World War Two saw not only men and women, but many animals including pigeons, horses and dogs, valiantly contribute to the war effort. However, Smoky the Yorkshire Terrier’s significant contribution as one of the very first therapy dogs has made her one of the hailing heroes of the Second World War.
Weighing only four pounds and standing at just seven inches tall, this Yorkshire Terrier backpacked her way through the jungle terrain of New Guinea with the American soldier who found her.
Smoky’s very first assignment involved her helping to string communication lines. This three-day mission saw Smoky digging herself through culverts in order to lay telephone wires beneath an airstrip highly targeted by the Japanese. Smoky’s efforts saved the lives of over 250 men and over 40 planes.
Smoky’s newly established owner, Bill Wynne, then began teaching her to perform tricks, including more complex tricks such as ‘playing dead’ , walking a tightrope and even riding a handmade scooter. Unbeknownst to her owner, these tricks would mark the first step in her therapy career.
When Wynne, developed jungle fever, the hospital’s commanding officer, Dr. Charles Mayo, gave the green light for Smoky to lie on Wynne’s bed and even accompany the nurses on their rounds.
This immediately had a remedial effect on the other sick and injured soldiers, as her presence raised their morale, lightened the mood and kept spirits high. Her healing effect was instantly recognisable and she became one of the very first therapy dogs, a method which is now commonly used to treat people today.
Word began to spread about Smoky’s healing powers and whilst her and Wynne were on convalescence in Australia, hospitals invited them to visit, with Smoky performing tricks and spending time with the wounded.
Although Smoky’s contribution as a therapy dog was historic, Wynne had set his sights even higher for Smoky in regards to the tricks she could perform. He created an extreme stunt which involved the dog parachuting through the sky in order to get the attention of those judging the ‘Best Mascot of the Southwest Pacific Area’ award. This dramatic stunt didn’t go unnoticed as Smoky won first prize in this contest, beating over 400 other contestants.
In total, Smoky served as a therapy dog for twelve years, both during and after WWII. Her efforts during the war also aided in informing others about the healing nature of dogs and by 1947, over 700 dogs had been donated by civilians.
Wynne and Smoky then branched out after the war, performing tricks for not only troops back in the US, but for civilians too. They even visited Hollywood whilst travelling the U.S. and performed on local television programmes.
Smoky also receives recognition for causing a renewal in the interest of the Yorkshire Terrier breed, which before Smoky’s celebrity and heroic status, was quite unknown.
Smoky died peacefully in her sleep in 1957, two years after her retirement, and is now known by many around the globe. Her heroic efforts are commemorated by a statue in Cleveland, Ohio, providing a long-lasting memory of the extreme impact she had on not only the soldiers of WWII, but the war effort as a whole.
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