On the news yesterday, I listened to a story about a Seattle police dog who was fatally stabbed by a robbery suspect. An officer on scene was also injured. If you are a dog lover like me, and you too heard the story, you were no doubt moved and saddened by the killing of this brave police dog.
This very sad story got me thinking of another story of a brave dog I know of. Get ready to get your Kleenex, because it’s a tearjerker.
My wife and I visited Gettysburg several years back. It had been a dream of mine to visit this sacred battle ground for some time. I had an ancestor, John T. Stride, who fought for the Union in that battle at Culp’s Hill. I was very excited to visit the monument that commemorated my great-grandfather’s unit at Gettysburg. To walk up the hill where my grandfather had trod over 150 years ago was a unique spiritual experience that will be forever etched in my heart and memory.
But another monument caught my eye as I was walking those sacred grounds. The monument stands proudly on Doubleday Avenue. The monument commemorates the sacrifice of the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry. There are 1,328 monuments located at Gettysburg. For me to come across this monument was unlikely, but I did. What makes this monument special is what’s lying in front of the Union soldier atop the monument. On the front of the monument is a dog. Not just any dog, but a very special dog.
Through research, I discovered the dog’s name — Sallie Ann Jarrett. She was an American Staffordshire terrier. She was given to Captain William R. Terry by a resident of West Chester, Pennsylvania, when the unit was conducting training exercises at Camp Wayne. The soldiers named their new mascot after two people that meant a lot to them: a young lady, Sallie Ann, and their original commanding officer, Col. Phaon Jarret.
Sallie grew very close to the soldiers of the unit, and they her. She would march right alongside the soldiers as they drilled. Sallie even accompanied the color guard for dress parades (twice in front of President Abraham Lincoln).
Loyal, brave Sallie did not shirk. She was always on the front lines, barking ferociously at the enemy rebels on the other side as muskets fired and cannons roared. She fought at Second Bull Run, Antietam, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness and, of course, Gettysburg.
It was on a hot Pennsylvania day in July of 1863 that Sallie was missing. Her fellow soldiers were frantic with worry, thinking she may have been killed. They searched for days, panic stricken, but without success. They were about to give up, when suddenly she was spotted. Little Sallie was at Oak Ridge where the 11th Pennsylvania had fought on the first day of the battle. She was there, laying beside the wounded and deceased soldiers she had come to love. When everyone had gone back to their camps after the horrific first day of this pivotal battle, Sallie stayed.
Picture the scene if you will, Sallie lying with her head on her front paws, just like she’s portrayed on the monument. Nothing little Sallie could do but just be there — somehow, she knew they needed her. Sallie stayed there for days, without food or water, guarding her loved ones, until the wounded were cared for and the departed were taken for burial.
Sallie would later be wounded in the neck at the battle of Spotsylvania. She was treated, but the bullet that penetrated her neck could not be removed. She survived.
In early February of 1865 during a battle at Hatchers Run in Virginia, she was again wounded. This time, however, the wound was fatal. It is not known whether she was specifically targeted by a Confederate soldier or not, or whether she was hit by one of the many shots fired at the Union soldiers that day. The men, who she loved, were devastated to see little Sallie shot. Despite taking heavy fire, her fellow soldiers went to her side as she lay on the battlefield. The soldiers who had come to love and admire Sallie for her bravery, her companionship, and her loyalty, put aside their arms, as bullets, whizzed all around them. They took Sallie’s lifeless body in their arms and gently laid her to rest on the battlefield where she was killed just minutes earlier. Honoring one of their own. One of their own who fought bravely in every battle. One of their own who couldn’t bear to leave the side of her fallen comrades at the battle of Oak Ridge. One of their own who charged proudly on the front lines in battle after battle after battle. One who lies at the foot of the monument still watching out for those who she loved.
It has been said that dogs only know how to love one way — unconditionally. This can surely be said of Sallie.
Richard Stride is the current CEO of Cascade Community Healthcare. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.