K9 Heroes – More Than Just a House Pet

Dogs are more than just companions at home. They are and have always been working companions whether on the farm or battle field. They are happy to serve by our side and that is what earned them the title, “Man’s Best Friend”. There’s nothing they wouldn’t do for their human companions with the appropriate dog training. Just as we take the time to thank the human soldiers for their contribution, let’s not forget what the canine soldiers have done for us.



This isn’t the name of the fried potato you serve with your sandwiches, but of a Collie-German Shepherd-Siberian Husky mix who accompanied our soldiers during World War II. Imagine a major scene in a war movie and this dog lived it. With his dog training, he was able to assault an Italian machine gun nest and assisted in capturing ten Italian soldiers. He was later given the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, and Silver Star awards. However shortly after being given the awards, they were taken back as animals weren’t allowed such recognition at the time. He returned home to Pleasantville, NY in 1945, after the war and later died of old age.



This German Shepherd received dog training and served in Vietnam with his handler Marine Lance Cpl. Alfredo Salazar and was the first dog killed in action during the Vietnam war. Together, the two did more than 30 combat patrols and 12 major tactical operations. They later joined “D” Company for search-and-destroy missions where they ambushed enemy forces in 1966. He was not fortunate enough to make it home as he died after being hit in the initial barrage. He spent his final moments trying to lick Salazar’s hand.



Nemo received dog training and was then partnered with Airman 2nd Class Bob Thornburg. They were assigned to patrol at the cemetery near the company’s airbase in Vietnam. While patrolling, they came under fire. Nemo took a shot to his eye and his partner, Thornburg, was shot in the shoulder. Nevertheless, Nemo continued to attack the enemy which gave Thornburg the time he needed to call for reinforcements.  Shortly thereafter, Thornburg fell unconscious and Nemo crawled up beside him, protecting him from harm until he was later forcefully removed from Thornburg’s side. He made it back from Vietnam and was given a permanent retirement kennel. He lived to be 11 years old, dying in December of 1972.



Not all famous war dogs are big guys like German Shepherds and Husky mixes. Smoky was a tiny Yorkie who participated in World War II without the assistance of traditional dog training. After dog training, Smoky found an abandoned foxhole in the jungles of New Guinea in February of 1944. Smoky was also involved in twelve combat missions and survived through more than one hundred and fifty air raids. She had an extremely sharp sense of hearing and would also warn soldiers of incoming artillery shells. One of Smoky’s most infamous stories takes place on an airstrip of Luzon. She pulled a telegraph wire through a narrow 70-foot pipe which results in saved construction time and kept engineers out of enemy fire. Smoky also entertained troops, relieved stress among soldiers, and kept the spirit up. She died in 1957 at the age of 14 and later had a story written about her by her pet parent.



This American Pit Bull Terrier received the rank of sergeant with his dog training and is a true story of zero to hero. He was a stray found on the Yale campus back in 1917. During the First World War, his adoptive owner, Cpl. John Robert Conroy, smuggled him into France. From there, Stubby took part in 17 battles, four offensive strikes, and improved troop morale. With his incredible senses, he warned his unit of poison-gas attacks, incoming artillery fire, and helped locate down soldiers in the battlefield. He later died in his owner’s arms in 1926 after proving it doesn’t matter where you come from or how you start. Everyone has the potential to do something great. Anyone can become a hero.

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