Richard Stride Commentary: Remembering a Special Dog After Washington K9’s Death

By Richard Stride

On the news recently, I listened to a story about a Seattle police dog who was fatally stabbed by a robbery suspect. An on-site officer was also injured. If you’re a dog lover like me, and you too have heard the story, you were no doubt moved and saddened by the murder of this brave police dog.

This very sad story made me think of another story of a brave dog that I know. Prepare to get your Kleenex, because it’s a tear.

My wife and I visited Gettysburg several years ago. I had dreamed of visiting this sacred battlefield for a while. 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 unity at Gettysburg. Climbing the hill where my grandfather walked over 150 years ago was a unique spiritual experience that will forever be etched in my heart and memory.

But another monument caught my eye as I walked through these hallowed grounds. The monument stands proudly on Doubleday Avenue. The monument commemorates the sacrifice of the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry. There are 1,328 monuments located in Gettysburg. For me, stumbling upon this monument was unlikely, but I did. What makes this monument special is what is in front of the Union soldier at the top of 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. It 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 who meant a lot to them: a young woman, Sallie Ann, and their first commander, Colonel Phaon Jarret.

Sallie became very close to the soldiers in the unit, and they saw her. She walked alongside the soldiers as they trained. Sallie even accompanied the color guard for costume parades (twice in front of President Abraham Lincoln.)

The loyal and courageous Sallie did not shy away. She was always on the front line, barking fiercely 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 day in July 1863 in Pennsylvania that Sallie disappeared. Her fellow soldiers were wild with worry, thinking she might have been killed. They searched for days in panic, 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. There she was, lying next to the wounded and dead soldiers she had come to love. When everyone returned to their camps after the horrific first day of this pivotal battle, Sallie remained.

Picture the scene if you will, Sallie lying with her head on her front legs, just like she is depicted on the monument. Little Sallie couldn’t do anything but be there – somehow she knew they needed her. Sallie remained there for days, without food or water, guarding her loved ones, until the injured were treated and the deceased were taken away for burial.

Sallie would later be injured in the neck during the Battle of Spotsylvania. She was treated, but the bullet that penetrated her neck could not be removed. She survived.

In early February 1865, during a battle at Hatchers Run in Virginia, she was again wounded. This time, however, the wound was fatal. It is unclear if she was specifically targeted by a Confederate soldier or not, or if she was hit by one of the many shots fired at Union soldiers that day. The men she loved were devastated to see little Sallie shot. Despite heavy fire, her comrades in arms went to her side as she lay on the battlefield. Soldiers who had come to love and admire Sallie for her bravery, camaraderie and loyalty, laid down their arms, as bullets whistled all around them. They took Sallie’s lifeless body in their arms and gently laid her on the battlefield where she had been killed minutes earlier. Honor 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 has proudly charged to the front lines, battle after battle after battle. The one lying at the foot of the monument always watches over those she loved.

It has been said that dogs only know how to love one way – unconditionally. That can certainly be said of Sallie.

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Richard Stride is the current CEO of Cascade Community Healthcare. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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