Today is July 4th, or for the last 235 years also known as Independence Day. Sometime we forget what this day actually means. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed, which legally seperated the original 13 colonies from Great Britain and formed a new union free from their rule. Throughout the years, American men and women have fought in battle after battle with dogs by side in every war since to keep it this way. Although German Shepherds and Malinois are often used in the armed forces these days, one of the most notable war dogs just happens to be a Pit Bull terrier named Stubby, who fought during WWI as the unofficial mascot for the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division out of Connecticut. Stubby not only provided a morale booster for his troops, but also single handely sniffed out an ambush from a German spy, holding onto him while his troops came to help with his capture. Because of his heroism, he earned many medals for his service, including a promotion in ranking to Sergeant by General Pershing, and also met three Presidents – Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, and Calvin Coolidge. In his final years, Stubby became the mascot for the Hoyas of Georgetown University. His remains are preserved in the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of American History.
But Stubby was not the first dog to fight in war. It has been speculated that Sallie may be the first documented war dog, as she fought during the Civil War in the great battle of Gettysburg for the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry. She also met a President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, who famously saluted her while marching with her platoon. During the battle of Gettysburg, Sallie seperated from her soldiers, later found guarding the wounded and the dead. In 1865, at the Battle of Hatcher’s Run in Virginia, Sallie was struck by a fatal bullet to the head. After finding her, under heavy gun fire, her troop buried her on the spot where she was found. Later, when the surviving members dedicated a monument to the 11th Infantry, they insisted on Sallie being part of this statue. She now lies at the base of the monument as if to watch over the souls of the men she fought with.
That may have been years ago, but today is no different, as Pit Bull dogs continue to assist with tasks to keep this country safe. The Washington State Patrol and U.S. Department of Homeland Security employs a Pit Bull, Neville, for bomb and gun detection. Cook County Sherrif’s Office (Chicago, IL), hired a Pit Bull appropriately named Elliot Ness, who is used for locating cadaver’s. More recently, Milwaukie, Oregon adopted a Pit Bull named Shaka, for finding drugs. The most notable search and rescue dogs reside in southern California headed by Kris Crawford and her three Pit Bull dogs – Cheyenne, Dakota and Tahoe form the group For Pits Sake, and have been on over 200 missions. They have been chosen for the Lacy Peterson case, and hand picked for the high profile Columbia Shuttle disaster.
When we realize how much Pit Bull dogs are engrained in our history, we must honor them just as we do the men, women, and other types of dogs who served this country for all of us to live in a free society. They do not expect accolades or money, they do it for the love of their human counterpart. It’s sad to know that laws have been created to kill the same patriots that helped make this country the symbol of what it is today.