Bunkō: The Firefighting Dog

Bunkō was famous and well loved throughout Japan as The Firefighting Dog in the early 1900s.

In 1914, a crying puppy was found in burnt-down ruins in Otaru, Japan by a firefighter. No one claimed the puppy so the firefighters kept him and named him Bunkō. The mixed-breed dog was loved by the firefighters and the people of Otaru.

Bunkō was an intelligent dog who proudly walked around the station wearing a firefighter's hat. He soon began copying the firefighters (standing to attention and saluting when commanded) and helping the men when fires occurred. When the alarm sounded, he would howl to alert the men and ride along with them on the side-step of the fire truck - without falling off on his more than 1000 runs. When they arrived at the scene of the fire, he would grab the nozzle of the hose with his mouth to give to the firefighter,
and if the hose was to become tangled during the process of fighting the fire, he would untangle it. He would also stop onlookers from getting close to the fire by barking at them. He became known as "the firefighting dog" and his story was told in newspapers and magazines throughout Japan.

Bunkō lived a long life, and as he aged and his legs became weak, the determined and dedicated dog would try his hardest to board the fire truck when the fire alarm went off. He passed away in February 1938, at the age of 24. His body was preserved and displayed at the fire services main headquarters for a while before being moved to a museum, and a bronze statue of him was made to honor his services.


Chernobyl Disaster and the Dogs Left Behind

A few days ago was the 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine - the worst nuclear disaster in history. Unfortunately, many dogs had to be left behind.

Worker with two dogs a few weeks after the Chernobyl disaster.

On April 26, 1986 the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded, releasing 400 times more radioactive material into the Earth's atmosphere than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima during WWII. Tens of thousands of people were forced to leave Chernobyl and surrounding areas, and many had to leave their pets (mostly dogs) behind, having been told they could return to their homes within a few days. Not only were they not allowed to return to their homes, workers known as "liquidators" shot as many dogs as they could to prevent the spread of radiation contamination.

The dogs that managed to avoid being shot lived short lives due to radiation, lack of food, harsh winters and attacks from wild animals. However, they managed to produce offspring that continue today.

Workers responsible for the upkeep of the no longer operational power plant have gone to great lengths to care for the dogs by giving them food and building them huts to stay warm. They play with the friendly ones and bury those who die. Some of the dogs are even given names. According to one guard, "They give us joy. For me personally, this is a kind of symbol of the continuation of life in this radioactive, post-apocalyptic world."

In 2016, Clean Futures Fund and several of their partners stepped in to offer assistance to the dogs living in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl. They provide food, medical care, vaccines and sterilizations.

In 2018, some puppies with low levels of radiation were allowed to be adopted into homes.

In 2019, HBO released a five-part series about Chernobyl, causing a huge outpouring of help and support for the dogs.


Caesar: King Edward VII's Close Companion

Despite his questionable manners, Caesar was King Edward VII's loyal and inseparable companion during the last years of the King's life.

King Edward VII, Caesar and Queen Alexandra

Caesar, a high-strung wire fox terrier, was born in the kennels of the Duchess of Newcastle in 1898 and was given to King Edward VII in 1902 by Lord Dudley after the King lost his dog Jack. The two bonded quickly. Caesar, who had his own footman to tend to his needs, slept on a chair next to the King's bed, was almost always at his master's side, and wore a collar with a gold tag bearing the inscription "I am Caesar. I belong to the King."

Despite his loyalty, the feisty terrier enjoyed chasing small critters. On one occasion, an entire police force was sent into the woods to find the lost dog. When misbehaved, the King would shake his walking stick at Caesar and call him a "naughty dog." But this wasn't always the case. According to Charles Hardinge, 1st Baron Hardinge of Penshurst, "Whenever I went into the King's cabin [on board the royal yacht], this dog always went for my trousers and worried them, much to the King's delight. I used not to take the slightest notice and went on talking all the time to the King, which I think amused His Majesty still more."

Funeral procession

When King Edward VII died in 1910, Caesar, accompanied by a kilted highlander, walked behind the carriage that carried his master's coffin - in front of international dignitaries. This did not please some, including Kaiser Wilhelm II of the German Empire.

"Silent Sorrow"
A painting by Maud Earl in 1910 capturing Caesar's grief, resting his head on the King's favorite chair.

Caesar, who mourned his master's death, remained in the Royal household with Queen Alexandra. Shortly after the King's death, an unofficial book titled Where's Master was written from the viewpoint of Caesar.

Caesar passed away in 1914.

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