Today is Remembrance Day. It’s so much more than just a day off work.
See? Shiva is all set with her poppy.
Since it seems awkward to wish someone a happy Remembrance Day, I – like a proper history major – am instead going to take a minute to remember all the dogs that have given up their lives for us in combat.
From what I know dogs have been used in warfare since the ancient Egyptian period. There is record of the Romans and the Britons breeding dogs specifically for that purpose. This breed was most likely related to the mastiff. They built large offensive formations made up entirely of dogs. I can only imagine what that must have been like. Armored dogs were also used to protect travellers and defend fortifications. Later, Irish wolfhounds were used in Ireland to fight off the British and Napoleon, my personal favourite, used dogs often during his campaigns.
More recently, dogs have taken on a variety of jobs in modern militaries. Tragically, many were used by the Soviet Union during WWII as “anti-tank” weapons. The handlers would lure a dog, strapped with explosives, underneath an enemy tank. When the time was right and the dog was enjoying a snack, the explosives would go off, destroying the tank, as well as the dog. These dogs were responsible for destroying many of the German forces. It’s important not to forget.
Fortunately practices such as the above are no longer used. But dogs and another animals are still are large part of modern-day warfare. Militaries train dogs to serve as mascots, sentries, trackers, scouts, and messengers. They work in search and rescue and drug and explosive detection. Dogs help transport supplies, perform military police work, and aid in medical research. And of course, every one has heard of the mine-sniffing dogs that save thousands of lives. Since 2000 more than 390,000 mines and 8.6 million pieces of explosive remnants have been found by dogs.
So that’s what I will be thinking of during the moment of silence today. While dogs involved in warfare may not necessarily have had a choice, that doesn’t take away from the large sacrifices they have made so we can live in peace.