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Veteran’s Day is for Animals Too

November 11, 2010

Today is Veteran’s Day, when we honor all the men and women who have served in the armed forces. We all know the challenges faced by veterans while they’re serving as well as when they return home, and the toll their service takes on their families. But believe it or not, the effects of war are not felt by humans alone, many animals sacrifice their lives, and face emotional trauma when and if they return home. Some groups will be holding memorials in their honor.

Whoa. The British army taught horses how to box?

In the UK, staff from the Blue Cross Animal Hospital will hold a memorial service for the many animals that gave their lives during wartime – mainly horses and dogs. During the First and Second World War, more than 300,000 animals were treated by the group. The animals endured terrible conditions on the battlefield, along with their human soldier companions, while carrying supplies and ammunition, transporting messages, and keeping watch. The memorial service will also recognize all the veterinarians who worked to care for pets that were left homeless or injured by the blitz.

Steve Goody, Blue Cross director of external affairs, said: “The bravery and sacrifice of our troops will rightly never be forgotten, but neither should we overlook the vital role of the animals who made an important and selfless contribution to the war effort.”

Aside from the obvious physical challenges war puts on animals, military veterinarians are beginning to diagnose dogs with PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. This article from CBS News introduces us to Gina, a German Shepherd that was trained as a bomb-sniffer. After returning from Iraq, Gina was afraid to even walk through doorways. Once a playful puppy, she now cowered when walking into a building, and would hide under furniture whenever people were around. While some professionals resist labeling animals with the condition, Gina’s handlers knew she showed all the signs of PTSD.

AP Photo: Gina with Staff Sgt. Chris Kench at Peterson Air Force Base

A year after returning from Iraq, Gina is on the mend. Her handlers would stand through doorways and reward her with treats and lots of love when she walked through, and they would hand treats out to strangers on the sidewalk to give her to help her overcome her fear of strangers. Master Sgt. Eric Haynes, the kennel master at Peterson Air Force Base, has worked a lot with Gina, and while her recovery is “outstanding” he’s not sure she’ll be able to make a full recovery. He added, “But, I mean, we don’t really have many other options. You can’t really give up on them. They’re your partner.”

If you know any veterans, or just see someone in uniform today, thank them for their service and sacrifice. But don’t forget the little guys that have endured combat as well.

Happy Veteran’s Day


If you want to read stories that will warm even the most cynical of hearts, check out two stories about marines bonding with cats. Don’t worry, pictures included for an overload of cute.

Also, make sure to check out this week’s pictures to see some brave animals in the armed forces.

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