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Old November 14th, 2011, 07:56 AM
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Tribute to animals who have served

Among all the tributes that were held on Remembrance Day, it is not likely you heard non-human participants mentioned. But since recorded history and likely even earlier, animals have been used in war.

One of the earliest references to animals used in war mentions cavalry in a battle in Sumer (Iraq) nearly 5,000 years ago. Other animals capable of carrying heavy loads, such as oxen, mules, donkeys and elephants (the latter were sometimes put to horrendous uses) became part of ancient warfare. Dogs were also used; many were bred specifically for certain military purposes.

Many types of creatures, from mammals (including cats, rats and reindeer) to birds, reptiles and even insects, have been employed in war. The First and Second World Wars saw huge numbers of horses - eight million in the First World War - die; 2.5 million were injured. Soldiers from that era often remembered these animals with fondness - and sadness - for the miseries the animals endured. Some military units in both wars even had animal mascots, such as the Saskatoon Light Infantry in 1943, who had a donkey mascot.

Animals still take part in military operations, officially and even unofficially. The U.S. Navy has used dolphins, who have natural sonar or "echolocation", to detect landmines in the Persian Gulf. Currently, dogs play a crucial part in assisting Canadian troops in Afghanistan. German shepherds have been used to locate roadside bombs, landmines and in search and rescue operations. A few years ago, Canadian soldiers at one Afghan outpost even befriended a stray rhesus monkey they nicknamed Lucy. Soldiers in Kandahar province are not officially permitted to have or take care of pets. Bonding with animals during wartime, however, has many beneficial effects on soldiers' well-being and apparently it has not been uncommon for Canadian personnel to forge friendships with everything from snakes and insects to dogs and donkeys.

Among British forces in Afghanistan, dogs "operate in front of the troops", according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals. The RSPCA reports that military dogs who have served their time are frequently adopted by their handlers, who have grown attached to them.

In London's Hyde Park a memorial, unveiled on the 90th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, to all the animals who served in the world wars and other conflicts, carries two inscriptions: "This monument is dedicated to all the animals that served and died alongside British and Allied forces in wars and campaigns throughout time." Underneath it is a smaller inscription: "They had no choice."

Inspired by the British monument, Canadian war vet Lloyd Swick (he served with the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry for 33 years) has been busy trying to raise funds for a Canadian war memorial for animals. In an Ottawa Sun article this past July, Swick is quoted as saying that casualties in the First and in the Second World War would have been much higher but for the help of animals, emphasizing that pulling heavy artillery, moving provisions to the front lines and evacuating injured soldiers saved many lives. Swick says we all owe a huge debt to those animals. To date Swick has been unable to secure government funding for the project, but has garnered private donations and other support and a spot in Ottawa's Confederation Park has been approved for the memorial. Let's not forget all who have served, including the animals.

To view animals looking for good homes, please visit spca.bc.ca/ adoptme.

Lauryn Hayden is communications officer for the BC SPCA. Reach her at lhayden@spca.bc.ca.

Copyright (c) The Province

Read more: http://www.theprovince.com/news/cana...#ixzz1dgiFZx2C
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