In World War II, when the US war dog program was in its infancy, it depended almost entirely on people donating their dogs to the fight. I can’t imagine what it was like to say good-bye to the family dog – even in a time when dogs had a slightly different status in most homes – but people did it by the thousands.
One such dog was Rip, who was purported to be half Doberman, with what looks to be a strong streak of pit bull in him. Shortly after the publication of my book Soldier Dogs, I heard from Allen Moore, who was a little boy when his life intertwined with Rip’s. He was kind enough to send me some photos and documents about Rip’s life.
I want to share Rip’s story here, because it’s emblematic of the good dogs and loving handlers who helped usher in one of the most successful military dog programs in the world. It also shows the heart that we’ve always had for military dogs, and the fact that adoption of these dogs was going strong way back then – a policy that experienced a brutal turn for handlers and dogs during the Vietnam era.
Allen Moore fondly remembers the wallet of his dad, W.M. Moore, who’d been a dog handler in World War II. “Dad carried a picture of Rip with the garrisons cap in his wallet for many years until it almost fell apart. Not a picture of his wife and kids just HIS DOG. I for one, never felt slighted.”
Rip was just one of the handful of dogs under his father’s care during the war, but he’s the one who came home with him and spent the rest of his life with him. The details of Rip’s life before becoming a soldier dog in June 1943 are few, but he had a family and a house with a white picket fence. The photo below shows a young Rip with his pre-war owner. It must have been hard to give up this young dog as a military recruit.
After training as a handler with the K-9 Corps, W.D. Moore eventually was assigned to Rip V541. Rip had already been to Alaska for part of his soldier dog duties. The two shipped off for the Pacific Islands together. Here’s one life-saving adventure they had together, as told by his son:
“Dad and Rip landed on Leyte Island in early 1945, and were there about a year or less. One night they and another handler and his dog were on point in a wide V shaped zone. Rip began to growl so low that it could only be felt by Dad’s hand on Rip’s chest. After a while, the growl became more intense and more frequent. Dad started paying more attention and began to hear some sounds coming from out in middle of the V where no one was supposed to be. At that time Dad opened fire with his carbine in the direction of the sounds and the troops along the V opened fire with machine guns. The next morning when they investigated, they found some Japanese equipment and blood but no bodies. Rip had alerted to either an attack or infiltrators. He probably saved the platoon.”
His dad understandably thought of Rip as a hero because of the lives and limbs he saved as a scout dog. The military thought the dog was pretty heroic, too. When Rip was released from his duties in 1946, after nearly three years of serving, the military presented him with a certificate of honorable discharge (below).
I’d love to see certificates like this given to retired military working dogs today. But that would entail the military officially seeing dogs as canine members of the armed forces again, and not as equipment, their current designation. (Their status could change if Congress passes the Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act and the president signs it into law. The senate passed it earlier this year.) Obviously the dogs don’t care about a piece of paper with words on it, but it would mean a great deal to most people adopting these dogs, and serve as a constant reminder of their years of hard work on behalf of the nation. (It could occasionally help score these dogs an extra biscuit or two to have one of these hanging on the wall.)
Back in World War II, most dogs were rehomed, either to their original homes, or anyone who wanted to adopt a military dog. As it happened, W.D. Moore was not going to let Rip go to anyone else, and he was able to adopt him and bring him home to live with him and his young family in Colorado. Check out the letter below, which releases Rip to him. (For some reason the letter says the dog is going back home to him, but he’s not the one who donated Rip.)
He went home with W.D. Moore, and settled nicely into family life. At first, neighbors were a little concerned about having a war dog in the neighborhood, but they quickly realized Rip was just a regular dog at heart. “He never bit anyone, he just didn’t like cats,” recalls Allen Moore. But when needed, his inner soldier came through.
Moore remembers the time when a drunk man was stumbling home from a bar a block away after being retrieved by his two children. “His hands and arms were on the kids’ shoulders. Rip must have sensed the kids were in danger, so he went up to the man and put his mouth on the man’s hand an pulled it away. After some cursing and other things, the man tried to put his hand back on the kids’ shoulders and Rip stopped him again. After that the man stood there and called for help, and Dad came out and called Rip in.”
Winters in Colorado were surely a good deal different than his time in the South Pacific. I love the photo below. It looks like Rip is waxing nostalgic about those warm islands.
And here he is in warmer months, “standing watch” at yet another picket fence, this one belonging to his beloved handler’s family.
The years went by, and Rip became as integrated into the family as any human family member. The dog was deeply devoted to his former handler. “He always knew when it was time for Dad to come home,” say Moore. “Rip always waited for him to drive up and open the gate. He’d jump into the car or truck and ride with him for the 50 foot drive into the yard.” What a welcome!
But one day, Rip went missing. “Dad was beside himself, not knowing where and how it could have happened. We couldn’t believe he was kidnapped, but we realized that’s what must have happened,” says Moore. Two weeks after he disappeared, Rip showed up at a relative’s house a few miles away. He was hungry, thirsty, tired, and his foot pads were sore and worn. The relative tried to secure Rip at the house until Moore’s dad could get him after work. But the dog must have realized he was close to home. He escaped, and continued on his journey home. “When Dad got home from work, Rip was waiting for dad as usual.”
Here’s a poignant photo of the heroes getting a little older together in the comfort of their living room.
Time moves forward too fast sometimes, especially where our love of dogs is concerned. Rip was the Moore’s family dog for six years after his service to country. In 1954, he was an old fellow of about 13 or 14, and eventually, as with so many old dogs, the pain of the maladies of old age was just too much. W.D. Moore took out the camera one sad July day and took what he knew would be the final photos of his war pal. It was Rip’s last day, and he wanted to remember him forever. “You can see in the pics the distress on our faces and our swollen eyes,” says Moore.
Here’s a photo of Rip on his last day, with young Allen Moore, who would write me six decades later and send me images of these photos and documents of his father’s (and his) beloved dog.
And a photo that must have been so hard to pose for: W.D. Moore posing with his best friend, his hero, his comrade, his beloved Rip, on what he knew would be Rip’s final day.
RIP, Rip, and a belated thank-you to W.D. Moore, for giving his dog such a good life.
(A tremendous thank-you to Allen Moore, for providing me with these wonderful photos and documents, and for his patience while I found a bit of time to finally put this story together. All images courtesy of Allen Moore.)