The Ambulance Dog at Work.
Not until the history of the present European war comes to be written will it be known just how great have been the services of the dog for ambulance work. Shortly after the outbreak of this, the world's greatest war, an Association in Germany, formed about the year 1893, known as the Ambulance Dogs' Association, greatly increased its activities.
It has been found by experience that the best breeds for ambulance work are collies, retrievers, bloodhounds, Airedale terriers, German shepherd dogs and Dober-mann Pinschers. It is absolutely essential that ambulance dogs should be extremely wiry and hardy, and capable of great hardship and endurance, otherwise they are of little use.
The manner in which ambulance, dogs are employed is to help the Red Cross men and doctors to search for wounded within a given area on the battlefield. A dog's sense of scent and acute hearing enable him frequently to detect the sound of the breathing of a wounded man when inaudible to the human ear. Moreover, a puff of wind often suffices to carry to the dog's nose the scent of a man lying possibly unconscious in some concealed place.
Fields of battle nowadays are widely extended, and soldiers have to take advantage of every possible bit of natural cover. The instinct of the wounded is to use their last strength in seeking protection from artillery fire, cavalry charges, the wheels of guns, and the other horrors to which they are exposed. They crawl away into the most hidden, safest places. The collection of the wounded is usually at night. This accounts for the large numbers that after each battle are reported as "missing." In some instances the missing have been more than half as many as the known total of killed and wounded.
They are differently equipped in the armies of different countries. The Germans provide their ambulance dogs with a saddle with pockets in which are bandages and dressings, while around the neck is a wooden flask of stimulant. The Italians and French put the flask in a pocket of the saddle. British experts consider bandages and stimulant unnecessary, as every man has to carry his own first-aid dressing, and the extra weight hinders the dog's action. In the English army the dogs wear a very light saddle with the Geneva cross on each side, and a loud bell hangs from a leather collar. The Russians provide their ambulance dogs with small lanterns and attach the bells elsewhere on the collar.
In some of the European armies the ambulance dog is trained to return to his master and guide him to the wounded man; in others he is taught to bark and give the news of his discovery in that way. Still another method is to have the dog on a long leash and thus lead the searcher in the right direction.
The Japanese also use scouting dogs in this way, and so do many of the European armies. They are trained to growl at any sudden surprise, their natural temptation to bark being thwarted by muzzling with a leather strap. In sentry duty the muzzle is moved. With an upwind blowing these sentry dogs are able to detect the approach of men and horses an extraordinary distance away.
On the whole, it is found that the speediest method is for the dog to stay beside his "quarry" when found, and bark until the ambulance arrives, but there is the drawback that if several dogs are being employed in a restricted area and several bark simultaneously, it is not always easy to locate whence the barking comes.
The Germans, unlike the French, do not permit their dogs to wear even a collar, as it is thought that this may hinder him in pushing his way through the thicket or hedges. It has often happened that the wounded are found adjacent to some hedge or other cover not easy to search by human aid alone. On the other hand, the French fasten water bottles around the neck of the dog and train him to search for wounded, who, if still conscious, eagerly grasps the welcome and ofttimes life-saving beverage.
Constant practice in this, as in other kinds of dog training, is an absolute essential. As the war proceeds more and more use will be made of the special functions and gifts of dogs, a resume of which, when peace again reigns, will surely prove one of the most interesting phases of the hostilities now taking place in Europe.
In the annals of the French army Mustache is still a celebrity. Mustache was one of the war dogs in the Italian campaign when Napoleon was first consul. He saved the French army from a night surprise and annihilation. Later he tracked and captured a spy who had secured valuable information. But this dog's crowning achievement was at the battle of Austerlitz.
The standard bearer of the regiment had just fallen dead. Mustache's teeth and an Austrian soldier's hands grasped the tattered, bloodstained banner simultaneously. Mustache flew at his enemy's throat and bore him down. Then, seizing the flag, he carried it back to the regiment. Napoleon gave Mustache the highest decoration for valor. He met a soldier's death not long afterward, racing forward beside the flag, leading the regiment in a furious charge.
The Canine Ambulance Division of the French Army Off to the Front.