Dogs have been used in warfare since humans first made war. And while many were trained to attack, they also performed other tasks. During World War 1, canines carried medicines, found spies/bombs, guarded prisoners, and carried messages along the lines. In that respect, the war dogs of yesterday aren’t very different than those in combat today.
But I did stumble upon an oddity while researching Belgium during the Great War. Dogs were used as draft animals to pull wagons and machine guns. That was a head scratcher. First, we’re talking large dogs not chihuahuas and dachshunds.
The use of these dogs in this manner was simply too interesting a tidbit to pass up, so I used it in Hearts in Barbed Wire. Since a shudder and grimace are the usual reactions when I mention I’m writing about World War I, I started this book after the fighting is over for my lieutenant hero and his canine companion, but the battle to survive is still ongoing. And the dog, Leopold, is ever vigilant, warning my hero of the enemy’s approach.
But I wasn’t done exploring this fascinating aspect of dogs in warfare.
You see, in occupied Belgium, the Germans requisitioned all motorcars, horses, and bicycles. The only way to carry things from one village to the next was for men or dogs to pull the wagons. And they did.
In the fifth book in the series,The Christmas Ship, when the tow horse for the barge carrying much needed provisions to the war-torn countryside is confiscated by the Germans, the hero and many townspeople tugged the barge along the canal. Later dogs were used to pull wagons ladened with vats of soup into the bombed out countryside so the starving citizens could eat.
I’ve written many books with animals in them, but they were always pets, not usually service animals. Perhaps we should acknowledge the contribution to our freedoms by our four-legged friends. Although my dog would be happy with a scratch behind the ear and a few less cats in the house:D
Leave a comment with a favorite memory of your pet to be entered in a drawing for a free e-copy of either Hearts in Barbed Wire or The Christmas Ship.
“Leopold?” Groaning, Madeline lurched forward, dragging the cart behind her. “I thought there was only one man.”
A soft woof accompanied the rustle of leaves. Then a German shepherd’s black nose glistened in the moonlight. The black and brown body soon followed. Tail wagging, the dog trotted down the road.
“It’s a dog.” She dropped the traces and held out her hands.
Leopold sniffed the air then he stilled and pointed his snout at her.
“Come here, boy.” Crouching, she snapped her fingers with one hand. The other fumbled with her skirts.
Luc cleared his throat. “Leopold isn’t a pet. He’s—”
The shepherd loped past Luc, circled Madeline once then snuffled her hand.
The traitor! Luc snapped his fingers. Leopold was a military dog under Luc’s command. He needed to remember it.
Leopold sat in front of her.
“You’re such a good boy.” She offered the dog another crust of bread before scratching him behind his ears.
Leopold held the bread between his teeth while stretching his neck out for Madeline’s attention.
“Lieutenant?” Mille hissed from the bushes.
“Here.” Luc bit off the word and stomped his foot. “Leopold. Come.”
The dog swallowed the bread, tucked his tail between his legs and belly-crawled over.
Smiling, Madeline swiped at the dog hair clinging to her skirt. “We weren’t allowed to have dogs in the clinique. I have missed them.”
“Yes, well.” Luc pointed to the ground by his feet. The canine prostrated himself, his brown eyes shining brightly in the moonlight. “He’s a soldier under my command and must act the part, Sister.”
“Yes, sir.” She straightened her shoulders and her right arm twitched.
Luc’s eyes narrowed. She had better not salute him. He would—
A twig snapped behind him.
Blurb: A solder trapped behind enemy lines
A nurse risks everything to save him
As the Kaiser’s Army steamrolls across their country, they’ll make a desperate bid for freedom. War will bring them together; duty will drive them apart. Can they escape the promises binding them to their past or will they leave their hearts tangled in barbed wire?
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