Today, therapy animals are well known to the public. They work in hospitals, in nursing homes, and at trauma sites, but the first war therapy dog ever recorded was a Yorkshire Terrier named Smoky. She was found abandoned in an empty foxhole in the New Guinea jungle. The year was 1944 and the soldier that found her was one of the hundreds of thousands of troops that were fighting in WW II.
Weighing in at only 4 pounds and standing just 7 inches tall she was a petite canine. She was first thought to be a Japanese war dog, but she knew no commands in Japanese or in English. Shortly after being found, the soldier sold her to Corporal William A. Wynne for two Australian pounds.
For the next several years she hitched a ride through the jungle in the backpack of Corporal Wynne. While back-packing with him she shared his rations and slept in his tent. She helped lift spirits wherever they went. Later, she served with the 5th Air Force in the South Pacific and participated in 12 rescue missions. She is credited with saving the lives of Wynne and other soldiers. With her acute hearing and instincts she was able to sense danger, warning the soldiers of incoming fire.
Smoky survived 150 air raids in New Guinea, a typhoon in Okinawa, and was fitted with her own specially made parachute. She practiced from a tree, 30 feet up in the air. The magazine Yank Down Under named her “Champion Mascot in the Southwest Pacific Area” in 1944. We understand today that she was so much more than a “mascot”. She even accompanied nurses to greet the newly wounded.
One feat caused Smoky to make national headlines. Engineers were building an airbase near the Lingayen Gulf and they needed to run a telegraph wire through a 70 foot long pipe that was only 8 inches wide. After Corporal Wynne attached the wire to Smoky, she ran through the pipe delivering it to the other side.
Once the war was over, military regulations would have caused all dogs to be euthanized. Corporal Wynne saved Smoky by smuggling her back to the United States in a modified oxygen mask carrying case. Once home she became a celebrity, performing for and charming the crowds. Finally, in 1957 at the age of 14, she died at home with her friend Corporal Wynne beside her.