Most Famous Military and Police K-9 Dogs
We have no shortage of gratitude for the incredible women and men who serve and protect us every day, but it's important to remember that people aren't the only ones looking out for us.
Police dogs and military working dogs put their lives on the line to conduct dangerous missions, rescue people and much more. These heroic dogs are the toughest and most loyal of the pack, and we can't thank them enough.
Sally — 1800s
Claim to fame: Guarded soldiers wounded in battle
Bottom line: Sallie was one of the first dogs to be officially recognized for her service. Technically, she only served as a regimental mascot for the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War.
The brindle-colored Staffordshire terrier ended up supporting the troops during several campaigns, offering both companionship and a morale boost to war-worn soldiers.
She was separated from the regiment during the Battle of Gettysburg, but was later discovered protecting wounded soldiers. She was later killed during the Battle at Hatcher's Run, inspiring veterans to build a monument at Gettysburg in her honor.
Sergeant Stubby — 1920s
Claim to fame: One of the most decorated military dogs in history
Bottom line: Sergeant Stubby, a Boston terrier, is known for countless acts of bravery during World War I. He accompanied American soldiers in the trenches in France, predicting gas attacks and catching German spies.
Who knows how many lives were saved by Stubby's hard work? In addition to warning them of oncoming attacks, he helped locate the wounded buried in debris.
For all his acts of heroism, he was awarded the title of sergeant and eventually became the official mascot of Georgetown University.
Strongheart — 1920s
Claim to fame: Years of working for the German Red Cross, plus becoming a Hollywood star
Bottom line: Strongheart, originally named Etzel von Oeringen, was a police dog for years in the 1920s. After retirement, he moved to the United States and became one of the first dog movie stars.
He starred in six different movies and was posthumously awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Rin Tin Tin — 1929
Claim to fame: Years of police work, plus starring in dozens of movies
Bottom line: Possibly the most famous German shepherd of all time, Rin Tin Tin, also known as Rinty, was found in an abandoned kennel in Flirey, France. The corporal who found him brought him back to the U.S. and gave him to Leo Wanner, a K-9 unit trainer.
After some time serving as a police dog, he moved with Corporal Duncan to Hollywood, where he starred in 27 films. He even earned the most votes for Best Actor at the first Academy Awards in 1929.
Rin Tin Tin died in 1932, but the name was given to several related German shepherd dogs that appeared on film, radio and television.
Nemo — 1966
Claim to fame: Protecting his handler with his life
Bottom line: A German shepherd who worked alongside American soldiers in the Vietnam war, Nemo is likely the reason his handler made it home in one piece.
Airman Second Class Robert Thorneburg was stationed in Vietnam when Nemo detected approaching danger. They were soon attacked by Viet Cong Guerrillas, and Thorneburg was shot.
Instead of saving himself, Nemo stood guard over Thorneburg until medics arrived. How they both survived is nothing short of a miracle. Nemo was given early retirement for his heroic efforts.
Cloud II — 1974
Claim to fame: Capturing fugitives
Bottom line: Not all famous police dogs are American. Cloud II was a German shepherd from Canada who worked with his handler, Constable Ray Carson, to capture 123 fugitives and locate dozens of lost children.
He didn't just sniff out fugitives, either. He once found a loaded riffle in the hut of two young fugitives and attacked another, forcing him to drop the knife he was wielding.
Cloud II is now part of the Purina Animal Hall of Fame.
Mattie — 1980s
Claim to fame: The first operational accelerant detection dog in the United States
Bottom line: Mattie, a black Lab working for the Connecticut State Police in the 1980s, was one of a kind. She was naturally able to identify certain chemical accelerants, which was exceedingly helpful to solving complicated arson cases.
The Connecticut State Police turned her unique skill into a nationwide program, using Mattie as an example of what canines are really capable of.
Koton — 1989
Claim to fame: Decades of police work, plus becoming a movie star
Bottom line: While Koton the German shepherd is best known for playing a drug-sniffing police dog in the 1989 comedy "K-9," Koton was a real-life police dog, too.
He served on the Kansas City Police force, once discovering $1.2 million worth of cocaine. He was tragically killed in the line of duty when he tried to stop a murder suspect.
Sam — 1998
Claim to fame: Single-handedly catching a terrorist
Bottom line: Sam the German shepherd wasn't the kind of police dog to wait for orders to act. During a terrorist attack in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1998, Sam pinned down a man who had opened fire on local townspeople.
He held the terrorist down until his handler, Sergeant Iain Carnegie, arrived to disarm him. Just a few days later, he fought off an angry mob until reinforcements arrived.
When he returned home, Sam was given the Dickin Medal for his service.
Claim to fame: Search and rescue efforts during 9/11
Bottom line: Apollo, yet another heroic German shepherd, worked with his handler, Peter Davis, during the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center.
He was one of the first dogs on the New York City Police force to be trained for search and rescue work, and he put his skills to excellent use.
He later helped rescue victims of multiple hurricanes and was awarded the Dickin Medal for his efforts.
Lex — 2007
Claim to fame: Trying to save his handler at any cost
Bottom line: Lex, a German shepherd who served as a military working dog in Iraq, was deployed in Fallujah alongside his handler, Cpl. Dustin Lee, in 2007. When the pair were caught in a terrorist attack, both were severely injured by shrapnel.
Lex covered Lee's body with his own in an attempt to protect him. He refused to leave Lee's side even when the medics arrived. Lee didn't make it, but Lex survived.
He still had pieces of shrapnel embedded in his body, however, and was the first American military working dog offered an honorable discharge.
