Remembering the amazing story of the connection between a dog and men at war.
By the day of his rescue off a Paris street—Bastille Day, July 14, 1918—the scruffy little dog with the curling tail had managed to weather at least two years of life as a hungry stray.
On that day, a century ago, a pair of American doughboys from the First Division offered the dog a snack, looked him in the eye as nobody else ever did, and Sergeant Jimmy Donovan, let the homeless dog follow him back to camp, where he encountered another kind of battle, but where he finally found a home.
This July, we celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Rags, the dog that became an icon and the mascot of the First Division of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I, joining the army.
An extraordinary animal, Rags learned to run through gunfire, locate broken communications wire for the Signal Corps to repair, and alert soldiers to incoming shells, saving the lives of hundreds of American soldiers. Through it all, he brought inspiration to men with little to hope for, especially in the bitter last days of the war.
Rags’ story is recounted lovingly in From Stray Dog to World War I Hero: The Paris Terrier Who Joined the First Division by Grant Hayter-Menzies.
The book recounts the terrier’s days on the streets of wartime Paris to surviving and thriving on the battlefield and his eventual arrival in the United States, where he served as a reminder to human survivors of what held men together when pushed past their limits by the horrors of battle.
As we take a moment, this centenary year marking the end of World War One, to think of the men and women who gave in that conflict their last full measure of devotion, let us also think of the animals who, though none ever sparked a war, nonetheless served bravely, often to death, in the fight.
Grant Hayter-Menzies is the author of several books, including The Empress and Mrs. Conger: The Uncommon Friendship of Two Women and Two Worlds; Lillian Carter: A Compassionate Life; and Shadow Woman: The Extraordinary Career of Pauline Benton.
40 percent of the author’s royalties from sales of From Stray Dog to World War I Hero are donated to Nowzad, a charity reuniting animals from the frontlines of the war in Afghanistan to the men and women in uniform who they have bonded with.