Dedicated dogs: 6 canines are honored for bravery and distinguished service


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Anna Wynne got an unusual gift for her 14th birthday this month. But it wasn’t for her.

Anna traveled from Ohio to Washington, DC, with her dad to accept a medal for her grandfather’s dog Smoky. During World War II, Smoky and Corporal William Wynne of the United States Army Air Forces became backpack buddies in the Southwest Pacific. Smoky went on 12 combat missions, survived air raids and typhoons and is credited with possibly saving the lives of many people.

Not bad for a four-pound Yorkshire terrier found alone in a jungle foxhole in 1944. “There was something special about that dog,” said James Wynne, Anna’s father. “She was less than a foot tall, but she was really strong at heart,” Anna said.

Her grandfather died last year, so Anna and her dad accepted Smoky’s Distinguished Service Medal from the group Animals in War & Peace. Two other dogs got similar medals at the Capitol Hill ceremony, and three dogs received the group’s Medal for Bravery. They join the eight animals honored in 2019 at the first such event in the United States. Britain has honored animals for exceptional bravery and service since 1943.

In World War II, a bear became companion and helper to Polish soldiers

Smoky’s combat exploits included crawling through a 70-foot-long pipe barely bigger than she was. The pipe ran under an important military airstrip in the Philippines. A long string was tied to Smokey’s collar. When she emerged from the pipe after a few minutes, soldiers used the string to pull vital communications wires along the same path — a job that would have taken the men three days, with enemy bombers flying overhead.

Smokey also visited hospitals to cheer wounded soldiers. Animal Planet called her the first known therapy dog. “She was a big morale booster,” William Wynne told a local newspaper.

So how did Smoky get into that foxhole in New Guinea? Some think she ran away from her previous companions. But once she met Wynne, her wandering days were over. She lived and traveled with him until her death in 1957. She formed such a bond with his family that they have had a half-dozen Yorkies since, including Sadie, Anna’s pet. Sadie has some big pawprints to fill.

HurricaneWhen an intruder jumped over the White House fence in October 2014, with President Barack Obama and his family inside, this Secret Service canine jumped into action. “He took the individual clean off his feet,” said the dog’s handler, Marshall Mirarchi. Hurricane, a Belgian Malinois (pronounced MAL-in-wah), “was cut up pretty good from the fight” but “did what he was supposed to do.” He and Mirarchi are now retired from the Secret Service.

Feco: Part of the United States Coast Guard’s explosive detection unit in Northern California, Feco (FEE-coe) was honored for his more-than-1,335 searches of vehicles, ferries, ships, people and buildings. “He’s not only my partner, he’s become my best friend,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Cory Sumner. Feco, a Hungarian Vizsla (VEEZ-luh), has been to three Super Bowls, two World Series and many other big events. It will be hard to top that when he retires in July.

Nemo: About 4,000 dogs served with United States troops during the Vietnam War. None was braver than Nemo, a German shepherd shot in the nose and eye on a night patrol in 1966. Nemo’s handler, a 22-year-old airman getting his first taste of combat, also was badly wounded. When help arrived, the men found Nemo stretched across the airman’s chest, protecting him, as the dog had been trained. Nemo lost his right eye but lived six more years at an Air Force base in Texas.

Cairo: “No Ordinary Dog” is the title of the book retired Navy SEAL Will Chesney wrote about Cairo, his Belgian Malinois partner. They took part in the May 2011 raid in Pakistan in which terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was killed. Cairo, who had been badly injured in an earlier mission, came out of this one safely, and Time magazine named him its Animal of the Year. Chesney adopted Cairo after their Navy service. The dog died the next year at age 12.

Ziggy: Deployed five times to four countries with the United States Marine Corps, this German shepherd amassed quite a record before retiring. He went on 56 nighttime helicopter raids and helped discover 43 weapons stockpiles, a dozen bombmaking facilities and more than 5,000 pounds of homemade explosives. But in putting his life on the line several times, Ziggy’s most awesome statistic might be this: Not one Marine ever died on his watch.

These books tell the stories of more heroic animals.

⋅ “Sergeant Reckless: The True Story of the Little Horse Who Became a Hero,” by Patricia McCormick (ages 6 to 10).

⋅ “Tales of Amazing Animal Heroes,” by Mike Unwin (ages 7 to 9).

⋅ “Wojtek: War Hero Bear,” by Jenny Robertson (ages 8 to 12).

⋅ “Paws of Courage: True Tales of Heroic Dogs That Protect and Serve,” by Nancy Furstinger (ages 10 and older).

⋅ “Stubby the War Dog: The True Story of World War I’s Bravest Dog,” by Ann Bausum (ages 10 and older).

⋅ “War Animals: The Unsung Heroes of World War II,” by Robin Hutton (ages 12 and older).

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