Today marks thirteen years since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Almost 3,000 people were killed and more were injured. The shockwaves affected all of us, politically and personally, and the repercussions are still visible today. While soldiers and law enforcement work hard to keep us safe they do have a little help from our animal friends. Dogs and horses have been involved in combat for hundreds of years. We only need to look to tapestries and paintings to see depictions of horses riding into battle, and William Wallace had a Spaniel who aided him in conflict. Having grown up as part of a military family, with my dad and uncle still serving, I thought I’d take a look at some of the animal heroes who have saved lives and the dogs who work every day to help their families live more freely.
In August this year 35 riders, each representing one of the regiments and corps that comprised the Cavalry Division, set off on a ride 100 miles long across France. The five day journey followed a route that allowed them to take in the sites of some of the most famous cavalry actions of the opening weeks of the First World War. The riders wore the same uniform and carried the same weapons and accoutrements that their predecessors did in 1914.This was to commemorate the horses and their riders that formed such a crucial part of the war effort. In modern warfare dogs are often employed as sniffer dogs to find bombs and drugs, saving countless lives.
To celebrate the efforts of valorous animals the PDSA created the Dickin Medal, named for their founder Maria Dickin. These medals have been awarded to dogs, horses, pigeons and one cat (named Simon) for various acts of heroism and for going above and beyond the call of duty. Some of these animals went to extraordinary lengths and faced terrible danger to save and aid humans.
The most recent award was posthumously given to a horse called Warrior who rode into battle during World War One. This award was made in honour of Warrior and all of the other horses who were involved in the fighting. It was the second medal to be awarded this year, the first being to a Labrador named Sasha who was killed in an ambush by the Taliban in Afghanistan. During her life Sasha found 15 explosives and ammunitions caches, saving soldiers and civilians by ensuring that they weren’t deployed.
It’s not just in the military that animals are protecting people. The tireless work of assistance dogs for deaf, disabled and blind humans have meant that owners have been able to lead fuller, less restricted lives. I’ve been lucky enough to meet an assistance dog called Tansy whose owner is confined to a wheelchair. Tansy collects the post, helps her owner to dress and even does the laundry. Two Guide Dogs were jointly awarded a Dickin Medal for helping their blind owners descend 70 flights of stairs in the attack on the Twin Towers on September 11th, refusing to leave their sides and even helping others on their way. Another dog named Appollo was awarded one for his search-and-rescue efforts. In fact, of the 10,000-strong emergency rescue team, 300 were dogs.
As a dog owner I know I cannot imagine what my life would be like if my dog wasn’t in it. Some people literally couldn’t live without them. Do you know of any everyday animal heroes? How is your pet a hero to you?
Alternative posts to read:
IFAW Awards Celebrates Bravest Of Animals
Taking A Look At Animal Heroes
Happy International Guide Dog Day