Funny how a great book just falls in your lap when you least expect it.
One night after a meeting at church my pastor, Craig Fenske, handed me a book he had just finished. “I think you’ll like this, Naomi,” he said.
On the jacket is a picture of a beautiful dog with an affectionate faraway look in her eyes. Her expression, the title and the subtitle immediately grabbed my attention.
And that is how I came to turn the pages of “Judy – the Unforgettable Story of the Dog Who Went to War and Became a True Hero.” Written by Damien Lewis I read the author’s notes and preface that night. As a result I could hardly wait to begin turning the pages in earnest.
The book belongs to another church friend, Barb Tellmann, who after reading it couldn’t keep it to herself. Barb is a devout dog lover and sincerely believes there are dogs in heaven.
It’s possible, I guess, that “Judy,” a beautiful liver and white English pointer who during WWII, pulled men to safety from the wreckage of a torpedoed ship, went scavenging for food to help feed starving inmates in a hellish Japanese POW camp (she too was starving), and who by her very presence brought hope and inspiration to the humans she loved, is looking down on us as we speak.
Judy was born in Shanghai, China, in an English–run dog kennel in 1936. Being a curious little puppy, she escaped from the kennel and lived for several months on the streets of Shanghai. That was a miracle in itself since the Chinese eat dogs she could have been somebody’s dinner.
Judy was rescued from the streets by a group of British sailors who served on a British war ship that patrolled Chinese rivers. And when they were captured and ended up in a POW camp Judy was with them.
Nations who fought in World War II used dogs for such things as mine detection, carrying dispatches and patrol duty along with being wonderful companions to the soldiers.
In Judy’s case, even amongst physical and mental torture while living in inhumane conditions in more than one POW camp, she inspired her crewmates to stay alive.
She would sneak off and bring food back for them and she found ways to distract the enemy.
Besides so wonderfully telling this true story, Author Damien Lewis includes examples of the unique and extraordinary aspects of canine behavior.
One thing he speaks of is, “intelligent disobedience,” which he described as, “the ability to hear a human’s command or request and to ignore it because the dog knows better.”
Another thing he talks about is a dog’s “sixth sense.” On page 104 of “Judy,” Lewis writes: “Dogs appear to be able to read our minds. They seem to have the gift of anticipating our next move and guessing how we are feeling. In the most extreme cases, they’ve been known to foresee earthquakes, the approach of a violent storm or even the death of a human companion. The most sensitive canine noses – like a pointer’s – can detect human pheromones and so they may be able to smell our moods.” Pheromone is a substance that is externally secreted by certain animals and induces a behavioral or physiological response.
The story of “Judy,” is disturbing, suspenseful, heartwarming and endearing.
I mentioned earlier that my friend, Barb Tellmann, is a dog lover and in visiting with Barb about “Judy,” she told me about Service Dogs for America, an organization in Jud, N.D., that trains dogs for service to assist humans in many ways. (www.servicedogsforamerica.org.)
I called SDA and spoke with Annie Strickland, senior administrative coordinator/client services.
I did not even know there was a place such as this in North Dakota. Annie tells me someone donated 10 acres of land for their campus and it has been in operation since 1989. They have five dog trainers who train dogs to help people with mobility assistance, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorders/Wounded Warrior Program) and medical emergencies.
The dogs they train are of mixed pedigrees like an Irish Wolf Hound mix or Husky mix, but the majority are Labradors. “We like labs because of their temperament and personality,” Annie said. She says about 250 dogs have been trained there since the organization began.
Annie says she’s “with,” Barb, in believing there are dogs in heaven. She also believes Barb is heaven sent. “She’s a longtime friend and donor,” Annie added. “She’s been very good to our organization.”
Oh, the things you learn when someone simply hands you a book.