Today is ‘Take Your Dog to Work Day’, and people are celebrating by bringing their canine companions to offices, stores, hospitals and schools.
Today, we are remembering some of the dogs that went above and beyond to aid their owners in their work: war.
Antis, also know as Ant, belonged to Czech World War II fighter pilot Václav Robert Bozděch. The story of how Bozděch came to own Antis is a fascinating one:
After being hit by anti-aircraft fire during a reconnaissance mission, Bozděch and his flying partner Pierre Duval bailed out of their aircraft between French and German lines. Taking shelter in an abandoned farmhouse nearby, they discovered an emaciated German Shepherd puppy inside. Bozděch fed it chocolate and melted down snow for it to drink before they left the farmhouse to head for safety at the French lines.
Upon leaving the property, Bozděch and Duval noticed that German soldiers were searching for them from the nearby crash site. Almost reaching cover under some trees, they heard the puppy howling from inside the house. In order to maintain their hiding spot, Duval and Bozděch agreed that Bozděch had to go back to kill the dog. However, upon reaching the house, Bozděch could not kill the puppy, and instead, picked it up and placed it in his jacket, returning to Duval. From then on, Bozděch and Antis were inseparable, becoming famous in Britain for their unique friendship.
In the book Freedom in the Air: A Czech Flyer and his Aircrew Dog, Hamish Ross writes:
“Newspapers in Britain, during the Second World War, carried photographs of a Czech airman standing beside his handsome Alsatian dog, called Antis. However, it was the dog that was the subject of the accompanying articles; for equipped with a specially adapted oxygen mask, he accompanied his master on operational sorties over enemy territory with No. 311 Squadron of Bomber Command…
…[This] story certainly encompasses the extraordinarily strong bond between the airman and his dog. With the passage of time, this episode in Bozděch’s life seems all the more incredible, yet it is true: a dog of great loyalty, courage, and intelligence, lying alongside his master’s feet in the gun turret of a Wellington bomber, on operation after operation during the bombing campaign of 1914, sensing and sharing the men’s fear and the flak and the night fighters; he was wounded twice by enemy fire, and ultimately, in recognition of his bravery, he had the ribbon of the Dickin Medal (the ‘Animal VC’) attached to his collar by Field Marshall Wavell.”
Rip was a search and rescue dog that served in the Second World War. Rip was discovered during World War 2 in an air-rad shelter by Mr. E. King; an air-raid precaution warden that worked on London’s docks. After unsuccessfully searching for Rip’s owner after the air-raid, King realized that the dog had either been abandoned, or his owner had been killed.
The two formed a partnership, Rip trading food and water for his help to King on the docks.
In the book The Animal Victoria Cross: The Dickin Medal, Peter Hawthorne writes:
“Rip became the most important asset to the Civil Defence Unit as he was the first dog to alert the wardens to buried casualties in a bomb site. Prior to Rip, the wardens would try to listen for cries or tapping from buried survivors but, joining Mr. King so early in the war, Rip became the most effective warning system for finding buried people. The War Office was alerted to this talent and set up a specific training school for dogs who were then adopted as working mascots across all types of Civil Defence units.”
Rip served throughout the war, but passed away from dropsy in 1946. He was the first of twelve Dickin Medal winners to be buried in the ‘People Dispensary for Sick Animals‘ cemetery.
After his owner’s ship, Thorodd, was drafted into the Royal Norwegian Navy during the Second World War, Bamse was enrolled as an official crew member. Participating in coastal patrols, POW transport, and mine sweeping, Bamse became the mascot of Free Norwegian Forces. He was often seen standing at the front of the boat, on a gun tower, wearing a metal helmet that the crew made for him.
Bamse’s impact was not just based on morale, he was known to break up fights amongt his crew mates, saving sailors who had fallen overboard and pushing a knife-wielding assailant into the sea after he attacked one of his crew.
Bamse died in 1944 of heart failure and was buried with full military honors. Every ten years, the Royal Norwegian Navy holds a commemorative ceremony in his honor.
You can read more about Bamse’s service in Sea Dog Bamse: World War II Canine Hero.