Goofy the warrior dog comes home
A large grizzly, almost‑Kerry blue terrier named Goofy galloped into the house of the Jerry Doyles' in Melrose Park, Pa. in the first part of August 1944. His master Jerry Doyle Jr. was still on duty in the Pacific, but the rest of the Doyle family had met him at the station. He headed for the softest rug in the room, plopped himself full length on it and gave a contented sigh. It was good to be home after seventeen months service in the Army K‑9 Corps.
One of over 25,000 dogs in the Quartermaster Corps K‑9 Corps, Goofy had served as a sentry. He was part of an Armed forces program to use dogs to win World War II. Dogs are useful in war. They smell and hear better than human beings do, and they see better at night. A dog's endurance is greater and he is smart enough to understand commands and to obey them quickly. So all of the armed services‑ Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard ‑ put trained dogs to work. For the Army, dogs guarded camps and posts, and munitions plants. They patrolled beaches with Coast Guardsmen and stood watch at Navy wharves and warehouses.
Special breeds were trained for specialized jobs. Airedales, Boxers, Collies, German Shepherds and other breeds that made good sentries received advanced training as messengers and airplane spotters. Malamutes and Huskies were naturals for sledge duty in the North. Newfoundlands, St. Bernards, and Great Pyrenees were used for pack duty in the North and other places.
The Army's Quartermaster Corps, which trained dogs for all services, needed thousands of canine recruits. Entrance requirements specified that a dog must be from one to five years old, (two year odds were the most desirable), at least eighteen inches high at the shoulder; in good health, brave, accustomed to duty, and neither noise nor gun shy. Dogs could be male or female. Uncle Sam accepted setters, pointers, retrievers and other hunting dogs; collies, shepherds and other farm dogs; dogs of any useful breed, from the bulldog ‑veteran watchman ‑ to the French poodle, smart acrobat and performer since the days of the Roman circus. Practically all breeds were acceptable. Only two of the commoner breeds were ruled out. The military wouldn't accept the English bull terrier, because he persisted in fighting other dogs, and they rejected the chow, because he wasn't entirely trustworthy.
Many of the dog recruits were high‑priced show dogs and cherished pets, so the Quartermaster Corps was careful to insure each dog's return to its owner at the end of the his service. An identification number was tattooed on the left ear of every dog, and both the War Department and the Dogs for Defense, Incorporated kept records of ownership.
Dog fanciers who recognized early the usefulness of dogs in war formed an organization called Dogs for Defense which was a private recruiting canine organization. It had the approval of the American Kennel Club, the Professional Handlers Association and the Veterinarian Association of America and located representatives in all the principal cities of the nation. A patriotic American who was willing to let his canine friend go into service first had to contact Dogs for Defense.
The War Department had nothing to do with the recruiting of dogs, although it did refer dog owners to the proper agency. One eight‑year‑old boy wrote this letter to the Army: "I read about the Army wanting dogs. I have a beautiful Boxer. Daddy gave him to me for Christmas. I buy stamps but I want you to take my Mugging. My brother is eighteen years old. He will graduate in June and he is going to enlist in the Flying Cadets, so why can't I do something? I will miss my dog but Mom says she will miss her son too, when he goes. So please, Uncle Sam, take my dog
because I will feel very bad if you don't."
The Army was not too busy to send the youngster a sympathetic reply. "Here in Washington," a higher up in the War Department wrote, "we are very grateful to you for offering to give to the service of your country one of your most prized possessions. When was your age, I would rather have given away anything else, I believe, than my dog."
At Dogs for Defense, a canine recruit's record was checked against Army requirements. Then one of the more than 200 veterinarians who donated their services to his work gave him a physical examination. Once accepted the rookie was sent to one of the canine reception centers and training stations. One of the most famous stations was at Front Royal, Virginia, where Goofy was stationed. At this beautiful spot in the Blue Ridge Mountains, scores of dogs were inducted . First, Goofy and his fellow inductees were given another physical examination. Then they were tested for adaptability to Army training and use. Only after passing both tests was Goofy given his registration number and could begin his military career.
Goofy was not the only rookie at Front Royal Learning Army dog routine. Soldiers, sailors, and Coast Guardsmen were selected to be dog handlers and these men in turn would train other men to handle war dogs. By actually working with the dogs, the men learned the proper care of canines, the signals to use, and the correct training methods. Army discipline for Goofy and his friends was very light. Dogs were corrected only by a light jerk of the leash. They got a great deal of petting when they obeyed commands ‑ a method that worked more wonders than the whip system.
The Army training program carefully avoided letting dogs develop into a one man dog ‑a condition which ended their usefulness. In the Army any dog must work with any soldier assigned to joint duty with him, so trainers at Front Royal never took out the same dog twice. In this way, dogs learned to respond to actual commands, not to the expression or inflections of a known and loved voice.
Goofy got one meal a day ‑ at 4:30 in the afternoon. A veterinarian groomed and inspected him daily. The rest of the time he drilled ‑many hours a day for four straight weeks. At the end of that time he was ready for sentry duty.
When his training was finished, Goofy could heel smartly at a soldier's left side. There he stood minding his business, paying attention only to his teammate. At the word "Sit" he squatted with forelegs erect. At the command "Down" he lay flat. Once his teammate said "Stay", Goofy froze until he got another order. In fact, the none of the dogs moved until they were called by name, one by one.
Goofy and his friends were sent to investigate any noise or movement with the command "Out" given as the sentry pointed toward a suspicious spot. By these and other words, whistles and gestures, the dogs were taught to work with servicemen as closely coordinated teams. Commands and responses were given quietly. Even a dog's signals to his teammate were given with scarcely a sound. A dog warned his companions of the presence of a stranger by a low growl just loud enough for the servicemen to hear.
When a dog recruit had mastered this basic training, he could be assigned immediately to guard duty or he could go on to advanced work at Fort Hancock, New Jersey, or at any of the other training stations. After his basic training at the K‑9 induction center at Front Royal, Virginia, Goofy learned to attack everyone but his handler and was detached to the quartermaster depot in West Springfield, Massachusetts. Goofy performed duties like the dog at Fort Hancock, New Jersey. A night prowler slipped from tree to bush, keeping carefully under cover. Suddenly he found a dog beside him. Before he could even move, a sentry appeared. The dog was one of Goofy's fellow soldiers trained to catch prowlers.
When his tour of duty was over, Goofy was honorably discharged and carefully readied for home. For 12 days, the Army patted him, scratched his stomach and made reassuring noises to help him over the difficult period of rehabilitation for civilian life. He was taught to forget his army training and eventually shook hands with the soldier he attacked in training.
But war neuroses overcame some K‑9 veterans. Many of them had to be destroyed when they turned on their masters. Luckily, Goofy showed no sign of turning on his family or any other readjustment problems. He enjoyed the familiar smells and sights of home. His water bowl waited in the kitchen, but in the back yard his dog house was full of garden equipment. His family soon discovered that Army life had been good for him in all but one respect‑ it looked as if he would have to be house trained all over again!
The next day he was reunited with his old friend next door, Wacky, a Belgian police dog. At first Goofy's family was nervous about the reunion and let the two dogs sniff each other through the screened back door, but soon the two old friends were playing together in Goofy's backyard.
The mailman was nervous about Goofy too. He remembered that Goofy had bitten him before joining the army. When Goofy sniffed his shoes but didn't bite, the mailman put the finishing touch on Goofy's homecoming. "They taught him manners in the Army," he sighed in relief.