The 76th anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising is approaching, which is especially important not only for Warsaw residents, but also for all Poles. It is a memory of the dramatic experiences of people, especially young insurgents who gave their lives fighting for freedom. What is less well-known is the impact of World War II on our animal companions.
It was inevitable that during such dreadful times many animals – whether they were living with families or, for example, in a zoo – died as a result of the conflict. Some perished from gunfire and bombing, others often ended up as food – probably few would be surprised that a hungry person will eat almost anything, especially in times of war. There are some difficult stories about the fate of animals at this time: in restaurants or private homes, some dinners served as “rabbit” stew were in fact using dog meat. Horses often suffered the same fate. Though they were usually viewed as a working or draft animal, often due to starvation many homes boiled and ate horsemeat.
Dog owners, fearing that their pet would end up on plates, tried to be especially careful during walks.
SS men with trained dogs also walked the streets and checked documents. They could rattle a dog, or if someone was walking with their dog, they often shot the animal.
We also hear examples of heroic dogs that saved the lives of soldiers, such as a dog called Szarik from the movie Four Tank-Men and a Dog. The emotions and experiences felt by dogs and other animals closely mirror humans, as they are our constant companions. Dogs, even though they cannot speak and could not understand what was happening during the war, would have known that something was wrong. They would have had a sense of danger and helped man. They would often end up wandering alone, lost or abandoned looking for a home and shelter. They missed their families and looked for love.
American writer Josh Billings once said that a dog is the only creature on earth that loves you more than he loves himself. According to Cesar Millan, “animals in our lives do not come without reason: they teach us how to become a better person.”
The presence of animals has a positive effect on the human mind, but also on the body. Animals, especially dogs, are a graceful subject of literary stories. The most recent example in children’s literature is a puppy named Hector from Hector, A Dog’s Story. He is looking for happiness against the grey reality of the Second World War. It is a story that proves that hope never dies and that happiness awaits everyone.
The story begins during World War II, and the plot breaks the taboo of difficult topics featuring in children’s literature. “I firmly believe that dogs, like humans, have a personality and feelings,’ says Renata Kaminska, the author of the book.
“Dogs process what we say in an incredibly similar way to the human brain,” said NPR Attila Andics, a neuroscientist. Elsewhere, researchers at the University of Portsmouth are the authors of a study of how dogs developed new muscles around their eyes to better communicate with people. At Azabu University in Sagamihara, Japan, researchers observed that when people stare at their dogs, this process generates the “love hormone” oxytocin.
Autographed copies of Hector, A Dog’s Story (with free gifts) can be purchased now at website: hectorandfriends.com