Throughout time, dogs have been considered to be man’s best friend, helping them throughout the good, the bad, and everything in-between. If you take a look back through time, you’ll find that dogs have been much more than a companion to man, but heroes.
“How many times has the fate of a man, or even a nation, hung from the collar of a dog,” asks Dr. Stanley Coren, a noted psychologist, and dog behavior expert. Dr. Coren is correct that some dogs have truly changed the course of human history, sometimes in small, personal ways and sometimes significant ones.
After looking up over three dozen amazing dog heroes in history, I have narrowed it down to what I find as the most compelling dog heroes, who served our country, changed laws, and saved lives.
The first dog on my list goes by the name of Pertias. He was owned by Alexander the Great for the entirety of his life, which spanned from 356 B.C. to 366 B.C. Pertias’s breed, Molossian, is no longer known, but he is a direct relative to the well-known breed, Mastiff. Pertias not only kept Alexander the Great company while conquering most of the world but helped along the way. During an attack by Persia’s Darius III, the warrior was charged by an elephant and faced almost certain death. The elephant was diverted when Peritas leaped into the air and bit its face. Alexander went on to forge the empire that became the base of Western civilization.
Get your tissues ready, because this next story may be sad, but it changed the world forever. Old Drum was a beloved Hound dog who was living in Missouri when he was shot and killed by his owner’s neighbor on October 18th, 1869. His owner, Charles Burden, couldn’t stand to let this person get away with murdering his best friend in cold blood and took Hornsby to court. This trial led to the historic speech given by Burden’s lawyer, George Graham Vest. Not only was this the first time the phrase “man’s best friend” was used, but this trial also created animal abuse laws that are still in place to this day and help to keep more exceptional dogs, just like Old Drum, alive and well.
The next dog hero goes by the name Sgt. Stubby and you read that right, he is ranked in the U.S Army as a Sargent. One of the most decorated dogs in history, this little mixed breed fighter was truly inspiring. He got his start by wandering around Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut during 1914, where soldiers were training prior to deploying for France during World War I.
He won the hearts of all the soldiers, who decided to scoop him up and take him along on their journey. In France, Stubby was said to have saved the entire division by finding and detaining a German spy. His New York Times obituary breathlessly relays the tale, saying the dog “stole out of the trenches and recognized — a German.” “Attempts by the Germans to deceive the dog were futile,” the obituary notes. He went on to help sniff out bombs and gas strikes during the war, helping save the lives of everyone serving along his side in the 102nd Infantry Regiment, 26th Infantry Division led by Conroy.
The next super-pup on my list is a Scotch Collie that goes by Bobbie, but after his story became a viral sensation in 1924, he was only known as Bobbie, the wonder dog. He was brought along on a car trip by his family, who made the long trek from Silverton, Oregon to the great state of Indiana.
During their long getaway, Bobbie was scared away by a small scrap with some farm dogs, taking off. The family searched for him but ended up having to leave him behind. Heartbroken, they thought they would never see their family dog ever again.
On a February day in 1924, the two-year-old pup appeared on the doorstep of his owners, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Brazier. What amazed them was that they had not seen their dog since he had disappeared six months earlier during a car trip in Indiana. Bobbie—mangy, scrawny, feet worn to the bone—appeared to have walked the entire distance to Silverton by himself.
The local paper, the Silverton Appeal, published the story of Bobbie’s cross-country trek, and it quickly spread to newspapers across the country. The Braziers received hundreds of letters from people simply addressed to “Bobbie, the Wonder Dog” or “Silverton’s Bobbie.” Some people claimed they had seen Bobbie and were able to identify him by his distinguishing features.
Officials from the Oregon Humane Society launched an investigation into the Braziers’ claims and were able to confirm that Bobbie had indeed traveled 2,800 miles in the dead of winter to return home. A much-celebrated dog Bobbie received medals, keys to cities, and a jewel-studded harness and collar. He was the guest of honor at the Portland Home Show, where over 40,000 people came to view him, and he was presented with his own dog-sized bungalow.
Our next amazing dog goes by Buddy, a German Shepherd, who wowed America by being the first-ever seeing-eye dog in the country in 1928. Buddy was brought from Switzerland after being trained as a K-9 police officer. A blind man by the name of Morris Frank heard about the seeing-eye dogs in other countries and reached out to a trainer who had Buddy overseas. When they met, it was an instant love story.
Morris and Buddy went on to travel most of the US together, promoting seeing eye dogs as a medical safety net! The pair often gave speeches and demonstrations for huge crowds, telling them that Buddy brought him freedom, something he had not felt since the age of 6 when he lost his sight. After 10 years of helping Morris and showing the country his skills, Buddy passed, but his spirit lived on. By 1965, every state in the US had passed laws allowing blind people with guide dogs access to public spaces.
