A Good Dog Story From World War Two

I love dogs. Years back when I lived in a house in Florida, I had two wonderful golden retrievers who were my constant companions. One of the most endearing qualities a golden retriever has is this: if you walk into the room where your retriever is, the dog is delighted to see you, overjoyed even. You sit down and read but after ten minutes, you put your book down, go to the kitchen, get a soda, and come back. As soon as you enter the room, your golden retriever is just as delighted and overjoyed to see you as he was ten minutes before.

January of 1945 was very cold – one of the coldest winters on record in Western Europe. In his outstanding memoir of his service in the US Army at that time, Visions From a Foxhole: A Rifleman in Patton’s Ghost Corps, Private William Foley describes the special hardship this caused US front line infantry who were dug in very close to the German lines. Because of that, the men could not light fires. Even in winter uniforms, the GI’s shivered because they were always damp from a steady drizzle of rain and snow. Getting completely dry was impossible until one’s unit rotated off the front line into the rear area.

Private William Foley had just returned from a night patrol. He bailed out the inch of water which had accumulated in his foxhole from the sleet that was coming down. After covering himself with a shelter half (half of a pup tent) and a large rain cape, he tried to get what sleep he could in the freezing cold night.

Right as I settled in, I was scared out of my wits by something, or someone, splashing through the muck. Looking up, I saw a large dog, a German shepherd, looking down at me. I could make out a harness of some sort and decided this was a German Army guard dog gone astray – perhaps a deserter. He made low whining sounds. I knew the animal was probably hungry, and I dug out some hardtack, which he took from my hand without hesitation. Rising up, I whispered some soothing sounds and petted his neck. Steam rose from his body, and I could feel his warmth under the wet coat of fur. I had no trouble coaxing the dog into my hole and arranging our bodies for mutual warmth under the shelter half. No words can express how touched I was by his immediate compliance. So, depending on men in the nearby holes to take turns on guard, I actually spent a cold February night of sleet and drizzle completely warm and relatively dry. The dog and I slept…

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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