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A Tribute to Female Hero Dogs this International Women’s Month

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A Tribute to Female Hero Dogs this International Women’s Month
by Mariana Burgos

I have written about hero dogs before and only one of the dogs mentioned was a female. But there are many female hero dogs. This Women’s Month, we will share some of their stories to pay tribute to some awesome bitches in history!


I chose Laika for my first hero bitch because I think her sacrifice was most noteworthy even though some don’t give her any credit just because she was a stray dog.

Laika was a stray dog who became a space dog, according to the article “5 Famous Female Dogs in History” on the Yappy website. She was a female terrier mix that made history in 1957 after being plucked from the streets of Moscow and chosen to be the first animal to circle the Earth. Although her story was a sad one because she died in space, her sacrifice, however, opened the door for human spaceflight as scientists gained a greater grasp of the survival circumstances in space.

Strelka and Belka

On August 19, 1960, two mixed-breed dogs were on board the Sputnik 5 capsule which completed six orbits and returned safely. Due to the mission’s success, the Russians were able to launch a man into space, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, shortly after. According to Robert Forto’s article, “Important Female Dogs in History,” Strelka and Belka became immediate heroes in the Soviet Union. Their corpses were preserved after death. Strelka and Belka are on exhibit at the Museum of Cosmonautics in Moscow.

The owner of Strelka, Nikita Khrushchev, donated one of her puppies, Pushinka, to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Pushinka became one of the Kennedy family’s multiple presidential pups.


German Shepherd Dogs, Belgian Malinois, and other intimidating breeds come to mind when we think about military dogs. Smoky, a little Yorkshire Terrier, was a World War Two hero. Smoky was discovered in a foxhole in New Guinea by American soldiers, and she became Corporal Bill Wynne’s full-time companion. She ate the same food he did and slept in the same bed. Smoky also joined rescue and surveillance flights and even barked to alert Corporal Wynne of oncoming rounds, according to Forto.

Smoky, the war-dog hero, slept inside a helmet of a soldier. Photo taken from the article, Important Female Dogs in History of the American Kennel Club website

Forto says Smoky was skilled at learning tricks and worked with Special Services to amuse soldiers in field hospitals. She continued to do so after being detained in an oxygen mask case during the journey back to the United States. Smoky appeared on television and in public while continuing to console warriors in veterans’ hospitals. In fact, some believe Smoky to be America’s first therapy dog due to her work with veterinarians. There are tributes honoring her all around the country and in Australia, including the AKC Museum of the Dog in New York City.


Sallie, a bull-type terrier, served with troops in a separate conflict far earlier than World War II. Forto states that Sallie was handed to First Lieutenant William Terry of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. Sallie, who was only four weeks old at the time, grew up with the regiment, and became its mascot. She trained with them, marched with them, and even fought alongside them.

A monument was put up in honor of Buddy and his owner Frank. Photo taken from the article, Important Female Dogs in History of the American Kennel Club website

At the Battle of Gettysburg, Sallie slipped and was separated from the army and was recovered three days later, unharmed, protecting injured men and the remains of the fallen. Sallie, however, was shot and died at the fight of Hatcher’s Run in 1865. Even as the combat raged around them, soldiers buried her in the battlefield. The 11th Pennsylvania Monument at Gettysburg depicts a representation of Sallie at the troop’s feet.


Dorothy Eustis, an American lady, was inspired by the work of the first-ever guide dog school in Oldenburg, Germany in the late 1920s.

Eustis was no stranger to canine training, having previously trained dogs for the police and the military. Therefore, after six months of training at the guide dog school, she trained her first dog, Buddy. She teamed with a blind American man called Morris Frank, according to Forto.

Dorothy went on to create her own guide dog school, The Seeing Eye, after Buddy’s success. She established her first school in Switzerland in 1928, followed by another in New Jersey in 1929.

According to Forto, Frank was essential in advocating for regulations that would allow service dogs access to public settings, laying the path for the Americans with Disabilities Act.


Roselle, a Labrador Retriever guide dog, was with her owner, Michael Higson, when his office in the World Trade Center was attacked on September 11, 2001.

