Somewhere or other -- it slips my mind just where -- I have
read an article on animals in the service -- and I don't mean
GI "Doggies!" It so happens that "Doggie",
or "Dogface", you know, is a universal Army term for
Joe Buck Private. The animals mentioned here were mules and goats,
dogs, ponies, and what have you -- Army mascots, officially recognized
as such and traveling with the outfits which have duly chosen
them as animated good luck charms.
At least, the implication that they are "duly chosen"
and designated as such, is to be assumed. I don't really believe
it. Perhaps certain show outfits, grandly decked and sharply
drilled to demonstrate soldierly bearing to the home folks, actually
go about the serious business of acquiring an organizational
mascot. I'd rather believe, though, that all of the Army's pets
chose the individual outfit to which they wished to belong --
and not the other way around.
Dogs have always followed the armies of the world and I suspect
that they always will. Hound dogs, mongrels and beautiful thoroughbreds,
for some strange reason, desert their erstwhile homes and comforts
to travel with fighting men. They drift in and out of the regiments,
travel all over the world with their chosen benefactors and sometimes,
I am sure, follow their new masters to the heroic death of a
We have a number of such transient animals with us. When they
drift in, the Mess Sergeant forgets his hard-hearted reputation
and feeds them scraps. The men always manage to save a bit of
extra chow for the "mutt." The First Sergeant comes
into his Orderly Room in the morning and sees a little brown
dog lying before the fire. Making like a top kicker always makes
at first, the Sergeant roars fiercely, and then does an about-face:
"Get that (CENSORED) hound out of here! What's wrong
with him anyhow -- is he sick or tired? Okay, so he's tired.
Leave him alone, let him sleep!"
Once, in Louisiana, we came as close to duly recognizing a
little white spitz as company mascot, as any combat outfit ever
did. The spitz appeared early one morning, how, no one knew.
Some said that the First Sergeant had stolen him from a little
old lady in lavender and lace. Others that he came with a bottle
of rock and rye. Regardless, we had the pooch, and for a couple
of weeks he became the center of attraction.
Apache -- that was his new name -- turned out for regular
drill-call with the men and spent much of his time nipping at
the First Sergeant's heels, in a playful manner of course. But
also, of course, we all heartily hoped that he would some day
bite the First Sergeant's leg off. You see, although a top kicker
may be a model of non-commissioned perfection, it is traditional
to growl disgustedly at all his decisions and to mark him as
"enemy" along with the slum-burners (Cooks), and MP's.
Anyhow, things got too official for the spitz, because he
disappeared the day after a Company Order, all drawn up by the
Company Clerk and signed by the Company Commander himself, appeared
on the bulletin board making our little white dog a sergeant!
Sergeant Apache of Company "A"!
As I say, he disappeared -- he probably went to an outfit
where there was less formality and no ratings to worry about.
Some people in this Army, you know, desire no more rank than
that of PFE -- Private-For-Ever. Our Sergeant Apache must have
been one of these.
On maneuvers through and over the Mojave Desert of Southern
California last year, there were a number of mutts who associated
themselves with us. There was, for example, a thoroughbred Boxer
who followed the mechanized safari wherever it went. They say
he joined us in Texas, and no doubt he had, for when I first
laid my eyes on those classic lines in the desert, he was already
Someone had painted the two stripes just where they should
be, one on either shoulder. Later, by successive ratings he was
made Buck and Staff Sergeant. By this time I imagine he's been
to OCS and is sporting a bar!
Anyway, the Boxer turned out for reveille each and every morning.
He never missed. The moment the First Sergeant blasted his infernal
whistle, out from one of the tents that big tan dog would charge,
to leap frenziedly up and down in the sand beside the top kicker,
barking furiously as the men filed out for roll call.
The canine "Sergeant" delighted in chasing lizards
into patches of sage brush and then trying to flush them into
the open by pouncing again and again upon the brush. He was fascinated
by the little reptiles and never ceased trying to catch them.
I always worried for fear he'd run into one of the little
wicked side-winder which were so plentiful there, and try to
scare it too. I figured the side-winder wouldn't scare. However,
like all of the beasts which follow the Army, the Boxer was worldly
wise and sensed real danger. This dog followed us to Virginia,
but left the battalion soon afterward. Perhaps he became intrigued
with another outfit passing through. I can never believe that
an Army dog, once attached to the service, could ever return
to staid civilian life!
In the desert one morning, I awakened early -- before dawn
-- and found something lying on my foot, not heavily, but certainly
alive. In that uncertain land, one takes nothing for granted.
For all I knew, the thing might have been a voracious old rattlesnake
or a Gila monster. So, very carefully, I arose, felt for my flashlight,
and inspected the visitor. It was a little -- a very little black
dog, and he was lying on my feet trying to keep warm. The poor
little mutt was shivering very badly -- and attempting to wag
his tail at the same time! Of course you know what I did -- I
tucked him under the blankets with me, and we both went back
to sleep until reveille. I don't have to tell you the rest, but
I will. All the next day I had fleas!
The company cat has just climbed up on the desk to see what
I am doing and also to remind me, rather obliquely, that we have
had other pets beside dogs. This cat is sleek and large, testimony
to the fine hunting grounds in Virginia camps and in Pennsylvania.
He's white with a faint trace of grey about the head -- and a
purr like the motor of an Army Jeep.
Back in Texas we had a skinny little no-account grey alley
cat who used to stalk lizards and beetles when he wasn't bothering
me at the typewriter. The keys always fascinated him and he used
to try desperately to catch them as they descended. Failing this,
I had to watch him more closely, for he'd invariably try to reach
over and hook the paper with his sharp claws. He never seemed
to grow, and yet he dined well, for the cooks were his friends.
He was full of energy and pep; I knew that to my own disgust.
Many a time he ripped "Immediate Action" stationery
just as I was typing a letter for the Company Commander. Often
too, he caught the lizards which zipped back and forth over our
In Texas, along with the little grey alley cat, and the dogs,
and the lizards, which were so intimate that we almost began
to call them by name -- there was a squirrel. He was an exasperating
squirrel, independent in the knowledge that he was noticed and
appreciated. If you'd call to him, he'd act as though you were
the Lord High Executioner, and remain distant.
There was only one way to gain his interest, and that was
by ignoring him completely. That, he couldn't stand. The Company
Clerk and I used to stroll up near him, then turn our backs and
stroll away. Immediately the squirrel would set up a murderous
chatter, and a few moments later he'd come scampering to beg
favors and sit on our shoulders. The company dogs, I think, sneered
at this spectacle. The cat, of course, was too busy chasing lizards
Dogs of course are, and always have been, favorites among
the Army's mascots. There are several with us at this writing.
One is a shepherd, another is a tiny black and tan hound. A third
is of uncertain ancestry, but just as friendly and appealing
for all of that. He's just a composite of all the thoroughbreds
and the mutts who lost their individual lineage when they enter
the armed services and become plain Army Dogs, destined to follow
their chosen troops on the high road which leads to victory and
fame, or sometimes death.
When we go overseas, after the port authorities have carefully
checked our barracks bags and equipment, when the boat is at
last steaming quietly out of the dark harbor, I shall expect
to see at least one Army Dog come out of hiding and sidle up
to the nearest GI soldier for judgment on his crime in stowing
The pups have always been with us, and I think they always
will be. We don't have to look them up -- they'll enlist and
find us somewhere along the route of march. Army mascots are