The Bugler

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The Dickin Medal: For Gallantry, We Also Serve

Able Seacat Simon, of HMS Amethyst. Public domain.

As I pondered what topic would be fun for the Bugler on a cold rainy day in January, I decided I needed to ponder life by watching the football playoffs, only to be thwarted by our family cat, Copper, who was sprawled out asleep in my "spot" on the sofa. I had just read an article on the differences between the current administration and the most recent one and discovered that the Trumps have no pets. Hopefully someone will rectify this as soon as Barron moves into the White House. My household has had almost every pet imaginable over the years, including a loyal chocolate lab, a Sarplaniac (also known as a Yugoslavian sheep dog) which was the most well-known dog in our community, and two great cats, Checkers and Copper. Checkers was fondly known by all our family members as "the greatest cat ever!" and would have been a great mouser on any vessel.

The first cat to ever live in the White House belonged to the Lincoln family and over the years there has been a long tradition of animals as first pets. The wonderful cat in the picture above is actually the most decorated cat in Britain. He is the only cat to receive the prestigious Dickin Medal, which is the highest award that the UK bestows on animals. Cats have been loyal companions as well as hard workers on ships for thousands of years as they protected the food, the ropes and the sailors from many vermin which carried illness. But Simon's efforts during World War II made him a national hero. According to Priceonomics.com, the Dickin Medal is "an award to acknowledge animals' conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty while serving [in war]."

The Dickin Medal was the brainchild of Maria Dickin, who developed a plan to care for cast off dogs and cats in London. She founded the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), and by the 1940s it had become one of Britain's largest animal care facilities. She came up with the idea to award animals, mainly pigeons, dogs and horses, working in the war effort.

To date only 67 animals have been awarded the Dickin Medal and last April a dog named Lucca became the first U.S. Marine Corps animal to win the award. According to the PDSA and MNN.com, "Lucca completed 400 missions in her six years with the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan. The search and rescue dog was at the front of patrols with her handler and is credited with protecting thousands of troops. On her last patrol in March 2012, an IED exploded, resulting in the loss of one of her legs."

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