Thursday, September 6, 2007

Canine Heroes

The Los Angeles Times had an article this week about the West Coast War Dog Memorial in Riverside, California, which is east of L.A. It was about the all-too-unsung heroes of many combat situations, military dogs.

As with dogs enlisted by various law enforcement agencies in the U.S., soldiers, too, use dogs in combat as scouts, sentries, guards, life savers... and friends.

The memorial in Riverside is a 16-foot-tall bronze statue of a soldier and his German shepherd. There are also tiles on which messages are left by the dogs’ handlers. The article said that this memorial was initially rejected by the Riverside National Cemetery as being disrespectful to veterans. I would beg to differ, but at least March Field Air Museum accepted the memorial.

The article really touched me, particularly because it said that through most wars and other combat situations, the hero dogs, after saving countless lives, were classified as equipment and killed rather than having any attempt to retrain them and bring them home. How awful! The article says that, of about 4,000 dogs used in the Vietnam War, only about 200 came home.

And what happens to combat dogs now? The article said that, in 2000, legislation was passed allowing handlers to adopt their dogs and bring them home. Yaaay!

Does that solve everything? Well, no, although it’s absolutely a step in the right direction. But I read a book a while back called From Baghdad, with Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava, about the difficulties a soldier had in bringing back a stray dog he’d adopted. The pup wasn’t a hero in uniform, so he hadn’t an absolute right to come to the U.S.

I have to say that the article that prompted this blog entry really got to me, as you can probably tell. Without getting into the politics of it all, I have to assume that soldiers in all wars must want to latch onto any kind of comfort they can--including the unqualified love of a dog. Dump that when they head home? Maybe, but I doubt it. Thank heavens that has changed, at least as to official animals.

I’m wondering if I can work this kind of situation into one of my Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries. I’m sure Kendra would use all legal precedents and shenanigans possible to bring all beloved doggies home.



Deb Baker said...

I can hardly stand to hear about good dogs with bad endings. That is so sad. In Murder Grins and Bears It, Gertie adopts a retired police dog and he's the best thing that happens to her.

Kathryn Lilley said...

Sounds interesting. Maybe there could be a military dog who picks up a special skill in the war, a skill that becomes critical to solving domestic crimes when he returns to the US?