Thursday, 10 November 2016
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Remembrance Day Dogs

Circa 1918 Canadian soldier giving his dog a much needed wash (Linked)

We're pulling our usual Friday post forward and sharing a special historical piece today, as we'll be offline tomorrow in observance of Remembrance Day.  Dogs have been heroic service support animals throughout history, providing companionship, service, support, and security for troops and their supplies.  Duties for trained military dogs over the years have included working as guards, sentries, scouts, carrying supplies, running cables, delivering messages, and (of course) detecting substances. Tiger would like me to note that cats have also been very handy helpers (although perhaps more through instinct than training!), keeping vermin away from food supplies and sensitive equipment.  Long before the modern concept of trained assistance and therapy animals, wartime animals were already helping the troops psychologically by boosting morale and providing support through their companionship.

July 1916 - Dog mascot of the No. 10 Casualty Clearing Station with soldier (Linked)

Amazingly, you can view historical photos of dogs (like the ones in this post) as well as read some of their their stories. In the early 1900s, photography was rapidly evolving into a mobile and accessible technology, making documentary and personal photography possible in the field. If you are an animal lover and/or a history buff, I encourage you to explore their pictures and stories. A quick internet search (include a country and/or specific conflict if you wish) will give you tons of interesting articles, posts, etc (many of which have great old photos!) and links for more in-depth publications and books if you are keen to learn more. You can also try your national war museum or archives - many have portions of their collection accessible online if you can't visit in person. There may also be a service dog association in your country /area that you can access online or visit locally - there are even some physical war memorials dedicated to service animals - maybe even one near you.

Circa 1914 Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae and his dog Bonneau (Linked)

Featured historical image (CC 2.0) details, credits, and source links:

Poppy Postscript: Lt. Col. McCrae, pictured above, is the Canadian serviceman and physician who forever linked the poppy with remembrance through his poem In Flanders Fields. That part of his story is commonly know, but did you know that he had a soft spot for animals (like us)? He often sent letters to his niece and nephew back home as if they were written by his horse, Bonfire, signed with a hoofprint. Bonneau, the dog pictured with him, was a companion befriended in Ypres. Do take the time to read more - his story is but one of many, but a fine example of a talented and compassionate individual changed by battle, lost during the war, but not forgotten. Years after his famous poem was written, as the WWI was ending, Moina Michael was moved by McCrae's words to work towards having the poppy adopted as a symbol of remembrance.  Fellow poppy advocate Madame Guerin saw the potential to use that symbolism for raising funds in support of veterans and their families. This grew into what we see all around the world today.  If you are crafting poppies for Remembrance Day, don't forget to also buy one or donate to your local veterans support group.  Lest we forget.

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