Angels of Mercy

Featured Story

As important as the messengers, were the Red Cross dogs, who were equipped with first aid in saddlebags and wore vests bearing a red cross.They saved thousands, on both sides. One dog named Prusco was said to have located more than 100 wounded men after a single battle.

Their training gave them specific skills, but also encouraged them to think for themselves. The dogs were trained to bring the wounded man’s cap or helmet back to the trench, and then lead medics to their fallen comrade. But often the soldier had lost his cap, or his helmet was fastened too tightly under his chin for the dog to remove it. Then, the dog would have to use his initiative and pick a different item, anything that could be used to make the point: “Wounded man! Send help!” Michael, a French Red Cross dog, made headlines with one decision he made. After a sweep of a battlefield, Michael returned, carrying the glove of a wounded soldier, identified by the newspapers only as Henri. “He could scarcely wait for the attendants to bring a litter before he started off again, his great intelligent eyes imploring them to hurry.”

Michael led them to a remote part of the field, where they found Henri, “lying still and cold.” After a hasty exam, they decided Henri was dead and hurried back to their trench without him.

The dog refused to accept the doctor’s decision, and returned again and again for assistance. When he was ignored, Michael disappeared. Late that night, by the light of a full moon, a French guard noticed an odd movement. “Not 20 feet away, creeping slowly toward the trenches, but halting abruptly every minute, was a large, dark object.” His rifle raised and ready, the Frenchman crept up on the odd form, then cried out, “Michael!” The dog had come back, with a battlefield souvenir no one could ignore. “Behind him, parts of his uniform literally torn away by the dog’s teeth, lay Henri, dragged from the battlefield, inch by inch, by the devoted animal. Miracle of miracles, the boy was breathing.” Henri was whisked to a hospital, and eventually recovered. Many other dogs earned their keep, and the admiration of their two-footed comrades, by taking on jobs no one else wanted.

Chief among these was rat catcher. Huge, disgusting rodents figure prominently in all accounts of trench warfare. “The rats here are particularly repulsive, they are so fat—the kind we call corpse rats,” wrote Erich Maria Remarque in All Quiet on the Western Front. “They have shocking, evil, naked faces, and it is nauseating to see their long, nude tails.”

Soldiers tried everything to get rid of them, but the trenches were prime breeding ground for such vermin.

One widely repeated story tells of some soldiers who brought in a cat to solve the problem. By morning, all that was left was the unfortunate feline’s tail.

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What kind of records does the facility keep?

Hartsdale records are maintained on a network of eight computers. All burials and cremations are entered on a daily basis. All burial plots indicate the owner’s name and address, the pet’s name, type of care (perpetual or annual) type of flower care (perpetual or annual), plot size, monument information, etc. With respect to cremations all individual cremations include the cremation number, owner’s name and address, pet’s name, attending veterinarian or clinic, date of cremation, date pet’s remains returned, etc. In addition the cemetery maintains copies of burial right certificates, cremation certificates and pet records.

How can I be sure that I am getting my own pet's remains back?

As indicated above the pet holder can always make arrangements to be at Hartsdale for the cremation. However if the owner cannot be present they can be assured that the staff at Hartsdale takes great care in assuring that the pet owner gets the correct ashes back. They accomplish this by verifying/checking the paperwork that is generated from the specific description, case number if applicable, owners name and pets name. This is done at a minimum of three times and the cremation itself is then witnessed by two of our staff.

Can I witness the commencement of the cremation process?

Yes. Hartsdale has what is termed a witnessed cremation. What this entails is that the pet holder makes an appointment to be at Hartsdale at a specific time and date. Upon arriving, for their appointment the pet is placed into a temporary casket and the pet holder is able to spend time with the pet in our viewing room. When the pet owner is ready they may then follow the pet to the crematory and witness the pet going into the unit. Then when the cremation process is complete, normally between 1½ to 3 hours depending on the size of the pet, the pet holder leaves with the cremains.