Dogs have long since been appreciated as 'man's' best friend' but do we really appreciate the very breadth of roles they carry out that help to ensure that humans are kept safe?. These dogs work not for money, nor recognition, but for the praise of their owners and for a meal at the end of the day. They have saved countless lives and, in doing so, many have lost their own. The photograph used to illustrate this article includes a memorial to honour just a fraction of the dogs that died in warfare and, in my opinion, it is a particularly poignant image.
'About.com' tells us in 'Military working dogs' that dogs have been used in warfare as far back as Roman times, when they were sent into battle with razor blades attached to their collars in order that they appeared particularly fearsome to their enemies. They were used in world war I, Primarily to keep the rat population down in the trenches, but they came into their own in WW II when the Americans trained over 10,000 canines for use as sentries, scouts, messengers and mine detectors.
In current warfare'discovery.com' points out in'Dogs of war' that the troops depend on dogs to find hidden explosives and lost soldiers. Corporal Andrew Guzman states that he trust the dogs more than metal detectors and mine sweepers. These dogs are also trained to detect the most common compounds found in the manufacture of IED's ( Improvised Explosive Devices) and have saved thousands of lives in this way. The relationship between soldier and dog can be just as strong as one between soldiers, they depend on each other to stay alive.
Working dogs are defined as dogs that are trained specifically to aid a person with a particular health problem. Guide dogs for the blind are probably the best known, but thousands of dogs around the world help people with varying illnesses. Their roles vary from giving people comfort and company to saving their lives. 'disaboom.com' tells us in service dogs help disabled, save lives that dogs that started life as narcotics dogs can be trained to be able to sniff out the slightest trace of peanut oil, therefore saving their severely allergic owners from a potentially fatal reaction. Other dogs are trained to be able to detect the changes in a persons body chemistry up to 45 minutes before an epileptic seizure, therefore being able to give the sufferer adequate warning to get to a safe place and to summon help, if required.
Dogs can also sense changes in a persons blood sugar levels, making them invaluable in helping diabetics to avoid hypoglycaemic attacks, and possibly comas. Research is still being carried out on the question of whether dogs can smell cancer. A study done in California points to evidence that dogs can detect early and late stage lung and breast cancer. Later studies have shown that ovarian cancer has a different chemical smell that dogs appear to be able to distinguish. The possibilities for the future appear endless.
Lifegaurds don't just come in the human form! The 'life guard dogs of Italy'. are as dedicated as any lifegaurd crew! These 300 dogs, mainly Newfounlands and Labradors, fearlessly jump from helicopters to rescue hapless swimmers off the coast of Italy. There are many individual stories of courage and bravery from dogs both trained and untrained . In Haita in January 2010 search and rescue dogs worked tirelessly and found, amongst others, 3 girls trapped under 4 feet of concrete, they were pulled out alive. Other stories include a woman in Minnesota whose dog, Bella, jumped on her bed, alerting her to the smell of smoke that heralded the fact her house