A piece of artifice, a symbol of defiance against mortality, yet subject to the same laws of nature as the warm and fluttering little sparrow.
In the end, it is not in the lofty ivory tower that we find our salvation, but in the dark depth of the earth, the sea, and space itself, where nameless things strike fear in hearts brittle of hubris.
I’ve been researching the history of dogs in warfare (from an ideological perspective) recently. Stories about animals at war continue to be popular because the faithfulness of a dog can be used as a moral example in wartime but also evoke sentimental memories and desires in peacetime. Here are some photos from the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army in WW2, found on this forum.
I found the pictures while searching for information about the fighter ace Evgeniy Mariinskiy, top picture, right. But his dogfights paled in comparison with the accomplishments of the big-eared puppy in front of his comrade Mikhail Lusto. This puppy was named Dzhulbars (which sounds like a Tatar name - ‘bars’ means leopard) and grew up to be a mine detection dog. He worked all over the eastern front in the last stages of the war and found more than seven thousand mines. He participated in the victory parade on the Red Square, and there is a legend of him being carried in Stalin’s own coat, because he was injured at the time. (see also Stalin and the Dog, a recent poem) After the war, he even starred in a film, a Soviet version of Jack London’s “White Fang”.
The second picture shows another Soviet dog of war, Dina. It was a well-known practise at the time to load dogs with explosives and send them under enemy tanks to a certain death. According to the legend of Dina, the dog trainers discovered that if the packages detached, the dogs were able to carry them to the destination and return unharmed. They were fitted with special harnesses.
"The archives have preserved a short report relating to the bombing of a Nazi train in Belarus on Aug. 19, 1943. Ten carriages were destroyed and a large part of the railway line was put out of service. The report has a small postscript: ‘There were no losses on our side.’" Dina had done her duty. (source)
Dina’s trainer was lieutenant Dina Solomonovna Volkats, responsible for the programme that enabled the dog to survive this dangerous and often cruel operation. Volkats’ work was highly unusual. She personally selected Dzhulbars for training despite his ragged looks - “by his eyes”, she explained. She married the commander of 37th mine clearing battalion major Alexander Mazover, who had the honour of carrying Dzhulbars in the victory parade, and was therefore absolved from the duty of saluting the commander-in-chief.