November 11, 2021

Remembering the Mercy Dogs

Recently, I came across an article about a role dogs held in the First World War that I had not heard of before: mercy dogs. Also known as ambulance dogs, or casualty dogs, these canines were trained by Red Cross Societies to find wounded soldiers on the battlefields of trench warfare.  

Mercy dog working

Mercy dogs carried medical supplies in saddle bags that soldiers could use on themselves if they were able. If the soldier’s injuries were severe, the dog would take a piece of the soldier’s uniform back to the trenches, and then lead a medic to the soldier’s location. Some larger breed dogs even dragged soldiers to safety from no man’s land. The dogs also comforted soldiers who were mortally wounded and were dying on the battlefield. It’s unknown how many soldiers were comforted by a mercy dog, but it’s likely in the thousands.

Mercy dogs received rigorous training to prepare them to do their jobs in the chaos of war. The canines mostly worked at night and were trained to move silently through the battlefield. During one battle, a French mercy dog named Prusco was credited with saving the lives of a hundred soldiers.  

It is estimated that thousands of canines served as mercy dogs in the First World War, with many of them suffering severe distress and injury. They saved and helped thousands of soldiers, on both sides of the war, and many of the dogs lost their own lives doing it.

This Remembrance Day, as we remember the men and women who lost their lives in war, let’s save a moment to remember the dogs that served, suffered, and died at their side.

Bruce Roney
President & CEO