Thanks, “This American Life”: Break your heart with stories of WWII soldier dogs  »

This American Life
's most recent show is called “Animal Sacrifice,” and its first act features Susan Orlean reporting on World War II soldier dogs, expanded from her book Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend.┬áThe U.S. military had a program where they recruited citizens’ pet dogs to serve. Like, one day your dog is performing Houdini-style escapes from every confinement you try to impose on her; the next, she’s flushing enemy soldiers out of caves in the Solomon Islands.

Here’s a training video, starring the cutest little terrier you ever saw.

[Can’t see the video? Watch it on]

In light of the army’s latest findings on canine PTSD, this story is especially heartbreaking. Many of the dogs who weren’t killed in action had such bad PTSD they couldn’t be returned to their civilian families after the war, and so were euthanized.┬áThe use of dogs in service continues today, but at least now there are options beyond killing a dog we forced to undergo personality-altering trauma. Still, if we’re going to have robots in war, can we make some to replace the canines? It’s appalling, the sacrifices we ask of dogs, things we have no right to demand of them.

[photo from the national archives via TAL]


Did you guys catch* News Editor Maria Goodavage on Tuesday’s Daily Show? She wrote a book called Soldier Dogs, about the dogs serving in the U.S. Armed Forces and how amazing they are. Jon Stewart shows some photos of the different dogs Goodavage writes about, including a little Jack Russell terrier-looking fellow who got into the wrong class at dog school and ended up being a bomb-sniffing dog on a submarine.

Service dogs are the greatest. Dogs in the armed forces save lives serving right alongside our human troops, and for their trouble they get PTSD, it’s so sad. But the Department of Defense is researching PTSD in dogs, and the dogs who do develop it are, says Goodavage, sent home and adopted by people who take the best care of them that they can.

For more information on the book (including an excerpt), visit the Soldier Dogs site.

*Disclaimer: Laura has done work for Dogster (Downton Dogs! Mad Men Dogs!), and she and I are both pals with Vicky Walker.

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