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A tribute to brave and famous dogs

Tue 16th Feb 2021

A dog's bravery and enduring bond with their owners has undoubtedly left some big paw prints in our history books. From rescuing children from caverns of ice, to saving Hollywood, to flying into space, these dogs have accomplished some pretty amazing things.

Hachiko the Akita Inu

Hachiko was immortalised in bronze for his lasting legacy of loyalty. Photo:
Hachiko was immortalised in bronze for his lasting legacy of loyalty. Photo: Blake Antrobus

This Japanese Akita dog is remembered for his amazing loyalty to his owner, Hidesaburō Ueno. Hachiko would meet his beloved owner, Ueno, at Shibuya Station in Tokyo, Japan after his commute home every day.  Ueno sadly died of a cerebral hemorrhage while at work, but Hachiko continued to wait at the station platform every day for nine years. The news spread and commuters adopted the Akita, feeding him as he waited for his master who would never again return home. The pair were finally brought together again in 1935 after Hachiko died and his cremated remains were laid to rest beside his master in Tokyo's Aoyama Cemetery. A bronze statue was also erected at Shibuya station, personifying Japan's ethos of respect, loyalty and fidelity.

Swansea Jack the Retriever/Newfoundland cross

Swansea Jack was responsible for saving many lives. Photo: Irid Escent, CC BY-SA 2.0
Swansea Jack was responsible for saving many lives. Photo: Irid Escent, CC BY-SA 2.0

Swansea Jack lived by the Swansea Docks in Scotland and is famous for saving approximately 27 people from their riverbanks - including that of a 12 year old boy, who in June of 1931, accidentally fell into the water. Without hesitation, Swansea Jack jumped in and dragged the boy to safety. A few weeks had passed and a swimmer who was attempting to make his way across the rivermouth found himself in trouble. Swansea Jack noticed the swimmer was in distress and leapt in after him. Onlookers were so amazed with the dog's bravery and he quickly became the talk of the town. By August, 1934, his rescue tally had reached 14 - but this figure is thought to be higher for his owner, William Thomas, was illiterate, so never kept a record. Swansea Jack received many awards from the local council for his bravery - a silver collar in 1931, Bravest Dog of the Year by the Star London in 1936 and the silver cup from the Lord Mayor of London. Swansea Jack is still the only dog to have received 2 bronze medals by the National Canine Defence League. In 2000 Swansea Jack was named Dog of the Century by NewFound Friends of Bristol and a memorial was erected in his memory.

Trakr the German Shepherd

Trakr was a search-and-rescue dog that achieved extraordinary things.
Trakr was a search-and-rescue dog that achieved extraordinary things.

Trakr and his handler/trainer James Symington, a Canadian police officer, drove 15 hours to New York City to help in the search and rescue following the devastating September 11 attacks. Working for almost 2 days straight, the pair discovered Genelle Guzman, the last of 20 survivors laying in the 9m deep debris of the World Trade Centre. Named one of history's most heroic animals by Time magazine, Trakr passed away in 2009 from degenerative myelopathy, a neurological disease believed to have been caused by inhaling smoke at the World Trade Centre. There were many heroic dogs involved in the search and rescue on that fateful day who also deserve a special mention: Bretagne, Riley, Coby and Guinness, Apollo, Thunder, Sage, Jake and many more.

Rin Tin Tin the German Shepherd

Rin Tin Tin was a war veteran turned famous actor. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Rin Tin Tin was a war veteran turned famous actor. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

"The dog who saved Hollywood!" Rin Tin Tin, a male German Shepherd was one of the first dog Hollywood movie stars. Born in 1918 in Lorraine, France, this famous dog was rescued on the WW1 battlefields by American soldier Lee Duncan, who nicknamed him Rinty. Duncan worked hard training his dog and talked to anyone who would put his special mate in a movie. Rin Tin Tin shot to fame in the 1922 film, The Man from Hell's River.  Rin Tin Tin went on to feature in 27 lucrative Hollywood films which are now famously known for helping pull Warner Brothers out of bankruptcy - hence the nickname "mortgage lifter".

Cairo the Belgian Malinois

Cairo was a Belgian Malinois who showed immense bravery. Photo: SheltieBoy, CC BY 2.0
Cairo was a Belgian Malinois who showed immense bravery. Photo: SheltieBoy, CC BY 2.0

Cairo was part of the famous SEAL Team Six, the elite Navy team assigned to take down terrorist Osama Bin Laden in May 2011.  Wearing K9 armour, Cairo was strapped to his handler, Will Chesney, and was parachuted down into the compound where the Al-Qaeda leader was suspected to be hiding. This brave dog was tasked with searching the perimeter for bombs and escape tunnels, tracking anyone who tried to escape and alerting SEALs of any approaching Pakistani security forces. Chesney said on multiple missions that they'd had together, Cairo's keen senses saved his life and the lives of his team members. "Over and over again, there'd be a guy waiting a couple feet away to pop out, and the dog would find them," he said. Time Magazine awarded Cairo Animal of the year in 2011.

