese 15 months to paint it – and not alone). It tells a beautiful biblical story of the Marriage at Cana, at which Jesus converts water to wine. Plus there are dogs painted right in the center (it is said the painter himself is the one in white, holding the viola)

The Wedding Feast at Cana. Veronese in white, holding the viola and the two central dogs.
The Wedding Feast at Cana. Veronese in white, holding the viola and the two central dogs.

and one other dog is in the left.

The Wedding Feast at Cana - the dog in the left side.
The Wedding Feast at Cana – the dog in the left side

Notice how Jesus is placed in the center of the wedding feast? The bride and groom are at the left end of the table. Jesus performed his first miracle at Cana, turning water into wine.

Finally, a 16th century book on dogs!

“Lawes of the Forrest” by John Manwood is a book with a full 141 words title. The book was first published for private circulation in 1592. The 1598 edition is the oldest book in the library of London’s Kennel Club—the “biggest library of books about dogs” in Europe.

Book-Illustration of a dog from George Turbervile 1576 Booke of Hunting. Google Books Public Domain
Book-Illustration of a dog from George Turbervile 1576 Booke of Hunting. Google Books Public Domain

Apparently during the 16th century was easier to keep “little dogs”. For greyhounds or mastiffs one needed special hunting license issued by the king! Talk about bureaucracy.

The 1598 edition of John Manwood’s Lawes of the Forrest - about rules of keeping dogs. Source abebooks
The 1598 edition of John Manwood’s Lawes of the Forrest – about rules of keeping dogs. Source abebooks

Gaugan’s puppies and Dogs Playing Poker

We’ll sail past the 19th century “Life with Three Puppies” by Paul Gauguin, inspired by Japanese prints and children’s book illustrations. Just look at those tails!

“Life with Three Puppies” by Paul Gauguin
Life with Three Puppies” by Paul Gauguin

I hope you will have a good laugh at this American artwork that came shortly after Gaugain’s: “Dogs Playing Poker” by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, 19th to 20th century. Dogs do observe human faces and often copy us – any dog lover knows.

“Dogs Playing Poker” by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge
Dogs Playing Poker” by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge

While other pets and animals have undergone substantial changes in the way they are perceived throughout history dogs have endured the marks of wars and joys alongside humans, as constant companions, protectors and, of course, friends, as we have seen portrayed by the art of various cultures around the world.

I hope you will return to find out more about the way dogs and humans have faced together the many wars of the 20th and the 21st century.

Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg
Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg

My latest book is ‘Silent Heroes’, a highly emotional read, action-packed, a vivid story of enormous sacrifice and bravery that will keep you on the edge of your seat. It is a book extremely well researched, with authentic details and an epic sense of the place. The war and the military involved, Marines and dogs, are described with reverence, as are the civilians caught in the middle of the fire.

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Silent Heroes, Out Now, #CoverReveal #NewRelease #Kindle #SilentHeroes via @PatFurstenberg

Silent Heroes – When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for“, is a highly emotional read, action-packed, a vivid story of enormous sacrifice and bravery.

Silent Heroes, for the fans of The Kite Runner and Dear John!

When Talibans descends in the village of Nauzad and discover that girls can read, a woman accepts the blame and is killed on the spot for breaking the Islam law. Her teenage daughter witnesses the sacrifice and swears revenge, her life and that of her brother becoming intertwined with those of the US Marines serving at FOB Day nearby.

“Light, knowledge, they bring the courage to look at the people around us, accepting them for what they are.” (Silent Heroes)

But the Taliban is infiltrated everywhere and friends or foes are hard to differentiate. The U.S. Marines fight with bravery to protect the civilians of Nauzad and to fend off the Taliban at Qala-e-Bost, thus protecting Bost Airport, a vital strategic point for the allies. Faced with questions about the necessity of the war, with the trauma of losing their platoon-mates and the emotional scars of battle, the US Marines race against time in one last battle of eradicating the Taliban before it is too late.

“Do you ever think that history speaks of victors and captors, of battles and soldiers whose lives have been lost and history even counts them, but of the casualties on the civilian side?” (Silent Heroes)

The War in Afghanistan is a contemporary, vitally important conflict whose meaning needs to be understood by the public worldwide. ‘Silent Heroes – When When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for’ is a narrative about the value of life and the necessity of combat; the terror of dying; the ordeal of seeing your loved ones and your platoon-mates killed in front of your eyes; the trauma of taking a human life.

From the storyteller of the Bestseller “Joyful Trouble” comes a riveting, fictional account inspired by the War in Afghanistan, a battle that spanned centuries and has affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.

“When soldiers grieve, time takes a snapshot and a new star rises in the sky.” (Silent Heroes)

Silent Heroes provides a glimpse into Afghanistan’s history through the eyes of those who lived it and of those who fought it.

Silent Heroes -When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for – Cover Reveal

Get it now on Amazon Worldwide.

Kindle Edition out today, $ 1.99, £ 1.99 , CAD 1.99, € 1.99

If you LOVED The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Dear John by Nicholas Sparks, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi, you are going to love Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg!

Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for – READ FREE on Kindle Unlimited!

Paperback coming soon!

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