Statues remind us that war and conflict has an impact on all facets of life, yet seldom respected in their own right are animals and the roles they have played.
A bronze plaque next to this statue notes, "for centuries, animals have demonstrated an enduring partnership with humans during times of war. They have served as a means of transportation, beasts of burden, messengers, protectors, and mascots. Still today, dogs use their unique, sharply tuned instincts to detect mine clusters, and conduct search and rescue operations. We remember the contribution and sacrifice of all animals."
This statue can be found in Ottawa, Ontario. It profiles the role of dogs in being able to find and assist wounded soldiers. With care and training, some breads of dogs were seen as nimble field medics who could more effectively run medical supplies (strapped to their backs) up and down the line. Their physiology and natural ability to run low to the ground was seen as a major tactical advantage, as dogs could more easily move below enemy fire, and once they arrived at their destination, they could more easily stay low to help soldiers lying on the ground reach the supplies they carried. Dogs were also seen as merciful, as they sat next to dying soldiers to provide some semblance of comfort.
Animals, as war mascots, is a particularly fascinating topic. On one level, I have come to recognize that a significant number of military machines are named after animals, or the things they do in nature. For example, in Canada, we have the CH-149 Cormorant; the Airbus CC-295 Kingfisher; the Bae CT-155 Hawk; the Bell CH-146 Griffon; the Leopard 2 battle tank; and the Coyote Light Armoured Vehicle just to list a few examples. On another level, I have come to recognize that a lot of flags, emblems and badges also prominently feature animals to quickly convey the cultural symbolism they offer. One of my favourites is the use of the beaver by the Van Doos. Yet, perhaps the most fascinating of all, is that one of my all-time favourite childhood characters (and authors) growing up was inspired by a Canadian soldier in WW1 named Lieutenant Harry Colebourn, and his black bear cub named "Winnipeg," or "Winnie" for short.
Growing up, I had Winnie-the-pooh toys, bedsheets, and story books, but until this moment, I had forgotten the full history behind this bear until I started researching this topic for my November blog tribute to remembrance. Lest we forget, all forms of life are impacted by war and conflict, and more often than not, we look to other forms of life for identity and service.