7 Dogs That Left their Paws on History

7 dogs that left their paws on history

Today I take a break from writing fiction about dogs to take a closer look at a few canine mementos, more exactly at 7 dogs that put their paws on history – and on the reader’s hearts.

One of my all time favorite poetesses, Emily Dickinson, wrote once that ‘dogs are better than human beings because they know but do not tell,’ while Eisenhower, America’s 34th President, believed that ‘what counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.’

Take a moment to think of your favorite childhood story. Mine was about a sausage dog called Fridolin and chances are that, your too, was about the friendship between a man and an animal. Any parent or educator learns at some stage that the best way to convey a lesson to a child is through a story involving animals. It is based on the animal kingdom that the most valuable lessons about loyalty, trust, sacrifice and unconditional love come.

When it comes to their relationship with humans, dogs have followed a millennial, a fascinating journey that won them the nickname of man’s best friend, a path one that fed many bedtime stories for young and old alike. Furthermore, be it a puppy, a doggo or a bud, they became famous characters in literature and cinema and there are canines who have taught us powerful life lessons about what loyalty and love means. And let’s not forget the bravest hounds who helped the people in rescue operations or proved their courage on the front or behind enemy lines and even across no man’s land.

Sergeant Stubby, or when the size doesn’t matter (1916 – 1926)

Sergent Stubby, hero dog, 7 Dogs That left their Paws on History
Original caption: Washington, DC: Meet up with Stubby, a 9-year-old veteran of the canine species. He has been through the World War as mascot for the 102nd Infantry, 26th Division. Stubby visited the White House to call on President Coolidge. November 1924

Stubby certainly holds the record for receiving the most medals World War I. Stubby the puppy looked like a Pit Bull Terrier mix and was found wandering the grounds of the Yale University campus in July 1917 while members of the 102nd Infantry were training so he soon became their mascot. But Stubby also took part in numerous battles during which he helped discovering, capturing, and alerting the Allies to the presence of German spies.

Hachiko, a story of canine devotion from 1925 (1923 – 1935)

Hachiko, 7 Dogs That left their Paws on History

One day, when I will visit Japan, I will make sure to go to Shibuya train station where the statue of Hachiko is found. In Japanese culture Hachiko is a symbol of loyalty and love. This dog loved his master so much that his devotion entered people’s hearts and their memory and thus it remained in history. Books were written about him and movies were also made.

Adopted when he was just a puppy by Professor Hidesaburo Ueno, Hachiko was raised with a lot of love and attention. Since the Professor had to commute for work, Hachiko learned to wait daily for its owner’s return at Shibuya train station. The reunion of the two was the most awaited moment of the day. He did this for years until one day when Professor Ueno never returned from work. Hachiko’s owner passed away suddenly, while he was at the office, due to a cerebral hemorrhage. It was May 21, 1925. Hachiko waited until late that day, but his daddy never returned.

Yet Hachko never lost hope and for ten long years he went daily to Shibuya station to wait for his friend. Hachiko died of old age in 1935, on March 8.

What for a human being translates into basic human needs, food, comfort and love, for a dog is the definition of life itself. When men search companionship, understanding and friendship, dogs require only love.

Balto the Snowdog of 1925 (1919 – 1933)

Celebrated sled dog Balto with Gunnar Kaasen 7 Dogs That Put their Paws on History
Celebrated sled dog Balto with Gunnar Kaasen

How much do you love snow?

Balto was a Siberian husky dog trained to pull sleighs, named after the polar explorer Samuel Balto who participated in the first recorded crossing of the interior of Greenland, together with Nansen and four other expedition members.

But Balto the puppy grew into a strong and brave doggo soon known as the leader of the team that carried the diphtheria toxin in Nome, Alaska. During the winter of 1925 a small city with a big epidemic crisis was isolated due to weather conditions. The only solution to bring the antidote were dog dledding. Balto showed extraordinary courage and led the sledge to -23 ° C, at night, through the blizzard.

There is a statue in Balto’s memory in Central Park, New York. Have you seen it?

Just Nuisance, a WWII Royal Navy Able Seaman (1937 – 1944)

Just Nuisance, the hero in bestseller Joyful Trouble
Just Nuisance, the hero in my bestseller Joyful Trouble

The life and story of the legendary Great Dane, Able Seaman Just Nuisance, still captures the hearts and imagination of tourists, WWII historians and readers around the world.

Just Nuisance was born on1st April 1937 and he had a different name at the beginning, a more prosaic name. It is an extraordinary story how received the name everyone got to know him by, a story you can read in my Amazon bestseller book Joyful Trouble.

Well, I’ll share a bit. This giant Great Dane was very gentle and liked the sailors such a lot that he followed them everywhere….

‘“But mostly he liked to tail seamen, to follow them, while they were moving in and out of the naval base. Out we went, the Great Dane was after us. In the train we climbed, the dog would jump in. Even in the dockyards when we were doing our job, he was there.

He just liked to be among us, to sit among us, even lie among us and nap. Especially the ones working on the HMS Neptune,” smiled the old man.

“Was that your ship, Grandpa?”

