This week I was offered an outstanding opportunity to learn from dogs who have been at the Bridge for decades and lived extraordinary lives. I attended a reunion of pup war veterans. I was anxious to get all I could from these heroes.
I thought the dogs would be much bigger than me, with giant paws, and ferocious barks. What I discovered was that they were average dogs. I guess heroes do come in all shapes and sizes, even tiny ones like me.
The first of these hero dogs I encountered at the reunion was Rip, a crossbreed terrier, who never actually served in the military. He lost his home and his family in a bombing raid. Rip was found on the streets of London by an air raid warden. The pup led rescuers to survivors buried in the rubble, and then kept doing it, without any formal training. He rescued over 100 people before the end of the war. I asked him how he could be so brave.
“When the bombs first fell, I was terrified. I hated being without my family. Then I started looking for them, and I learned that they moved north and left me behind. I began finding people because I was hungry and hoped they had treats. Most of the time, they didn’t, but occasionally I would get a bit of bacon if the bombs fell in the morning. Those were the best rescues. After the war, I went to live with Daddy Warden, and I was delighted.”
I asked him if he was ever as scared of the bombs as I was when it thundered. “A lot more,” he said, “because thunder never hurts you, but the bombs cause houses to collapse, and when a building lands on you, it smarts.” I hung my head because it was a bad comparison, but Rip assured me it was alright, because no dog should have to live with bombs falling around them, and thunder was the closest thing to it.
He assured me that if a bombing occurred where we lived that I would have been just as brave as he was because we little dogs get things done. Rip said he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and, when life puts you there, you have to make the best of it, which is what dogs have been doing it since the first pup crawled out of the litter.
Rip is a very wise pup. When I asked him for life-advice, he said never to give up on a human. They might have goodies.
I passed this wisdom on to my sisters, and sadly they reacted by barking at everyone one they saw trying to get treats instead of waiting for a building to collapse on them. They are so unprofessional. They would never have made it in the war.