Tuesday, October 3, 2023
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The Dogs of War, Specifically One Named Sallie

I am fascinated at how dogs have served us in both armed conflicts and in keeping the peace, in finding the living and dead after a disaster and in serving those who are physically or emotionally challenged.

Right now, highly trained canines are sniffing out IEDs and other explosive devices in Afghanistan and Iraq, sniffing the streets and buildings in Tennessee after the tragic flooding that surprisingly took so many lives, and in the past few months have done their duty after earthquakes in Haiti and Chile.

In between their times of service, they are just dogs again, our friendly, happy, tail-waving playful canine friends, again doing service to bring a respite to those who serve in battle and in disaster.

I participated in a poetry reading on April 29 entitled “Civil War Voices in Poetry, Story and Song” which was sponsored by the Pittsburgh Poetry Society. Poet Shirley S. Stevens read two poems about “Civil War Heroines”, and I was ready to hear about women who had selflessly provided medical services or who had actually dressed as men and fought on the front lines.

I was surprised and moved, however, when the first poem, entitled “Sallie”, was not about a human.


A pug nosed, brindle bull terrier,
barely five weeks old,
Sallie, named for a West Chester beauty,
grew to recognize the drum roll for reveille.
First out of quarters to attend roll call,
she stationed herself alongside
regimental colors.
Serving at Antietam, Fredericksburg,
and Chancellorsville, she bared her teeth
at Johnny Rebs, led the Union charge at Oak Ridge,
stood guard over dead and wounded infantry.
Even Abe doffed his stovepipe hat to this lady
on dress parade with her men.
Struck by a bullet at Hatcher’s Run,
she was buried on the battle field.
Sallie stand in bronze at Gettysburg,
devoted to the men of the 11th Pennsylvania.

“Sallie” © Shirley S. Stevens

I had no idea. I was moved by all of the poetry read that night, but so moved by this poem that I asked Shirley if I could share it with readers of The Creative Cat.

Shirley herself is a “cat person”, stating that “every poet needs a cat”, and I won’t divulge her e-mail address but I will say that her address contains both “poet” and “cat”.

I didn’t find any internet pages about Sallie, but I did find a book written about Sallie which you could check out of your local public library, Sallie Civil War Dog: War Dog of the Rebellion, by Helene Smith. In addition, I found a pretty comprehensive reading list about dogs who have served in war from the Alabama War Dogs Foundation.

I have also written a post entitled “Heartwarming Tales of Dogs” with lots of links where you can read modern stories about service dogs, and my article “Helping Haiti, People and Animals” also includes links to search and rescue dogs and more stories.


From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

5 thoughts on “The Dogs of War, Specifically One Named Sallie

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  • Enjoyed reading this special appreciation of Sallie’s story. Faithful dogs like Sallie did much to raise the spirits of soldiers during one of the bleakest times in America’s history, and the moral support they provided to the Civil War soldiers is similar to the support our soldiers receive today from their military working dogs and even the strays they sometimes befriend. You can read more about the loyal dogs of the Civil War here: http://www.LoyaltyOfDogs.com/Readframedtributetext.aspx.

    • Thank you for sharing this. I knew dogs had always been with people, even around battlefields, but had no idea they often played a role in the conflict. Sallie fascinated me since she doesn’t seem like the classic war dog breed, like a German shepherd or Rottweiler. And considering the importance of dogs to people back in a more agrarian time, I’m not surprised they accepted her and appreciated her role, as I’m sure hundreds of dogs were appreciated during that conflict.

      I frequently find the stories of today’s dogs and follow Pets for Patriots, which not only tries to help place homeless pets with veterans who express a need for a pet, but they also help to rehome service dogs and transport rescued strays from overseas.

  • Pingback: Sallie, Civil War Dog « Undercover Kitty

  • That is one wonderful poem. And the service dogs are just super. They are so wonderful in all the things that they do.
    Let me ask you something. Is a dog that helps a blind person a service dog or a therapy dog??? I kept a puppy that eventually was trained to be a blind person’s dog but it didn’t make it in the end. It takes a really special dog to do that.
    Of course I am also interested in the therapy cats. Anyway that was a great post. The Therapy and Service dogs are just fabulous.
    Have a great evening


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