Bluey the Cattle Dog

The Aussie Blue Cattle dog is still the oldest dog to have ever lived.
The Aussie Blue Cattle dog is still the oldest dog to have ever lived.

No, not the Blue Heeler puppy from Australia's successful TV series - but the Australian cattle-dog who, according to Guinness World Records, was the oldest recorded dog in history, living to an incredible 29 years 5 months. Owned by Les Hall of Victoria from 1910, Bluey worked as a cattle dog for 20 years before passing away in November 1939.  A dog's lifespan ranges from 8-15 years, with very few records reaching as old as 20 years. There have been many claims for dogs who have lived longer (Maggie, another Australian sheep dog, was said to have lived to 30), but can't be verified without proof of life.

Sarbi the Labrador/Newfoundland cross

Sarbi's journey inspired veterans and civilians alike from all over the world. Photo:
Sarbi's journey inspired veterans and civilians alike from all over the world. Photo: Brown, Lyndell and Green, Charles

Sarbi worked for the Australian Special Forces during the war in Afghanistan as an Explosive Detection Dog. Sarbi disappeared in September 2008 during a Taliban ambuscade when a rocket not far from her exploded. The Special Operations Task Group searched for their four legged teammate, but she was declared missing in action. Thirteen months later, Sarbi was rediscovered in a local Afghan village by an American soldier who knew the Australian forces were missing a dog. Happily reunited with his handlers, the news was eventually released on 11 November Remembrance Day and generated worldwide media attention.

Barry the Alpine Mastiff/St Bernard cross

Barry was a mountain-rescue hero in the 1800s. Photo: PraktikantinNMBE, CC BY-SA 4.0
Barry was a mountain-rescue hero in the 1800s. Photo: PraktikantinNMBE, CC BY-SA 4.0

Barry worked as an avalanche rescue dog at the Great St Bernard Hospice in Switzerland. During his time at the hospice, he rescued 40 people. The most famous of which, was a young boy who he found asleep in a cavern of ice. Barry warmed his body by licking him, then maneuvered him onto his back before carrying him back to the hospice where the boy was treated and survived. Barry's many acts of heroism are honoured in the Natural History Museum in Berns, Switzerland and a monument to him stands in the Cimetière des Chiens near Paris. Story has it that Barry was killed by a Swiss soldier who awoke when Barry was licking him after pulling him out of a bank of ice and mistakenly thought he was a bear. But truth be told, he was bought by a Swiss monk and lived a quieter life until his death at age 14.

Laika the Mongrel (possibly part husky and part terrier)

Laika was the first every traveller into the cosmos, paving the way for humans to reach for the stars. Photo: The Daily Telegraph
Laika was the first every traveller into the cosmos, paving the way for humans to reach for the stars. Photo: The Daily Telegraph

Laika is probably the most famous of all mongrel dogs today - the first animal in space, and the first animal to orbit Earth. Laika, once a stray from Moscow, was selected to be the first occupant of Sputnik 2 which was launched into outer space on 3 November 1957. A rather sad story as she died from heat and stress just prior to re-entering the earth's orbit, but her death was not in vain, as the experiment proved that a human passenger could survive being launched into space, paving the way for human spaceflight. Russian officials unveiled a monument in her honour in April 2008 near the military research facility in Moscow that portrays a dog standing on top of a rocket as a tribute to her sacrifice.

By Kirsten Jakubenko

Sources:

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hachik%C5%8D 
  • https://www.lonelyplanet.com/japan/tokyo/attractions/hachiko-statue/a/poi-sig/396603/356817
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swansea_Jack 
  • https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/amazing-tale-hero-dog-swansea- 1595...
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trakr
  • http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2059858_2059863_2060232,00.html 
  • https://dogs.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Famous_Dogs_in_History
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rin_Tin_Tin 
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_(dog) 
  • https://www.chron.com/neighborhood/katy/news/article/He-deserves-to-have-his-story-told-Navy- 1503... .php
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killing_of_Osama_bin_Laden 
  • https://nypost.com/2020/04/16/inside-story-of-cairo-the-dog-that-helped-catch-osama-bin-laden/
  •  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bluey_(dog) 
  • https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/oldest-dog 
  • https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/history-culture/2017/04/top-10-heroic-animal-stories/ 
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarbi  
  • https://dogs.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Famous_Dogs_in_History 
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laika