Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

Four-Legged Warriors

On Veterans Day, don’t forget to remember and honor canine service members

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

Warriors and dogs have been partners for more than 2,000 years. “Courage at both ends of the leash” -- those words are engraved on one of the many memorials throughout the world honoring military working dogs. Dogs have gone into battle wearing armor, guarded encampments, tracked enemy combatants, delivered messages, detected mines and other explosives, scouted out snipers, located wounded, hauled armaments and laid underground telegraph wire, to name just a few of the ways they have aided armies over the centuries.

Canine loyalty, intelligence, mobility and ingenuity are among the attributes that make dogs valuable to the armed forces. The most common breeds are Belgian malinois, German shepherd and Labrador retriever. Doberman pinschers were famous during World War II as the “devil dogs” of the Marines. One of the best known was Kurt, the first canine casualty on Guam, killed by incoming mortars and grenades after he alerted troops to the presence of Japanese forces. A war dog memorial on the island features a sculpture of Kurt by artist Susan Bahary and the words “always faithful.” It lists the names of all 25 Marine war dogs who lost their lives there in 1944.

Not every military working dog fits the “big and tough” stereotype. Smoky, a four-pound Yorkshire terrier, was adopted by Cpl. William A. Wynne after she was found in an abandoned foxhole on New Guinea during World War II. For two years, the little dog nicknamed “Yorkie Doodle Dandy” rode in a backpack, went on combat and reconnaissance flights and ate Spam and C-rations with the best of them. She proved her valor and value by warning Wynne of incoming shells and, most famously, pulling a telegraph wire through a 70-foot pipe with only an eight-inch diameter. Her feat saved ground crewmen from a grueling and dangerous dig.

Another uncommon canine war hero was Sergeant Stubby, a Boston terrier noted as the most decorated dog during World War I. The official mascot of the U.S. 102nd Infantry Regiment, his exploits included alerting his regiment to mustard gas attacks and incoming shells, locating wounded soldiers and capturing a German soldier, grabbing and holding him by the seat of his pants. In the trenches in France for 18 months, he participated in 17 battles and was a celebrity at home. His story hits the silver screen next year, with “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero” set for release on April 13.

Today’s combat dogs undergo rigorous training. In Afghanistan, military working dogs may wear cameras and scout areas before troops move in. They don’t typically enjoy the same media exposure as Smoky and Stubby, but Belgian malinois Cairo, a Navy SEAL dog, stepped into the spotlight in 2011 after taking part in Operation Neptune Spear, during which Osama bin Laden was killed.

Last month, five military dogs were honored at Capitol Hill with American Humane’s Lois Pope K-9 Medal of Courage, awarded for extraordinary valor and service. The canine honorees were Coffee, a chocolate Lab who sought out IEDs and other security threats in Afghanistan; black Lab Alphie, an explosive-detection dog in Afghanistan who now works for the TSA; Capa, an explosives and patrol dog who also received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for meritorious service; black Lab Ranger, who served as an explosives-detection dog in Afghanistan and Iraq; and posthumously, Gabe, who was sprung from a Houston animal shelter and trained as a specialized search dog, a career in which he earned more than 40 awards.

“Soldiers have been relying on these four-footed comrades-in-arms since the beginning of organized warfare, and today military dogs are more important than ever in keeping our service men and women safe,” said AHA president and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert.


Pet care options

for long trips

Q: I’m hoping to take a three-week trip to Europe next year, but I don’t like leaving my pug in a dog hotel that long, and she’s such a handful -- think Tasmanian devil in pug form -- that she’s not a great candidate for leaving with friends or family. My sister has my pug’s brother, and I feel bad leaving Lulu with her because together the two pugs are more than most people can handle. We are about to do another round of obedience training, but do you have any other suggestions? -- via email

A: For your question, we went to veterinary behavior expert Lisa Radosta, DVM. Her first piece of advice is to buy your sister an amazing present -- maybe a fabulous pair of shoes she’s been coveting -- drop shoes and Lulu off at her house, and go on your trip. While that might be the simplest and fastest solution, Dr. Radosta offered some other ideas to consider that might be more beneficial long-term.

First, she says, a three-week stay at a great pet hotel is not the worst thing in the world if it’s a place Lulu enjoys. You might consider taking Lulu to day care or for a weekend at a specific place on a regular basis. If you can see she enjoys it and is well cared for, you might feel better about leaving her there for a longer stay. Try to find one with a pet cam so you can check in on her any time of day or night.

A live-in pet sitter is another option. You can find one who will stay in your home 24/7.

Finally, a refresher training class is a good idea. Look for a positive-reinforcement trainer. You might want to try a couple of private classes as well. Good luck. -- Dr. Marty Becker

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California bans sale

of pets in stores

Many California cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, passed ordinances forbidding the sale of animals in pet stores, and the state has followed suit, passing a bill requiring pet stores to acquire dogs, cats and rabbits only from shelters or rescue groups rather than commercial breeders. Pet owners may still purchase puppies, kittens and bunnies from breeders, but pet stores that do will face a $500 fine. The law is supported by local and national animal welfare organizations. Supporters of the bill hope it will help to reduce mass production of animals for retail sale.

-- It’s pumpkin season, but if you’re a pet owner you probably keep cans of the orange squash on hand year-round. Plain pureed pumpkin (not pie filling) is high in fiber, making it useful to help get things moving in a constipated pet and, conversely, help firm up stools in pets with diarrhea. Pumpkin’s filling nature also has benefits for dogs and cats on a diet. Add one to four tablespoons --depending on your pet’s size and your veterinarian’s recommendation -- to a pet’s food. Pumpkin is low in calories, but the fiber helps pets feel full, and most like the taste.

-- When were dogs domesticated, and did domestication occur more than once? Those questions have occupied researchers for some time, but they may finally have a definitive answer, based on analysis of DNA extracted from remains of two prehistoric dogs found in Germany. A study published in the journal Nature Communications determined that these dogs were among the ancestors of modern European dogs and that domestication likely occurred some 20,000 to 40,000 years ago. The ancient dogs demonstrated continuity with each other and predominantly share ancestry with modern European dogs, the study says, suggesting only a single domestication event. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.