The ADFTWDA Secretary, a tracker team veteran of Vietnam, read a poem in remembrance of all Military Working Dogs. Written by Connie Chronister, “I Wait By The Gate” is a tribute especially to those dogs who were left behind.
In a strange land I was sent, not knowing my fate;
In a pen I was put and I sat by the gate.
I watched and I wondered what do I do now?
Then I looked up and saw you, as you walked up with a smile.
We trained and we worked and I showed you my best;
You rewarded me and petted me and I did the rest.
Through trails and paths and roads we did go;
And I was to smell, for traps that would blow.
Many times I stopped you from ending your life;
From an enemy trap wire that was set to end your life.
Never have I thought that we would ever part;
Because of the love that we had in our hearts.
Oh, I was proud to walk by your side;
With all of your friends and being your guide.
Then one day you put me back into my pen;
You smiled, you petted me, you said, “Goodbye my friend.”
You looked back one more time,
and I saw the tear in your eye;
And I knew it was the last, and was your way of saying goodbye.
My life, it so changed when you went back home;
And I stayed behind to a fate still unknown.
It’s been over 30 years since I’ve seen your face;
But I never forgot you, my friend and my mate.
So please don’t worry, I’m waiting by Heaven’s gate;
For my best friend, my brother, but mainly my mate.
The tracker dogs who served with the Australian armed forces in Vietnam were not brought back to Australia. They were Caesar, Janus, Juno, Mercian, Mila, Trojan, Cassius, Julian, Justin, Marcus and Tiber. According to an Australian government site, it was because of American military reports of their dogs dying from a disease believed to be transmitted by ticks.
An accidental soldier, Smoky’s wartime action saved lives and time and, in peacetime, she entertained thousands on stage and television. She also worked her magic in hospital and nursing home visits. Those visits showed the value of a dog in recovery and well-being, both physical and psychological, and led to official recognition of therapy dogs.
I hope that Smoky and all the dogs remembered in granite statues and in soldiers’ minds mean that no Military Working Dog will ever again be ‘the soldier left behind’.
From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Aug. 10/12. On Dec. 12, 2012, a statue was unveiled at the Brisbane Hospital in honour of Smoky (photos right and above). The other side of the base reads “Dedicated to all war animals. They also served. Lest we forget.” The story is at Monument Australia with photos by ADFTWDA historian Nigel Allsopp.