It's no secret that I'm a little obsessed with our three dachshunds. They're so dang cute and quirky I just can't help myself. Be that as it may, I can't say that any of them deserve to be knighted anytime soon"¦ protecting the household from a leaf blowing across the yard? Stopping enemy postmen from leaving the porch domain and entering the house? Fastest consumption of food? Yeah, I'm not seeing any of those categories qualifying for a Purple Heart. But some animals have been promoted into ranks usually reserved for humans "“ here are 10 of them.
1. Nils Olav. He was already a king penguin, but Norway's King Harald V. Loudon made Mr. Olav a knight as well. He had been the King's Guard mascot since 1972 (technically, the penguin recently knighted was Nils Olav III "“ they keep replacing him when he dies, like Lassie or Shamu) and already had lots of honors under his belt, including promotions to honorable regimental sergeant major and honorary colonel-in-chief. But in 2008, the King saw fit to dub him Sir Nils Olav for his years of service and dedication to the country.
2. Incitatus, Caligula's horse. And I think we pamper our pets. Legend has it that Incitatus had a stable made of marble and had a collar festooned with precious gemstones. Incitatus had 18 servants and enjoyed oats with gold flake mixed in. Preposterous? Maybe. But according to some sources, Caligula actually made Incitatus a consul of Rome shortly before his death, an action that was reversed practically before Caligula's body was cold. Other sources say that there was merely an attempt to make the horse a consul.
3. Guinefort is the only canine to ever be sainted, even if he was done so by the public instead of the Church. Guinefort, a greyhound, belonged to a French knight. The story goes that the knight walked into his son's nursery one evening and couldn't find the infant "“ however, he did find Guinefort with blood smeared all over his face and believed that the greyhound had mistaken his son for a snack. He drew his sword and killed the dog. Then his son started crying; he found him under an overturned cot with a dead snake. Guinefort had saved the baby from certain death and was rewarded with his own demise. The knight and his family immediately erected a shrine to the misunderstood dog and after "miracles" started happening at the shrine, locals declared Guinefort the patron saint for the protection of infants. The Catholic Church hated this and spent hundreds of years trying to get people to stop calling the dog "Saint." The trend persisted until the 1930s and then seemed to die out; you don't hear much about Saint Guinefort these days.
4. Teka. Can a dog give CPR? Jim Touzeau will tell you they can. Touzeau suffered a massive heart attack in his Queensland, Australia, home in 2007 and was motionless on the ground when his Australian cattle dog stepped in to save the day. He climbed on to his owner's chest and jumped on him with his full weight, barking all the while. Medical experts don't know that the "jumping" actually restarted Touzeau's heart, but the activity and the noise did revive him enough to get help. "She must have been thinking, "˜I better wake this fella up or I won't get dinner,' Touzeau said. Teka was later awarded the RSPCA's (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) Purple Cross "“ the highest award it can give.
5. Treo. Just earlier this year, it was announced that Treo, a black Lab, will be given the canine equivalent of the Victoria Cross, the Dickin Medal, for his service to British soldiers. Since 2005, Treo has been sniffing out landmines and bombs hidden by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Both Prince Charles and Gordon Brown have met Treo and commended him on a job well done.
6. William of Orange. William of Orange won a Dickin Medal for his services during WWII, but he wasn't sniffing out bombs "“ William was a messenger pigeon that managed to get a message back to his home base during the Battle of Arnhem, a battle fraught with communication problems. The message William carried is said to have saved the lives of more than 2,000 British soldiers.
7. Taffy IV. Surprisingly, goats have been in the British military since 1775. Apparently a wild goat wandered onto the battlefield during the Revolutionary War and ended up being adopted by the soldiers. Taffy saw "active service" in WWI in the Retreat from Mons, the First Battle of Ypres, and the Battles of Festubert and Givenchy before his death in 1915. As a result of his battles, Taffy IV may be the most decorated goat in history "“ he received the 1914 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
8. Endal. When Endal's disabled owner was hit by a car in 2001, the golden retriever immediately pulled his master into a recovery position and covered him with a blanket. As if that weren't impressive enough, Endal then found his owner's cell phone. No, he didn't call the police, but he did jam the phone into his master's face until the man regained consciousness and could call for help. Endal received a PSDA Gold Medal for his hard work, which is the equivalent of the George Cross (which is the civilian equivalent of the Victoria Cross).
9. Wojtek. OK, it doesn't appear that Wojtek actually received any military honors, but his story is too good to leave out. The Syrian Brown Bear cub was adopted by members of the Polish II Corps during WWII. He famously helped move incredibly heavy boxes of ammunition as if they were nothing. Members of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company eventually began to see him as one of their own and he earned the nickname "Soldier Bear." When the 22nd Artillery Supply Company was demobilized, Wojtek retired happily to the Edinburgh Zoo and lived there until his death in 1963.
10. Lex. Lex is the first-ever military dog to receive early retirement to go live with the family of his handler, who was killed in action in Iraq in March 2007. Marine Cpl. Dustin J. Lee was killed in a rocket attack; Lex was also severely injured by the shrapnel. He was allowed to go home to Cpl. Lee's family in December 2007 and was awarded an honorary Purple Heart for wounds sustained in combat.
OK, so my dogs haven't been awarded a Purple Heart"¦ I think I'm going to go give them some extra cuddles anyway. Have a good weekend, _flossers, and if you have any heartwarming animal stories for us, be sure to comment below.