Forto adds that the brave canine took her owner down 78 flights, despite the pandemonium surrounding her. Roselle maintained her descent even after Tower Two fell, guiding Higson through the rubble and smoke until they were out of the structure. She then continued to walk her owner 40 streets to a friend’s apartment!


While many female dogs have served in the military to help troops during times of conflict, one brave canine in particular stands out for their service—Lucca.

Lucca, a mixed-breed dog trained to detect explosives, served with the Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Forto. She accomplished 400 sorties and saved the lives of numerous soldiers throughout her six years of duty.

Lucca with Gunnery Sergeant Chris Willingham. Photo taken from the article, Important Female Dogs in History of the American Kennel Club website

Lucca tragically lost her leg in an IED blast during her last deployment in 2012, therefore ending her military career. According to Forto, she is the first US Marine Corps dog to be given the PDSA Dickin Medal (the canine counterpart of the British Victoria Cross) for her meritorious service.


According to Wikipedia, Philly was a stray female dog that served on the front lines of World War One with Company A of the 315 Infantry, 79th Division. She was smuggled into France and served in Montfaucon, Nantillois, Troyon, and LaGrande Montagne before returning to America. Her effectiveness as a guard dog made her a hero among the troops, earning the Germans a bounty of 50 deutsche marks on her head. She participated in the victory parade and lived until 1932. She was mounted after her death and remained in the 315th’s headquarters until its disbandment in 1995. Philly was bequeathed to the Philadelphia History Museum and has periodically been on exhibit for the viewing public.


Bretagne (pronounced brit-nee), a Golden Retriever, was one of several hero female dogs in the days following 9/11. Forto informs us that Bretagne and her handler, Denise Corliss, flew from Texas, where Corliss was a volunteer fireman, to aid in the rescue and recovery efforts following the assault. That was the pair’s first attempt at rescue and recovery. Bretagne performed 12-hour shifts for 10 days, looking for survivors, sleeping outside with her handler, and providing consolation to other rescue personnel.

Bretagne returned to Texas and worked as a search dog with Texas Task Force 1 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. She and Corliss visited the 9/11 Memorial in New York in 2014 and 2016. In 2016, Bretagne died at the age of 16. Members of the Texas Task Force and the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department said their goodbyes on the sidewalk outside the veterinarian’s office.

Kabang (the best for last)

Kabang was a shepherd mix-aspin from Zamboanga City, Philippines, that rose to international fame and was dubbed a “hero dog” after saving two children from a fatal motorbike accident.

According to Wikipedia, Kabang was a stray puppy that was adopted by Rudy Bunggal. Bunggal’s nine-year-old daughter Dina and a three-year-old cousin, Princess Diansing, attempted to cross a busy roadway in the path of a motorbike in December 2011. Kabang, seeing the danger, jumped at the motorbike, knocking it down. According to eyewitnesses, the girls did not notice the motorbike approaching and would have been gravely harmed if Kabang had not intervened. The motorbike driver and the youngsters were just slightly injured in the crash.

Kabang, on the other hand, became entangled between the motorcycle’s front wheel. “The bones holding her top snout were shattered, and we couldn’t salvage it,” Bunggal explained. “We just took her off the wheel”. Kabang fled but two weeks later, she returned to the family home.

Kabang, the Filipina hero dog!” Photo taken from the article, Hero Dog, Kabang, Gets New Nose of the CBS News website

Karen Kenngott, a nurse from upstate New York, discovered Kabang’s story on the Internet and wanted to assist. The campaign also significantly improved Kabang’s international prominence.

Kabang was sent to the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Center at UC Davis in the United States for specialist treatment in October 2012.

Kabang returned to the Philippines on June 8, 2013, and was greeted as a hero in her birthplace of Zamboanga City.

About the Author: Mariana Burgos is a freelance artist. She is a solo parent for 16 years now because she is wife to a desaparecido. She and her daughter are animal lovers and are active in advocating not only human rights but the rights of animals as well.

This article also appears in the Manila Standard

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