“Yes, it was the ship I was first appointed to. She was a beautiful light cruiser! When seamen work on a ship it is always busy work, heavy work. And to get on and off the ship they lay a plank of wood a little bit wider than…. this,” and the old man kept his hands wide apart. But our Great Dane enjoyed being among the seamen so much that he thought the best place for him to sit and wait for his busy friends was the plank itself, the piece of wood connecting the ship with the shore. And you can’t blame him; that was the only area on which everyone walked; because there was no other way.

Now, that was a narrow plank and our dog was a big dog. Therefor not much space was left for the sailors to walk up and down on their duties. Every time a sailor would have to board or disembark the ship, sometimes even carrying heavy loads, he was forced to step over our four legged friend. And after a few jumps like this the seamen, no matter how fond they were of our dog, they would mumble and complain about how much trouble the dog was giving them.

And the name stuck!

Except that lots of joy was also associated with our Trouble causing friend.”

“Joyful Trouble,” said Ana to herself while watching Tommy throwing stones in the stream.’

from Joyful Trouble: Based on the True Story of a Dog Enlisted in the Royal Navy,by Patricia Furstenberg
Joyful Trouble, Based on the True Story of a Dog Enlisted in the Royal Navy

Not many know, but Just Nuisance (Joyful Trouble) also flew in planes – in secret missions.

Just Nuisance is still a big part of Simon’s Town where a statue was raised in his honor. Simon’s Town Museum in Cape Town, South Africa, also has in it’s collection Just Nuisance’s collar as well as many photographs.

Fido, a Faithful, Trusting Dog of WWII, 1943 (1941 – 1958)

7 Dogs That Left their Paws on History

A story similar to Hachiko’s became famous in Italy during World War II. The story begins when an Italian worker, Soriani, finds an injured puppy, later named Fido. Good-hearted, the man took the pup home and took good care of him. Of course, the Italian worker and and his wife quickly became attached to the cute doggo and decided to adopt him. They called him Fido (trust, faithful), cared for him and gave him all their love. They all lived in the beautiful region of Tuscani.

And Fido returned their love tenfold. Each day Fido would follow his owner to the bus station and wait for him to return. Soriani worked in a factory but at some stage during World War II, when the city was bombed, the factory was completely destroyed. Many workers died, including Soriani. For 14 years after his master’s death, Fido returned to the bus station, waiting for his return every day. Much has been written in the press of the time about this proof of devotion.

Laika, the Spacedog (1954 – 1957)

Laika, 7 Dogs That Left their Paws on History

It was 1957 and the Golden Age of Capitalism, when freedom equaled consumption in the west. But the Sovie Union had other great plans. At the control desk the engineers started the countdown, and the Sputnik 2 space shuttle was ready for launch. A brave soul, with a wet nuzzle, will soon be propelled into outer space and the history of space flight.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the Russian scientists of the ’50s the way I never liked the Russian soldiers of WWII. Laika was a stray wandering the streets of Moscow. She was picked up and looked after – following a devious plan. Soviet scientists chose to use Moscow strays since they assumed that such animals had already learned to endure conditions of extreme cold and hunger.

During the training time, one of the scientists involved in the project took Laika home where the dog bonded with his children. In one of the books dedicated to the puppy, the scientist said that “Laika was silent and charming.” The puppy showed a lot of courage and extraordinary intelligence throughout the entire training period.

Laika died within hours from the launch due to overheating caused by a failure when the central missile separated from the payload. The true cause and time of her death were not made public until 2002; instead, it was widely reported that she died when her oxygen ran out on day six or, as the Soviet government initially claimed, she was euthanized prior to oxygen depletion. It was only in 2008 that Russia unveiled a statue dedicated to Laika.

Apollo, the brave Silent Hero K-9 Dog of 9/11 New York (1992 – 2006)

Apollo, the brave Silent Hero K-9 Dog of 9/11 New York (1992 - 2006)

The most recent story today is that of the German shepherd Appollo, a search and rescue dog who served with the K-9 unit of the New York Police Department.

Apollo and his handler, Peter Davis, were the first K-9 search and rescue team to answer the call on September 11, arriving at the South Tower 15 minutes after its collapse. Apollo Apollo looked for survivors 18 hours a day for weeks on end. It is estimated that more than 300 dogs took part in the search, rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attack and Apollo was one of them. Thanks to his acute senses he helped save the victims from the rubble, sneaking in hard-to-reach places on hearing the very faint cries for help or smelling humans.

Apollo was awarded the Dickin Medal, the animals’ equivalent of the Victoria Cross, in recognition of a work well done.

Dogs are our most capable and strong friends. Cared for and loved they become our most important allies. Until then, they offer us, unconditionally, their intelligence, affection and devotion. Precious gifts!

I don’t know about you, but I wholeheartedly agree with French writer Anatole France believed (and he was correct) that ‘Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.’

Update 🙂 because lovely Sheree commented on the old header photo: it depicts a Staff Sergeant of the Army Service Corps with the Corps pet dogs, Hissy and Jack. And we have Libby Hall, 73, press photographer and dog lover, to thank for it.

Amazing Roles Dogs Played During WW1, part 1: Dogs in Trenches and Ratter Dogs via @PatFurstenberg #dogs #war #trenches #ratters #history

Amazing roles of dogs played during WW1. Part 1: dogs in trenches and ratter dogs

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

Why dogs Were so indispensable during warfare AND how dog training began via @PatFurstenberg #dogs #wardogs #war

Why were dogs so indispensable during warfare AND how dog training began

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