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Paws for the Purple Poppy this Remembrance Day.

Honouring the Forgotten Heroes: Veteran Animals Who Fought and Died in Wars.

When we think of war heroes, our minds often turn to the brave men and women who fought on the front lines, sacrificing their lives for the greater good. However, there is a group of unsung heroes who also played a crucial role in wars throughout history – animals. From horses to dogs, pigeons to elephants, these creatures served alongside humans, demonstrating unwavering loyalty and courage. As we pay tribute to our human veterans, it's essential to remember and honor the sacrifices made by these veteran animals.

The Silent Sacrifice:

Throughout history, animals have been used in various capacities during times of war. Horses, for example, were indispensable in cavalry charges and transporting soldiers and supplies. Dogs served as messengers, search and rescue teams, and even as guards. Pigeons carried critical messages across enemy lines, often saving countless lives. These animals faced the same dangers as their human counterparts, enduring harsh conditions, injuries, and sometimes paying the ultimate price.

Notable Veteran Animals:

1. Cher Ami - The Heroic Pigeon: One of the most famous war pigeons, Cher Ami, served during World War I. In the heat of battle, this brave bird carried a vital message that saved the lives of nearly 200 soldiers. Despite being injured in the process, Cher Ami became a symbol of courage and resilience.

2. Sergeant Stubby - The War Dog: An American pit bull terrier, Sergeant Stubby served in the trenches of World War I. He not only warned his fellow soldiers of gas attacks but also captured a German spy, earning him the rank of sergeant and becoming the most decorated war dog in U.S. history.

3. Comanche - The Sole Survivor: Comanche was a horse that served with the U.S. Cavalry during the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. Amidst the chaos of battle, Comanche was the sole survivor, enduring severe injuries. His loyalty and strength made him a symbol of resilience and the bond between humans and animals in times of war.

4. Sergeant Gander, a Newfoundland dog, In 1941, During his service, exhibited exceptional bravery on multiple occasions. Twice, he thwarted the enemy's advance, safeguarding wounded soldiers. In a remarkable act of selflessness, during an attack on the Canadians, Sergeant Gander courageously retrieved a thrown grenade, attempting to protect his comrades.

Remembering Their Sacrifice:

It is crucial to recognize the contributions of these veteran animals and ensure their sacrifices are not forgotten. Memorials and monuments dedicated to war animals exist in various countries, but more awareness is needed to acknowledge their role in history. Museums, educational programs, and public ceremonies can help tell their stories and honor their memory.

Additionally, supporting organizations that work to care for retired and injured military animals is a practical way to show gratitude. These organizations provide medical care, rehabilitation, and loving homes for animals that have served their country.

Countless dogs, horses, and various other animals have dutifully served alongside the Canadian Armed Forces in times of war. Their roles spanned from transporting essential equipment and supplies to delivering crucial messages and even rescuing troops in the midst of enemy fire.

A poignant tribute to these valiant animals is the Animals in War Dedication, situated in Ottawa's Confederation Park. Here, visitors can delve into the heroic narratives of these unsung heroes, learning about their contributions and the challenges they faced on the battlefield.

Another distinguished recognition for war animals comes in the form of the Dickin Medal, bestowed by the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), a veterinary charity based in the United Kingdom. Named after the organization's founder, Maria Dickin, the Dickin Medal has been awarded since 1943 and is often referred to as the "Victoria Cross for animals." It stands as the highest honor an animal can receive for its exemplary military service.


As we reflect on the sacrifices made by human veterans, let us not overlook the silent heroes who stood alongside them – the animals. Their loyalty, courage, and unwavering commitment deserve to be remembered and celebrated. By recognizing the contributions of these veteran animals, we honor a unique and powerful bond that has existed between humans and animals throughout the pages of history.


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