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A Memorial Day Tribute to Military Dogs

They're loyal, heroic, and offer great comfort to those around them. We salute military dogs.

 |  May 28th 2012  |   8 Contributions

"Guardians of the Night" (author unknown) is a touching poem about military dogs (or police dogs, in some versions), which is read at most memorial ceremonies for them after they die. It leaves very few eyes dry, no matter how many times people have heard it. I really wanted to include it in my book Soldier Dogs, but it didn't work out. 

I'm happy to bring it to you here today, on Memorial Day, the day we honor all those who have served, including four-legged heroes, who richly deserve the attention and praise. Military working dogs save so many lives and help so many troops who just need a friendly face to help boost their morale.

The poem's stanzas are interspersed with photos from my book and my Soldier Dogs Facebook page. For full effect, you might want to read the poem first and go back and read the photo captions. It may not be high poetry, but if you've ever known a dog's love and loyalty, you can begin to imagine the bond these dogs and handlers have, and you will feel this poem to your core.

We salute these intrepid dog teams -- and to those still in harm's way, we wish you a safe return.

"Guardians of the Night"

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Military working dog Rex looks tough, but he was a gentle giant. His handler, Army Sgt. Amanda Ingraham, says he would have protected her with his life, but he was otherwise such a sensitive, sweet fellow that the military decided he'd never be a patrol dog. So he served as a specialized search dog, sniffing for IEDs, usually off leash. (Photo courtesy of Amanda Ingraham)

Trust in me, my friend, for I am your comrade. 

I will protect you with my last breath. 

When all others have left you and the loneliness of the night closes in, I will be at your side.

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Air Force Staff Sgt. Christine Campos and her military working dog, Bico. During deployment, dogs and handlers often spend nearly 24/7 together. Some say deployments are the best time in a military dog's life because they get to be with their best friends around the clock. (Photo courtesy of Christine Campos)

Together we will conquer all obstacles, and search out those who might wish harm to others. 

All I ask of you is compassion, the caring touch of your hands. 

It is for you that I will unselfishly give my life, and spend my nights unrested. 

Although our days together may be marked by the passing of the seasons, know that each day at your side is my reward.

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Marine Sgt. Mesa, Sgt. AJ Neito, and MWD Lucy take a break from the heavy action in Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of Rosendo Mesa)

My days are measured by the coming and going of your footsteps. 

I anticipate them at every opening of the door. 

You are the voice of caring when I am ill. 

The voice of authority when I’ve done wrong.

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Army Sgt. Elisabeth Wienke embraces her military working dog, Chance, during a grueling day of canine trials. (Photo copyright Robin Jerstad)

Do not chastise me unduly, for I am your right arm, the sword at your side. 

I attempt to do only what you bid of me. 

I seek only to please you and remain in your favor.

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Marine dog handler Cole Johnson and military working dog Lex, a combat tracker, during a mission near the town of Garmsir, in Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of Cole Johnson)

Together you and I shall experience a bond only others like us will understand. 

When outsiders see us together their envy will be measured by their disdain.

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Air Force Sgt Larry Brown and his dog Oakley. Dogs and handlers always have each other's backs. (Photo copyright Robin Jerstad)

I will quietly listen to you and pass no judgement,

nor will your spoken words be repeated. 

I will remain ever silent, ever vigilant, and ever loyal.

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MWD Fenji at the memorial at Camp Leatherneck for her handler, Marine Cpl. Max Donahue. (Photo by Chris Willingham)

And when our time together is done and you move on in the world,

Remember me with kind thoughts and tales, for a time we were unbeatable. 

Nothing passed among us undetected.

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When a MWD dies, the memorial is a solemn, sad occasion. The dog's bowls are overturned to show she won't be needing them any more. The kennel door is left open to show the same, and her harness and leash are hung up. In addition, this poem is read by someone who cared about the dog. The dog's handlers often can't get through it, so someone else reads it. (Photo courtesy of Emily Pieracci)

If we should meet again on another street I will gladly take up your fight.

I am a military working dog, and together we are guardians of the night.

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MWD Danita in Iraq. She made it back from this deployment, unlike many other military dogs, who will continue leading the way into some of the world's most dangerous places - all for a toy and a word of praise. (Photo courtesy of Richard Crotty)


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