AKC Gazette, November 2007
Hell for humans. Heaven for a terrier. CHAMPION RAT DOG OF WESTERN FRONT, was the headline on a story about Norah, an Irish Terrier who accompanied her owner, Private Thomas Radford of the Canadian Veterinary Corps, to the front when she was a tiny pup. Norah was born at Richardson’s kennels and trained by Radford to wage war on rats. Radford boasted that Norah dispatched nearly 100,000 of her rodent foes in less than three years. “The day at St. Omer when she accounted for 628 of them, she was working from 12 o’clock to 7 P.M. and for five days afterwards she could barely open her mouth,” he boasted to a reporter. Although these figures were likely overstated, the importance of ratters in the trenches could never be. Many dogs would be lauded for their rat-killing prowess.
The VolunteersAlong with the thousands trained for service, even more dogs made the trenches their homes because their own homes had been destroyed, or because they could not bear to be separated from their owners. The American hero Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Stubby, was one of these, but there were countless stories of others like him. There was, for example, a small white terrier named Fuchsl, a German mascot. He was the pet of a young corporal, who became very attached to him.When the dog vanished in August 1917, the corporal assumed he had been stolen, and was inconsolable. Years later, that soldier—Adolph Hilter—would still speak with loathing about the swine who stole my dog.” The New York World carried a story in January 1916 about a setter named Feu-de-l’air (Fire of the Air) who leaped off a dock in Algiers, pursuing a transport ship carrying his owner, Sergeant Jacquimin. Jacquimin was permitted to bring Feu aboard, and the dog accompanied him to the front. It was a decision that would save the Frenchman’s life. Just weeks later, a German shell collapsed Jacquimin’s trench. Seriously injured and buried beneath debris, Jacquimin was resigned to his fate. Then he heard a peculiar scratching noise. It was Feu, tearing at the earth with his claws. The dog stopped only to run to other men, grab their clothes in his teeth, and try to drag them to where Jacquimin lay buried. Then he’d resume his feverish digging. Feu got his point across, and Jacquimin was saved.
Over HereCountless stories tell of stray dogs and soldiers becoming inseparable in the trenches. Despite regulations barring pets from the transports, there were plenty of foreign dogs marching alongside the doughboys as they stepped back onto U.S. soil. Among these was a German Shepherd Dog puppy rescued from a bombed kennel by an American soldier, Corporal Lee Duncan. Named after a French puppet, Rin Tin Tin would become one of the most famous dogs in history. Rin Tin Tin was not, by a long shot, alone. Some canine celebrities had come over while the fighting was still going on. “Where is the war dog?” was the first question asked at the gates at Westminster in 1917. The GSD Filax of Lewanno, who rescued 54 wounded soldiers in the trenches, drew hundreds of visitors “who cared more for the glamour surrounding a war hero than they did for the aristocrats of dogdom,” noted the New York Times. Many had less than glamorous homecomings, as suggested by this March 1919 account in the New York Times of the return of 14,000 members of New York’s 27th Division, under General John F. O’Ryan, also known as “O’Ryan’s Roughnecks.” “The soldiers on the Leviathan brought with them a large number of dogs of all descriptions. It is against the regulations for soldiers to take animals on the transports with them, and they adopted unusual ways of smuggling the dogs aboard. One of the stories told by the soldiers was that the dogs had been rolled in the packs with the blankets when the men walked on the ship.”
Apparently no one paid much attention to the anti-dog rule, as it was reported in the same story that General O’Ryan himself had brought along a Belgian police dog. Efforts to enforce the rule to leave mascots behind often met with violent resistance.
Such was the case of Mut, a “trench runner” who had been wounded twice and spent much of the war boosting morale of the 11th Engineers. When the unit sailed from France, the New York Times reported, “[A]n order was issued forbidding mascots to be brought home. Farewells were said to goats, cats, and dogs and the ship pulled away from their dumb friends.”
Three days later at sea, Mut appeared on deck. The Colonel demanded that the little dog be thrown overboard, and was about to do so, when a Private Albert Jensen, who had been shot in the head and was suffering shell shock, started bellowing that if the dog were thrown overboard, he’d jump in after him. “Jensen was thought to have been affected because of the wound he had received,” the Times explained, “and the Colonel allowed the dog to debark with his friend in New York.”
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.