Since today is Veteran’s Day, it is a good time to pay homage to our four-footed war heroes as well as our human ones. As an Airedale Terrier lover, I have witnessed firsthand the breed’s unwavering loyalty, perseverance and seeming imperviousness to pain. These personality traits are why in the first World War, the Airedale was used extensively by the Red Cross to find wounded on the battlefield and by army platoons to carry messages between command posts and the troops in the trenches.
One of these war heroes was an Airedale rescue named Jack who came from the Dogs Home Battersea, which began in 1860 as the Temporary Home for Lost and Starving Dogs in North London. Jack was sent to France as a messenger and guard. There was a big push on and things went badly against the British battalion where Jack was posted. The enemy’s unrelenting barrage cut off every line of communication with headquarters, four miles behind the lines. The entire battalion was certain to be wiped out unless reinforcements could be secured from headquarters. Still no man could make his way through the onslaught that surrounded them.
Jack was their only chance. A message asking command to send reinforcements was slipped into the leather pouch attached to the dog’s collar. Then with a pat on his head, he was told simply, “Goodbye Jack. Go back, boy.” As the battalion watched, Jack slipped quietly away, keeping close to the ground and taking advantage of whatever cover there was, as he had been trained to do. The bombardment continued, and a piece of shrapnel smashed the dog’s lower jaw, but he carried on. Another missile tore open his tough, black and tan coat from shoulder to haunch, but he persevered, slipping from shell-crater to trench. With his forepaw shattered, Jack had to drag his wounded body along the ground for the last three kilometres, but he delivered his message. Assured that he had done his duty, he died at the recipient’s feet.
Jack is credited with saving an entire platoon from destruction and is memorialized in the British War Museum. There are many great stories of great four-footed war heroes. What’s yours?