In honor of Pet First Aid Awareness Month, we look back at the role of dogs in the Red Cross.
While the American Red Cross did not use dogs during World War I, several foreign Red Cross societies employed dogs that greatly aided the Allied forces during the war. A number of these dogs were attached to ambulance units and aided their handlers in the search for wounded soldiers. The Red Cross dogs were trained to seek out a wounded soldier and get as close as possible so the soldier could access the dogs’ saddle bags, which contained first aid supplies and rations. Instead of barking and alerting the enemy, the dogs were trained to bring back something belonging to the soldier.
The retrieval method was eventually replaced when it became apparent that the dogs would occasionally rip off a bandage in their eagerness to return with something from the wounded soldier. Some Red Cross societies trained the dogs to return to their handler with an attached leash in their mouth to signify the discovery of a wounded soldier. Red Cross dogs did more than just locate wounded soldiers, they provided messenger and delivery services, often times carrying 25 to 30 pound packs of ammunition and rations through dangerous territory. These dogs also acted as scouts and guarded strategic posts, such as weapons factories.
Following World War II, The American Red Cross began using therapy dogs with convalescing service members in the Army Air Force Convalescent Center in Pawling, New York. Many of the dogs were even acquired as pets for the recovering soldiers. The American Red Cross still uses therapy dogs today. These dogs and their owners volunteer in shelters and nursing homes across the country and in hospitals around the world. American Red Cross dogs afford moments of joy in the wake of disasters and provide hope to those recovering from illness or injury.
After the immense service these dogs have provided and continue to provide, it is only fitting that we pay tribute by offering aid to animals in their times of need. With the American Red Cross’ Pet First Aid app, you will be able to give your pet the first aid it needs after an accident or emergency. With the app’s simple, step-by-step first aid instructions and a little practice, you should be able to produce better results than those of little Charles Benedict below.