"We are along the road parallel to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heaven's sake, stop it."
This was the vital message carried by Cher Ami, a heroic messenger, to American soldiers on during the Battle of the Argonne in October, 1918. Five hundred American soldiers were surrounded by the Germans and unable to retreat. Their fellow Americans, unaware of their location, had begun shelling the area. She carried her message through despite being shot in the chest, blinded in one eye, and having a leg nearly blown off. As a result of her courage, many lives were saved. The Americans were able to rescue their comrades, and tended Cher Ami’s injures. Who was Cher Ami? A homing pigeon. One of the many thousands used in World War I that relayed messages and flew recon missions with small cameras attached to their breast. Pigeons have been used in warfare for centuries for delivering messages. These tiny animals are not only incredibly intelligent (they are one of the few species that can recognize themselves in a mirror), they are fast (50-90 mph), tough, and devoted. A pigeon will do anything to get back to its family, including flying through a storm of bullets and poison gas with nearly fatal injuries. Cher Ami was sent home with the best medical care the military could provide. For her dedication, she was award the French Croix de Guerre and was given a wooden leg. Once well enough to travel, the commander of the US Army, personally saw Cher Ami depart safely for the US. I normally write about technology in the Pet Care industry, but I would like to take a break to salute all our fallen animal comrades and veterans. Before I sound like I am neglecting our human veterans, know that I am writing this for a animal magazine and would like to try to convey my thanks for all who served - human and non. Humans have used horses, camels, elephants, dogs, cats, dogs, monkeys, dolphins and other animals for war. I feel that these animals deserve the same awards and recognition, especially since they were not given the choice and yet stood bravely near our troops during gun fire, shelling, gas and other atrocities happened around them. It is estimated that 2 million horses perished, just on the German side, in World War I. The Dickin Medal is the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross that the UK awards to animals that have displayed "conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty while serving or associated with any branch of the Armed Forces or Civil Defence Units”. As with most military awards, the recipients have incredible stories. I encourage all to help educate about their service. Find a story and share it on your FB in honor of Veterans' Day or any time at all. In London’s Hyde Park, there is a memorial dedicated to the animals of war with the inscription, “They Had No Choice”. 32 pigeons, 18 dogs, three horses and a cat have received the Dickin Medal.
This is a "guest post" by our owner, Rachel, who writes a column on Technology in the Pet Care World for Pet Sitters International's bi-monthly magazine.