On November 3, 1957, Russia launched Sputnik 2 sending the first animal to space, orbiting the Earth. Laika (Barker in English) was a female mixed breed stray dog. Sadly, it is believed that due to heat and stress, she died a few hours after takeoff. But hers and other dogs flights paved the way for human exploration of space.
On December 22, 1960 another Sputnik was launched by Russia carrying two strays, Comet and Shutka. Due to a rocket malfunction during the 3rd stage, it plunged to Earth, 2,200 miles from the launch site. A search team found the rocket 4 days later and amazingly, the dogs were still alive. The ejection system had failed which probably save the dogs from perishing int the 40 degree below zero temperatures. The dogs’ story was unknown until now due to Soviet censorship. Shutka’s fate is unknown, but Comet was adopted and flew 3 times into space. Comet’s 3rd flight was aboard a satellite, the forerunner of the ship used for Astronaut Yuri Gargarin’s space flight.
Jofi was a Chow Chow that was adopted by Sigmund Freud later in his life. Realizing the calming effect Jofi had on patients, particularly children, Freud had the dog sit in on sessions. Although not really a dog person, Freud admitted that Jofi was a great help with patients and Freud became a pioneer in canine-assisted therapy.
In October of 1920, Greece’s King Alexander was walking in his garden accompanied by his dog. A monkey attacked the dog resulting in a fight. Another monkey intervened trying to rescue his friend. The second monkey bit the King when he tried to stop the fight and the King’s wounds became infected. His father, Constantine the first, who had abdicated, was reinstated and led Greece into a losing war with Turkey – the Greco-Turkish War, 1919-1922.
Afterwards, Winston Churchill said, “It is perhaps no exaggeration to remark that a quarter of a million persons died of this monkey’s bite.”
Alexander the Great not only had a beloved horse, Bucephalus, but also a dog named Peritas. When the Persian king, Darius the 3rd and his troops surrounded Alexander, Peritas was right there. Upon seeing an elephant charging Alexander, Peritas jumped at the animal and bit his lip, stopping the elephant in his tracks. Peritas saved Alexander’s life allowing him to continue fighting and increasing his empire. If not for Peritas, the Persian War might have had a different ending, changing history.
May 2, 2011 will be remembered as the day Osama Bin Laden was finally caught and killed. Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, was an important member of the team of Navy SEALs who found Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Little is known about Cairo, but it was reported that his role was to patrol the compound where Bin Laden was found and attack any enemy fights who appeared. This brave dog did his job well, allowing the SEALs to complete the mission victoriously.
The Great Chicago Fire in 1871 destroyed thousands of structures, killed approximately 300 people and left many homeless. Legend says the fire was started by Catherine O’Leary’s cow when she kicked over a lantern in the barn. Others have pointed to different theories of how the fire started, but this one persists. Hopefully, it taught people to be more careful with lanterns.
In 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte attempted to escape exile from the island of Elba where he was being held. The boat he was on encountered rough seas and Napoleon was tossed overboard. A fisherman’s Newfoundland dog, seeing Napoleon’s distress, jumped into the sea and kept him afloat until he reached safety. If he had remained on Elba or had not been saved by this brave dog, Napoleon would not have experienced the defeat at Waterloo.
Of the dogs of Henry the Eighth, Urian, a greyhound, was one of the favorites. Henry in seeking the blessing of Pope Clement VII to divorce Catherine of Aragon, send Cardinal Wolsey accompanied by Urian, to the Vatican in Rome. Meeting with the Pope, the Cardinal bent to kiss his toe, Urian thought Wolsey was in danger and bit the Pope’s foot. Angry, the Pope dismissed Cardinal Wolsey without granting the King’s request. This rejection caused Henry to break with the Catholic Church and had the Archbishop of Cantebury establish the Church of England which granted Henry’s divorce. Some might say that Urian was the cause of the Reformation.
Charlie, a Welsh Terrier, was a gift from Jacqueline Kennedy to her husband, President John F. Kennedy. Charlie was much loved by the Kennedy children too. During the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, President Kennedy called Charlie to the War Room. The President was able to think better with the dog ear and Charlie sat on his lap. Relaxing while petting Charlie, President Kennedy was able to make the decision that eased tensions and averted nuclear war.
There is a memorial in Hyde Park, London, England, to animals show showed outstanding heroism during their participation in military operations. PSDA, an organization which awards medals and citations to these animals was the sponsor of the memorial.
The inscription on the monument is as follows:
“This memorial is dedicated to all the animals that served and died alongside British and Allied Forces in wars and campaigns. They had no choice.” I would like to add that although the choice might not have been theirs, they never faltered in protecting those they loved.
Included in the animals honored by the memorial were horses, donkeys, dogs, elephants, camels, pigeons, cats and even glowworms.
There are many animal heroes whose exceptional bravery in trying times influenced the course of world history.