When we entered the unknown back in March, we could never have known as the clocks moved forward for summertime how our world would change over the long hot summer. Now as we prepare for the winter months many us are thanking our lucky stars for the love and companionship of our four-legged family members.
Dogs play such an important role in so many lives. Companions, assistance dogs, therapy pets and service animals all making a difference every single day. I was recently chatting to Anna Webb, broadcaster and host of ‘A Dogs Life’ podcast about her most recent episodes. She featured members of the Battersea Dogs and Cats home, as they celebrate their 160th birthday. 160 years providing love and care to vulnerable pets and helping them to find forever homes. Listening to the podcast I realised that Battersea also find special roles for dogs that show capacity and ability to become service animals. Amazing, and got us talking about another charity project.
As we approach Remembrance Sunday, we would like to shine a light on a wonderful charity project. National Military Working Dogs Memorial (NMWDM UK). The charity was founded in 2017 to establish a memorial to commemorate the Military Working Dogs who bravely served their country in both world wars and subsequent conflicts.
Emma Ward, NMWDM Trustee gives us an insight into their vision:
“This project aims to develop and maintain the first national statue monument within the UK which will serve as a national reminder of the contribution military working dogs have made and continue to make to the country’s security. The memorial will form an important part of the UK’s cultural heritage and allow visitors to connect with the conflicts which have shaped the world today.
There has been a huge demand for this monument for many years among serving military personnel and veterans alike. The donation of the land has been a catalyst for action as there is nothing of national significance. This encompasses tri-service, encompassing all military working dogs.
It will constitute a traditional central folly with four decorative paths leading North, South, East and West culminating in four plinths, which will each support a bronze statue depicting medal winning dogs representing the branch of the military service in which each served. The dogs that we have chosen to represent the military services have bravely served their country in World Wars and subsequent conflicts as in Bosnia Afghanistan and Iraq.
Meet the dogs that we have chosen to represent the military services:
North – Army – THEO, a black and white speckled Springer Spaniel was gifted to the Royal Army Veterinary Corps by a member of the public. What was Civvy Street’s loss became RAVC’s gain. Slender, speedy, agile, intelligent and cheeky were just some of the words his soldier friends used to describe Theo. Read more about this successful Arms and Explosives Search dog, his handler and his tour of Afghanistan here; https://nmwdm.org.uk/dogs/theo/
South – Royal Navy – JUDY, a pure-bred, liver and white English Pointer was gifted to the Royal Navy as ships mascot and began her Naval career abord HMS Gnat and then her sister ship the river gungoat, HMS Grasshopper. Judy was awarded the PDSA Dickens Medal in May 1946. Her citation reads: For the magnificent courage and endurance in Japanese prison camps, which helped to maintain morale among her fellow prisoners and also saving many lives through her intelligence and watchfulness. Judy is the only dog to be officially registered as a Prisoner of War. Read her amazing story here; https://nmwdm.org.uk/dogs/judy/
East – Royal Air Force – LUCKY, was one of four German Shepherds selected by the Royal Air Force Police dog unit for special duties during the Malaya Campaign, which began in 1948 and ended in 1960. Lucky served for three years and was the only dog in the team to survive her tour of duty. As a unit the dogs were responsible for the capture of hundreds of terrorists. The tracking skills of the dogs ensured the prevention of many deaths and casualties. Lucky’s handler credited his dog with saving his life many times over the time they served together. Lucky was awarded a posthumous PDSA Dickin Medal on February 2007. Read Lucky’s story here; https://nmwdm.org.uk/dogs/lucky/
West – All Military Mascots – BUSTER, is a Royal Air Force Police Arms and Explosive Search Dog. An English Springer Spaniel, from his first day in training he showed signs of excellence. Nothing trainers set before him was too much of a challenge which made Buster the dog everyone had tagged for greatness. Buster completed five tours of duty to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan in his career and was the last Military Working Dog to leave Iraq. During his career as a military working dog Buster is credited with saving thousands of lives, both military and civilian. Read Busters story here; https://nmwdm.org.uk/dogs/buster-raf-police-mascot/
This memorial will help veterans and serving military personnel, by preserving the memory of the dogs involved in military service, and giving a physical location as a focal point where they can leave their grief. Ongoing visiting of the site is an important part of remembrance. To veterans, it is important that the memory of the dogs is honoured as the sacrifice the dogs made mattered to the handler, the service personnel they served with and also the nation.
Located within the well-established Pet Cemetery on a highly visible location adjacent to the “Wales Way”, a high-profile tourist route and the main route into North Wales. It will serve as an attraction, not only for military veterans and their families but also, members of the public and tourists alike, as it will be the only memorial of its kind in the UK, and the first in the world to honour the contribution and sacrifices made to national security by dogs, naming dogs who have died in service of the country.“
If you would like to consider making a donation to this wonderful memorial you can do so here; https://nmwdm.org.uk/donate/
Charities nationwide continue to struggle during these unprecedented times. It’s that time of year when a friendly smile and hello from the ladies and gentlemen selling Poppies as we go about our daily business should be the norm. No so this year, with less people out and about. You can still support the Poppy Appeal from the comfort of your own home, including the purple Poppy which celebrates all of the animals who gave up their lives in the line of duty. The website also has a Poppy you can download and print to put in your window – https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/poppy-appeal
Tune into ‘A Dogs Life’ this Sunday, celebrating 160 Years of Battersea Dogs and Cats home. Spencer Wisdom, Head of History at Battersea discusses the charities role across both World Wars, and one one very famous Airedale Terrier, named ‘Airedale Jack”. He represented the hundreds of brave dogs deployed to help us win both World Wars. https://share.transistor.fm/s/f086b049.