Our next hero served in the US Coastguard and Navy during World War II and went on to serve the country for 14 years on the USS Campbell. Known as Sinbad The Mutt, this adorable companion quickly became a mascot for the US Navy. Sinbad was originally intended to be a gift for a sailor’s girlfriend in 1937. She was unable to keep the dog so the sailor snuck him on board the USS Campbell that night. Sinbad stayed quiet during the night but by morning his barking made his presence known. The sailors bonded quickly with the happy-go-lucky pup and Sinbad became a member of the crew. He was officially enlisted, with a paw print signature on his enlistment papers. He had his own service record, Red Cross and service IDs, and even his own bunk! He helped maintain the ship and keep a lookout for any German submarines coming. During battles, he would aid nurses by leading them to those wounded safely.
The next super-dog has traveled through time and space to bring information to the world about the moon and stars! This little Russian wonder goes by the name of Laika and was the first living thing to orbit around the Earth in 1957! She was originally just a stray running about the streets of Moscow, but soon, she would undergo space training. While this is now very controversial, at the time, they considered this sweet mutt a savior, as they didn’t even think a human could survive the take-off in a space mission. Not only did she survive the take-off, but she was also monitored for 2 days. Unfortunately, they had no way to control the temperature of the craft she was in and it became too hot inside of the vessel. While the ethics of this mission do not align with the animal testing ethics of today, Laika is remembered as a hero for the information retrieved not only in space but in our morales as humans.
Our next dog was a decorated war hero, and soon became the face of the K-9 military branch recruiting league for his brave actions during the Vietnam War. A German Shepherd named Nemo was stationed in Tan Son Nhut Air Base in 1966 with American Air Force and was being handled by a soldier named Bob Throneburg. During their time in battle, the pair became close, doing everything together, including fighting.
Their base has been attacked in the early hours of December 4th, 1966. Nemo heard the intruders and alerted his handler that the Vietcong was coming. Soon, Bob spotted two intruders and began firing his weapon, unleashing Nemo at the same time. Unfortunately, Bob was struck, leaving him wounded and on the ground. Nemo, who also took a bullet through his eye, which ended up coming out of his mouth, stayed to fight. He took on two guerrillas to protect his wounded handler. He was able to take them down and quickly retreated to Bob, laying on top of him until backup arrived. They both ended up being airlifted and received multiple surgeries, Nemo even lost his left eye. They would not see each other again until this picture, where Bob Throneburg thank Nemo for saving his life.
TraKer, became a renowned hero for his incredible actions at Ground Zero after the World Trade Center was attacked in 2001. This police-trained German Shepherd was living in Canada when his handler, James Symington, watched the tragedy of 9/11 play out in front of him on his own television set. Both Symington and TraKer were retired police officers, who served together.
James couldn’t bear to see what was happening and decided they both needed to come out of retirement to help save the people suffering under the rubble. They got into a car with a friend and started the long 15-hour journey from Nova Scotia to Manhattan, NYC. They arrived on the 12th of September and immediately got to work. TraKer took no time to alert his handler to a pile of burning rubble. That exact spot was where firefighters found Genelle Guzman, the last of the 20 survivors who had been inside the buildings when they collapsed, under 30 feet of unstable debris, who had been trapped for 26 hours. In 2005, Dr. Jane Goodall honored Symington and Trakr with an “Extraordinary Service to Humanity Award” for their efforts.
Last but not least, is another war hero and German Shepherd, who goes by the name of Rex.
Rex and Megan became partners in the US Marine Corps during their first deployment to Iraq in 2005. After their first successful tour, the two decided to keep this good thing going and were deployed to Iraq again in 2006. Both working on the bomb squad, they would travel miles together in search of an area riddled with explosives.
It was a fateful day in September of 2006 that the pair were leading a US Army patrol down the street and were wounded by a bomb. Rex was not as bad off as Megan, who was discharged due to her condition. Megan was awarded a purple heart for her efforts, but all she really wanted was her best friend back at her side. Rex went on to serve the Marine Corps for 6 more years until he developed facial palsy and retired. Megan was able to adopt him after that and they were finally reunited.
As you can see, dogs have always been there by human’s side, ensuring that our lives are the best they can be. Without dogs, how could man make it through some of our greatest wars and tragedies, let alone all the things day-to-day humans deal with.
Dogs are truly a wonder and an animal to cherish. If you know a dog who is active in the military, helping someone with a handicap, or ensuring the safety of humankind all around the world, be sure to give me a scratch on the chin and a loving kiss, as we couldn’t do it without them and these famous dogs in history.
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