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Working dogs - a breed apart.


My favorite hero ofWorld War II, a collie-husky cross named Chips, served with the Third Infantry Division in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Sicily, Italy, and France. As a civilian, Chips had been a failure. In fact, his owner had "volunteered" him for the canine corps after Chips attacked the garbage man. Chips served so well on the battlefield he was awarded a Silver Star and a Purple Heart. On one occasion he attacked an Italian machine-gun position and forced the surrender of its crew.

Unfortunately, the fightingspirit that made Chips a hero did little to endear him to people off the battlefield--such people as his supreme commander, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, whom Chips reportedly bit on the hand during a Roosevelt-Churchill conference in Casablanca in 1943.

Military strategists have been harnessingthe fighting spirit of dogs like Chips for centuries. The U.S. military now has more than 2,000 trained dogs to perform numerous functions--as sentries, patrol dogs, scouts, trackers, and mine and tunnel detectors. Most military dogs today are German shepherds; however, Labrador retrievers are used as trackers, and the navy recruits smaller dogs, often beagles or cairn terriers, and utilizes them aboard ships.

The most intelligent and valiantworking dog I have encountered in civilian life is a breed known as the Catahoula hound, or "hog dog." I grew up in Catahoula Parish, Louisiana, where these dogs were used to herd semiwild swamp hogs that residents raised for a living. The wild hogs could not be herded as sheep or cattle were, for they invariably turned on any intruder for a fight to the finish. If one hog squealed or gave the distress-rally signal, all hogs within hearing distance would charge to its rescue. But the Catahoula hounds found a way to use the hogs' instincts to their own advantage. The dogs would find a straggler and provoke him into giving the rally signal. Then the lead dog would get the hogs to chase him. With the whole herd in pursuit, he would lead the hogs through the gate of the enclosure and escape by jumping the back fence.

Because the way of life has changedin Catahoula Parish, hog dogs aren't used much any more; however, in 1979 the governor of Louisiana signed a bill making the Catahoula Hound the state's official dog. Similar hog dogs from Georgia were recently used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ferret out diseased hogs during an outbreak of African swine fever in Haiti.

Often the loyalty of a working dogcan mean the difference between life and death for its master. Such is the case of my third example, the sled dog. I learned about sled dogs from Dr. Terry Adkins, a veterinarian and a veteran of the 1,031-mile Iditarod sled-dog race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. The Iditarod follows nearly the same route taken by mushers who rushed lifesaving antitoxin by dog sled to Nome in 1925 during a diphtheria outbreak.

Dr. Adkins trained sled dogs othermushers had rejected as well as dogs he picked up at the pound. His best leader, he told me, has been Oscar, a flop-eared hound type he picked up as a puppy from the Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage.

"Old Oscar has always beenextremely loyal to me," Dr. Adkins told me. "I've seen him pull 11 dogs to their feet at my command when he was extremely tired and run-down."

On more than one occasion,Dr. Adkins said, Oscar has worked 14 hours straight, keeping the other dogs going in very cold temperatures. "We would have all frozen if the dogs had stopped," he said.

Working dogs seldom get the recognitionthey deserve. Even Chips had his medals revoked after it was discovered that regulations prohibited animals from receiving decorations. Unfortunately, I can hardly begin to mention all the dogs who put their strength and heart into tasks for which they have been trained or bred.

Questions for the VetDear Dr. White:

Help! Samantha is a pretty blackcat--white markings--about two years old and neat and clean until recently. She voids her bowels just outside the litter box she had been using to my satisfaction. This started about a month ago. It happens about one or two times in ten days. Can you please tell me what I am doing wrong? Dear Helen:

If you have recently changed litterbrands, your cat may have developed an aversion to its litter box. Some cats find chlorophyll or other additives unpleasant. And make sure the litter is changed once daily. Clean the soiled area well, because some cats find the smell attractive. Do not use ammonia, because of its similarity to urine. If the cat is allowed outdoors, you might let her out following meals, naps, etc.
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Author:White, H. Ellen
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jan 1, 1986
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