Soldiers who go above and beyond the call of duty are usually honored for their fearlessness in battle. There's also a longstanding award in the United Kingdom that recognizes animals that display similar gallantry in military service.
Since 1943, the Dickin Medal has drawn attention to the brave and resolute actions “performed by animals in times of great adversity.” The award is named after Maria Dickin, who in 1917 founded the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), a British charity that provides free and low-cost veterinary care. The bronze medallion has been awarded to pigeons, dogs, horses, and even a ship's cat.
Last week, the PDSA announced that next recipient of the Dickin Medal will be a Belgian Malinois named Kuno. The four-year-old dog was injured by machine-gun fire while tackling an Al-Qaeda insurgent during a deployment with the Royal Navy's Special Boat Service in Afghanistan last year.
All about animal heroes:
- Six of the first seven animals to win the bronze medallion, inscribed with “For Gallantry" and "We Also Serve," were carrier pigeons carrying wartime messages and relaying news for the Royal Air Force.
- The Dickin Medal's only feline recipient is Simon, a stowaway cat that in 1949 helped keep dwindling food rations safe from rats for 100 days aboard a captive British warship, not to mention boosting morale. Simon died in quarantine three weeks after the standoff ended.
- A similar award, the PDSA Gold Medal, was created in 2001 to honor civilian animals. The recipients (all dogs so far) have included police, service, and search-and-rescue dogs that displayed bravery in the line of duty, and pets that alerted their owners to dangers such as house fires or secured assistance for people in difficulty.