War Dogs of Ukraine

Whenever I write an article for the Albany Herald, I follow it up by posting it on my website as a blog. That pushes it out to a broader audience and allows me to track how many times it is viewed.

One of my favorite articles was one I did last year under the title “The Dogs of War”. It was about how we humans have been using dogs in battle for centuries. It focused on dogs like the German shepherd, the Doberman pinscher, and more recently, the Belgian Malinois. I suggested that we owe them a debt of gratitude for their service and their sacrifice. The article ran in the Albany Herald in May 2021, and I posted my blog on June 1st. It has been a popular article ever since I posted it, but beginning on Feb 21, 2022, activity spiked. Why, I wondered, is it getting so much attention recently?

My wife suggested it might be because of the Google search words, “dogs” and “war” and the recent news about people in Ukraine fleeing the war and taking their pets with them. I did some digging and it turns out, as usual, she was right.

One report from the Times of India, for example, is about software engineering student, Rishabh Kaushik. He apparently criticized the Indian embassy, the Animal Quarantine and Certification Service (AQCS) and the Indira Gandhi International Airport for making it “impossible” to fly his dog home with him to India. Kaushik adopted his dog, a mixed breed he named Maliboo, from a local resident who rescued the dog from the streets as a puppy. Kaushik’s family has already left Ukraine, but he stayed behind in hopes of gathering the necessary paperwork for him to travel with his dog.

More favorable reports are coming out of the neighboring countries of Romania, Poland, and Hungary. Officials there are waiving paperwork and relaxing requirements for vaccinations, microchips, and other documents. They are allowing all types of pets to enter their countries as “refugees”.  Television news reporters frequently interview refugees who are clutching their dogs.

I feel for the people of Ukraine and admire their spirit. I like to think that if some country was invading my neighborhood, I would pull the shotgun from my closet and stand in the street with my neighbors to fight. But what about our neighborhood dogs. They would surely be freaked out by the noise and chaos.

When I wrote about “The Dogs of War”, I was referring to certain breeds of dogs that are trained for combat. They are conditioned to the sights, sounds, and smells in the same way hunting dogs, horses, and mules are conditioned to the blast of a nearby shotgun. I have seen young cockers on the hunting wagon cowering when a shotgun is discharged. Many of them get over their fear. Some never do. They get retired to some family’s home where they will spend their days sniffing around the backyard and sleeping on a dog bed next to the fireplace.

You can, I believe, tell a lot about the character of people by the way they treat their animals. I admire the people of Ukraine for the way they are standing up to the mighty Russian army with personal firearms and Molotov cocktails. But I also admire the fact that they are not abandoning their pets. They are evacuating the women and children while the men stay to fight, but the women and children are saying we are not leaving without our pets.

If I was forced to defend my country, I think I would keep my dogs close by and we would fight together. Who knows, maybe Libby the goofy golden retriever would turn into a true war dog. Maybe she would share my anger at having our home invaded. But I wonder if either one of us would be as courageous as that software engineering student in Ukraine.

“I decided that if my dog can’t leave, I won’t either,” Rishabh Kaushik said, according to The Times of India. “I know that there is risk in staying on, but I can’t just abandon him. Who will take care of him if I go?”

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