DOGS: OUR UNSUNG HEROES
By Cori Solomon
Dogs have always been there for us through catastrophes, wars, and sickness, and have displayed a loyalty which remains unparalleled during the course of the human experience. Many dogs were originally bred to assist their human companions in daily life. A Border Collie, Corgi, or Shetland Sheepdog were bred to herd sheep or cattle. Some dogs were bred to hunt animals. A working dog might be a military dog, a K-9 police dog, or a search and rescue dog. Dogs that fall into these categories might be the German Shepherd or a Labrador Retriever. Many of these dogs are our unsung heroes. They can save lives, detect a bomb, or, in the case of a military dog, boost the morale of those soldiers fighting a war. On Veterans Day, we should not only honor our veterans but those dogs that fought alongside whether it be in a war or search and rescue dogs that partnered with our firefighters to save lives during disasters. Let us celebrate some of these dogs who have served us.
Search and Rescue Dogs
In 2010, my interest piqued when I read about school children raising money for the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation. Pearl, a shelter dog who became a search and rescue dog, inspired the book from which the proceeds were donated to the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation to train a dog. Through this experience, I met many search and rescue dogs, including Pearl, who recently went over the rainbow bridge. Some of the dogs I encountered were members of the task force team that went to New York after 911. Some traveled to Japan and Haiti when natural disasters occurred.
My curiosity with the military, search and rescue, and therapy dogs did not stop there. Shortly after, I discovered that two World War II dogs are buried at the Los Angeles National Cemetery. They no longer permit canine burials, but Bonus and Blackout are the two that have that honor, and I walked the cemetery to pay homage to these dogs.
In 2013, I covered the Natural Balance Rose Bowl Parade Float, called Canines with Courage. The float celebrated the military dogs who assisted us in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan wars. It also made people aware of the Military Working Dog Teams National Monument located at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in San Antonio, Texas. This location is not only a memorial to those working dog teams but a dog training facility for the U.S. Armed Services Military working dog program. It also trains working dogs for other government agencies.
After talking to military dogs’ handlers during this experience, I learned that besides working as a team with the dogs as scouts, sentries, trackers, or search and rescue, these dogs accomplished an untold job. They gave unconditional love to the troops when one of their comrades was lost in battle. These dog mascots bring soldiers peace of mind through comfort. The dogs all know the difference between when they are comforting versus working.
I also never realized the strong emotional relationship between humans and dogs during wartimes. There is a bond that develops when military handlers train and regularly work with their dog. The dog becomes their best friend, confidant, and partner.
The latest to honor our war heroes is the October 2020 unveiling of the statue, called “The Pledge” by Susan Bahary. This sculpture honors women in the military and depicts a woman in uniform with a service dog. The monument is located at the Women in the Military Service For America Memorial in Arlington, VA.
Many years after my father-in-law passed away, my husband shared the story of Sugie, a sea dog and military mascot of the Besugo SS321, a World War II submarine that saw five combat tours. As a dog, he could sense nearby depth charges well before the crew. Sugie received a citation for his work along with the crew. Similar to what I discovered the year I covered the Canine for Courage float, Sugie played a vital role in the lives of the men aboard the Besugo. Sugie supported these men with his unconditional love. He bolstered their morale and entertained them. He kept them going during difficult times.
Many soldiers come back from conflicts worldwide with PTSD. Often, dogs help lift their spirits. I remember Murray, a therapy dog owned by a therapist friend, who helped open these veterans up, grounding them so they could move forward with their lives. Then there are the service dogs who help blind and deaf people or even the autistic child. These dogs impact everyone, not only giving us joy but working to make our lives better.
I am grateful, having met many of these canines who have impacted and saved many lives. Like the Veterans we honor on Veterans Day, we celebrate the dogs that stood by our side through thick and thin.
Finally, I have been a dog person all my life, but when I got involved with Salukis and bred a litter, I learned more about the relationship between a dog and a human. I think it is apropos that during this time of COVID that people are bringing dogs into their lives to comfort us during these challenging times.
Cori Solomon is an award-winning freelance writer/photographer residing in Los Angeles, California. Her writing focuses on travel, art, food, wine, and pets. Cori’s background is in real estate and art. Her art plays a role in her writing as she utilizes the Palette both visually and verbally in many articles. Cori shares her experiences and joy of her subjects in a passionate, candid, caring, and entertaining way. Like her animal art, where she looks beyond the eyes to find an animal’s inner soul and spirit, Cori looks for the story that is behind the restaurant, chef, winery, winemaker, or artist. As Cori often travels with her dogs, some of her travel articles deal with pet-friendly hotels and locations. Cori Founded LA Wine Writers, a group of seasoned wine writers. She earned her WSET Level 2 Award in Wines and Spirits, received the NASA American Wine Specialist Certification and NASA Spanish Wine Specialist Certification. She is a member of the International Food Wine Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA), North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA), and Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). Follow her at http://www.writtenpalette.com