Number 5 – “Barry”, the Saint Bernard
And the first heroic canine we will discuss today is “Barry” – a Saint Bernard bred by the monks of the Great St Bernard Hospice. Barry lived from 1800 to 1814 in the Alps of Switzerland, where he served as mountain rescue dog. During his career, he reportedly saved more than 40 lives. Barry was nearly killed when one of the men he saved mistook him for a bear, and stabbed him. To honour Barry’s heroism, the monks gave his body to the Natural History Museum of Bern for preservation. In the year 2000, the museum held a special exhibit to commemorate the life-saver’s 200th birthday. Barry’s legacy lives on until the present day: Since his death, the monks of the Great St Bernard Hospice have always maintained one dog named after “Barry, the saver of men”.
Number 4 – “Balto”, the Siberian Husky
In the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, we can find the preserved body of another outstanding dog: “Balto”, the black Siberian Husky was the hero of the 1925 serum run. Balto’s deeds have been honoured with a statue in New York City’s Central Park. Here is what happened: In 1925, the Alaskan city of Nome was hit with an outbreak of diphtheria. Due to extreme weather conditions, the desperately needed antidote could not been flown in from Anchorage. The only way to save the city’s population was via dog sleds. In the middle of a raging blizzard, the musher Gunnar Kaassen took the serum onto the potentially deadly journey from Anchorage to Nome. Balto was the lead dog of Kaassen’s Husky. In the gruelling weather conditions of this race against time, Kaassen’s could not see the terrain ahead of him. Balto, however, led the team to safety – and success. Without a doubt, Balto’s race to Nome saved the population of the city. Balto lived until 14 years and died in 1933 from old age. Every year, his heroism is honoured by the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Number 3 – “Kali”, the Rottweiler
In the days following September 11, Search and Rescue dog “Kali” was one of the several Rottweilers sent into the ruins. As Search and Rescue Team Leader Robert Yarnall would say later in an interview: “The Rottweilers were the first Search and Rescue Dogs at 9/11 at Ground Zero (…). The Rottweilers watched our body language, and we could just give them hand signals to do what we needed them to do. We couldn’t have done it without them.” Kali was a young dog, fresh out of training, and her first assignment was to search for survivors in Ground Zero. Like the other (approximately 300!) Search and Rescue Dogs sent into the ruins, Kali had to work in treacherous terrain. She was exposed to the same toxicity that would soon prove extremely injurious to the health of countless first responders. A casualty of 9/11, Kali died at the age of only 6 years from renal failure.
Number 2 – “Smoky”, the Yorkshire Terrier
One day, an American soldier found an abandoned little canine in a foxhole in New Guinea. Never would he have guessed that his tiny rescue dog was going to save more than 300 human lives in the near future! “Smoky”, the Yorkshire Terrier, played a key role in relaying communication during the Second World War. On the Philippines, American soldiers used their little rescue dog as courier during air raids. As the intelligence she delivered saved those 300 people, Smoky became one of the most famous hero dogs in history. And this extraordinary Yorkie not only excelled as courier – she was also a popular therapy dog, known to spread calm and comforting by her mere presence.
Number 1 – “Cairo”, the Belgian Malinois
In more recent times, countless police- and military service dogs have proven themselves: Saving human lives, these four-legged heroes frequently get injured, or even killed, in the line of duty. One shining example of such a canine is the Navy SEAL hero dog “Cairo”, the Belgian Malinois. In 2009, the SEALs pursued heavily-armed insurgents into the mountains. Cairo was sent after them, and was shot several times. Luckily, his SEAL comrades were able to save his life.
In 2011, the meanwhile retired Cairo and his handler received orders to go after Osama bin Laden. “He was every bit as important to the mission as anyone else”, says Will Chesney about his military service dog. The intrepid Malinois died in 2015, but his deeds have been immortalized by Will Chesney’s book “No ordinary Dog: My Partner from the SEAL Teams to the Bin Laden Raid”.