In the U.S., March 13 celebrates K-9 Veterans Day, a time to honor the fearless fur-bound companions that have proven so important to the U.S. military.
From the earliest days when they were trackers in the Second Seminole War to parachuting in with SEAL Team 6 during the raid of Osama bin Laden’s camp, dogs have made their mark in the military. So in honor of them, let’s take a look at three notable tail-waggers.
Rags. In 1918, a U.S. Army soldier found and adopted a tiny homeless mixed breed terrier roaming the streets of Paris during World War I. Rags, as the pup was named, was trained to run messages to and from the front lines. And with his sensitive hearing, he was great at giving warning of incoming explosive shells. During the Battles of Meuse-Argonne, Rags was partially blinded, gassed and bombed, yet he survived and managed to deliver an important message that spared the lives of 42 men.
Rags’ adopted owner later died of battle injuries, but the dog lived and later became a bit of a celebrity in New York where he was featured in several articles in the New York Times. Rags died in 1936 at the age of 20.
Lucca. At the age of 2, Lucca, a German shepherd and Belgian Malinois mix, was trained to sniff out bombs. Working with the U.S. Marine Corps for more than six years, Lucca deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and served in more than 400 missions. No soldiers ever died under her watch, but she, herself, was injured in an explosion in 2012 and lost her left front leg. She was soon retired and adopted out to her original handler.
In 2016, Lucca was awarded the Dickin Medal—given for bravery. And she was unofficially awarded a Purple Heart plaque and ribbons by a two-time Marine recipient of the award, as well. In 2015, her life was turned into a book, “Top Dog: The Story of Marine Hero Lucca.” The canine hero died in 2018.
Cairo. Belgian Malinois Cairo is a K-9 Navy SEAL. He has the distinction of being the only dog to help take out Osama bin Laden, as he parachuted in with SEAL Team 6 at bin Laden’s compound in 2011. Outfitted with a special tactical vest and other equipment, Cairo helped secure the perimeter of the building—looking for escapees or approaching danger. For his efforts, Time magazine gave Cairo its Animal of the Year award in 2011, and the Special Forces hound even got a little face-to-face time with the president. Cairo has been described as a perfect mix of “supreme alpha dog and calm presence.”
Veteran Energy salutes all of our heroic hounds, and we’re thankful we have such loyal and brave companions there to help keep our fighting forces safe. Happy K-9 Veterans Day.