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Man's Best Friend

At home and on the battlefield

11:50 AM, Jul 7, 2011 • By EMILY SCHULTHEIS
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In the two months since the SEAL raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan and it was revealed that a military dog accompanied the team, much attention has been given to the highly-trained dogs that accompany soldiers in the field. General Petraeus, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, favors the use of dogs: "The capability they [the dogs] bring to the fight cannot be replicated by man or machine," he says, reported ABC. "By all measures of performance, their yield outperforms any asset we have in our industry. Our Army would be remiss if we failed to invest more in this incredibly valuable resource."

The canine soldiers have become so popular there is even a "War Dog of the Week" page at foreignpolicy.com. 

But pets on the battlefield are nothing new. The New York Times has a piece online about the animal mascots of the American Civil War:

As Union and Confederate soldiers left the comforts of home for the grim realities of war, many brought along family pets or adopted stray or wild animals, which quickly took on semi-official roles. Regiments from the North and the South kept dogs, cats, horses, squirrels and raccoons as mascots. Some chose more unusual animals, including bears, badgers, eagles, wildcats, even a camel.

Not only did these mascots provide comfort and entertainment to lonely and bored soldiers in camp and on marches, but they often became companions in battle, suffering alongside their regiments. 

Read the rest here.

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