Sunday marks an important event in canine military history. On July 14, 1918 a small scruffy terrier mix named for his resemblance to a pile of abandoned rags was adopted as the mascot of the US 1st Infantry Division serving in Montmarte Paris during WWI. Rags was found by an American soldier, Private James Donovan, who was serving on the front lines.
Rags quickly charmed the soldiers with his cleverness and bravery. Donovan taught him to salute the flag and perform other amusing tricks, a welcome diversion from the blood shed on the front lines. Rags keen hearing meant that he could hear attacks coming before the soldiers and he would lay flat on his belly which warned the soldiers of the incoming artillery. Most important, Donovan trained Rags to carry messages on his collar and the little dog delivered notes back and forth between the soldiers. In July of 1918 Donovan's infantry was surrounded by Germans and Rags saved the day by sneaking out and delivering a message that resulted in Allied reinforcements coming to rescue the men. Rags heroic rescue led to him being officially made the mascot of the division.
Sadly in October of 1918 Rags and Donovan where both injured in a German attack and suffered from gas poisoning. They were treated in the same hospital in France and Rags made a remarkable full recovery, however Donovan was still very ill. Eventually both Rags and Donovan where sent back to the US to Chicago where Donovan entered a hospital that specialized in treating victims of gas attack and Rags moved into the Fort Sheridan military base. Sadly like many WWI soldiers Donovan could not recover from his injuries and died in 1919. Rags continued to live at the base and was looked after by the many soldiers who knew of his bravery and special relationship with Donovan.
In 1920 Rags was adopted by Major Raymond W. Hardenbergh, his wife, and two daughters who where charmed by the little dog. Rags lived a remarkable additional 14 years before passing away in 1936 at the age of 20. Rags was buried with military honors in Silver Srings, Maryland near Hardenbergh's home and a memorial was erected in his honor.
Proof positive that a small dog can do great big things!