Dogs have long played a significant role in our development as a country. Just as many humans have laid down their lives in war, so have millions of animals. Dogs in particular have helped our military in many ways – from ambulance duty to tracking; messenger and supply missions to sentries and patrol aids. 

These animals give their lives to support their handlers, some have survived being taken prisoner by enemy camps and even today, bounties are placed on the heads of dogs and their handlers. 

A Memorial Day Salute To Dogs Who Gave Their Lives

Here’s a brief look at some canine heroes.

Civil War

There’s no way to know how many dogs gave their lives during the Civil War, but with more than 6 million human casualties, we can assume there were a lot of animals in the crossfire. A few mascot dogs were memorialized after the war ended.

Here are two of the standouts: 

  • Jack: A brown and white bull terrier served as mascot for the 102nd Pennsylvania Infantry. He was present at the Wilderness campaigns, Spotsylvania, the siege of Petersburg. He was gravely wounded at the battle of Malvern Hill and was captured twice during the war. Sadly, he was eventually stolen after being honored with a silver collar from his unit and was never seen again.
  • Sallie: A brindle Staffordshire Bull Terrier served as a regimental mascot for the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer infantry under 1st Lt William R Terry. 

World Wars I and II: 

Thousands of animals, perhaps millions, lost their lives during these deadly wars abroad. We honor every one of them, known and unknown. Not only have they served to guarantee our freedom, they continue to live on and impact lives in modern days. Some of the standouts have had entire books written about them. Here are a few of our favorites:  

Vietnam War

Nearly 4,000 dogs served in Vietnam and Thailand. Some of these dogs were so well known that the enemy placed a bounty on both the handlers and their dogs. A total of 232 military working dogs and 295 US servicemen working as dog handlers were killed in action during the Vietnam war. 

It is estimated that about 200 Vietnam War dogs survived the war to be assigned at other US bases outside the US. One of the great tragedies of this war is that the remaining animals sent to serve either on behalf of our country were euthanized or left behind to starve in an unknown country. 

War in Afghanistan 

Thousands of dogs continue to play an integral role in our wars, and the War in Afghanistan has been one of the longest campaigns. While hundreds of dogs are focused on protecting our troops, one in particular stands out.

  • Target: This dog and two strays (later adopted by soldiers and named Sasha and Rufus) frightened a suicide bomber inside a military base and potentially saved dozens of lives. Although Sasha was badly injured and had to be euthanized, Target and Rufus were treated like royalty on the base. Sadly, Target was euthanized by mistake in an Arizona animal shelter after his return home to the states. 

While dogs have not traditionally had their praises sung for their part in fighting for American independence, they have played an intricate role. Once treated as mere surplus equipment, they are now being recognized for their part in our battles.

On this Memorial day, we hope you’ll take some time to think about these animals — past, present and future; and give them a moment of silence. It’s the very least they deserve for giving their lives to our country. If you have time this weekend, watch this video of service men and their dogs.

Give your dogs a hug, turn on DOGTV and relax with your own personal canine hero.