Bretagne — 2001-2008
Claim to fame: The longest living search and rescue dog from 9/11
Bottom line: Bretagne the golden retriever was a search and rescue dog who saved countless lives. She helped rescue people stranded after 2005's devastating Hurricane Rita, but her most important day of service was on Sept. 11, 2001.
She was deployed at the World Trade Center to sniff out civilians and first responders caught in the rubble, and continued working as a search and rescue dog until her retirement in 2008.
Sarbi — 2008
Claim to fame: Surviving a year alone in Afghanistan
Bottom line: The story of Sarbi the black Lab is nothing short of miraculous. Sarbi was a military working dog who served with Australian soldiers in Afghanistan in the mid-2000s. In 2008, her unit was hit by the Taliban. In the chaos that ensued, Sarbi separated from her handler.
Her unit thought she was gone for good, but she was found nearly a year later at a patrol base in Uruzgan. Her handler survived his injuries as well, and the pair were reunited.
Sarbi is the second Australian dog to earn the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ purple cross.
Adak — 2008
Claim to fame: Rescuing victims of a terrorist attack
Bottom line: Adak was a German shepherd who served with the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan for years.
His most heroic moment came on Jan. 14, 2008, during a terrorist attack on a hotel in Kabul.
He helped American soldiers evacuate victims and take down the attackers.
Gabe — 2009
Claim to fame: Serving in Iraq
Bottom line: Gabe, a yellow lab, served as a military working dog on over 210 combat assignments in the heart of Iraq. He helped uncover 26 different collections of explosives as well.
The good-natured Lab also helped boost morale by visiting wounded troops in Army hospitals abroad.
Cairo — 2011
Claim to fame: Helped to bring down Osama Bin Laden
Bottom line: Cairo is one of the most heroic, highly acclaimed military working dogs in American history. The Belgian Malinois was the only canine to participate in operation Neptune Spear in 2011 — the operation responsible for taking down Osama Bin Laden.
Cairo secured the perimeter to prevent enemies from fleeing. He participated in many other missions in the Middle East as well, and consistently demonstrated his exceptional judgment.
When he was scoping out an enemy stronghold, he ran into a baby, but moved on in search of adults rather than attacking. He had never been trained to differentiate between children and adults, leaving the Marines he worked with speechless.
Valdo — 2011
Claim to fame: Saving four American soldiers in Afghanistan
Bottom line: Valdo, a military working dog who served in Afghanistan, is nothing short of a hero. He was working as a bomb-sniffing dog when his unit was hit by rocket-propelled grenades.
Valdo used his body to shield four soldiers from the attack. He was severely wounded in the process, but all four soldiers were saved.
Remarkably, Valdo also survived his injuries and was honorably discharged. His handler was later permitted to adopt him, and he spent the rest of his life living peacefully.
Lucca — 2012
Claim to fame: Saving several Marines in combat
Bottom line: Lucca, a German shepherd-Belgian Malinois mix, partook in two military tours and over 400 missions. Her job was to sniff out explosives, and she was superb at it.
Unfortunately, accidents still happen. She discovered hidden IEDs in 2012, and one of them blew up right in front of her. She took the brunt of the impact, protecting the rest of her unit from harm.
One of her legs had to be amputated, but she was awarded an honorary purple heart by one of the Marines she served with.
Hook — 2013
Claim to fame: Saving a deaf woman from a train
Bottom line: Most heroic dogs are large breeds, but not Hook. The Chihuahua-Jack Russell mix is credited with saving the life of Joyce Herman, a hearing-impaired family therapist. She was crossing the street near a railroad track when Hook pulled her in the other direction.
Herman hadn't noticed an oncoming train, and had Hook not taken action, she would have been hit head-on.
The 10-pound pup went everywhere with Herman at the time, and thank goodness she did.
Sergeant Fieldy — 2014
Claim to fame: Sniffing out explosives in Afghanistan
Bottom line: Sergeant Fieldy, a cheerful black Lab, was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011. She was tasked with finding improvised explosives and uncovered countless dangerous devices during her years of service.
Without her help, many of the devices would have gone undetected, putting the lives of American soldiers at risk.
She retired in 2014, but she is remembered fondly even today.
Kobuk — 2014
Claim to fame: Saving a woman with dementia
Bottom line: German shepherds are the most popular police dog for a reason. Kobuk, a search and rescue German shepherd, was on duty when police were called to help find Ruth Brennan, an elderly woman with both dementia and diabetes.
Brennan had gone two nights without her medication or access to food or water, so time was of the essence. Kobuk found her in a jiffy, leading first responders to her location in the backwoods of Maine.
Chopper — 2014
Claim to fame: Continuing to serve after being struck by an explosive
Bottom line: Chopper, a black Lab who served in Afghanistan in 2013, was charged with the task of detecting IEDs. The escort vehicle she was in was hit by a blast, and Chopper suffered serious head injuries.
While she retired from risky combat missions, she continued to serve as a bomb-detecting dog at JFK International Airport.
Bruno — 2014
Claim to fame: Giving his life to save police officers
Bottom line: Bruno was a heroic German shepherd from Anaheim, California. While serving with his handler, R.J. Young, the police dog chased down a suspect who retaliated by opening fire on the poor dog.
Bruno eventually succumbed to his injuries, but Young is adamant that Bruno's sacrifice saved his own life, and the lives of several other officers on the mission.
Conan — 2015-present
Claim to fame: Aiding in the Syrian Barisha raid
Bottom line: Conan, a Belgian Malinois named after Conan O'Brien, the famous comedian, is part of the 1st SFOD-D special forces unit. A few years back, he served during the Syrian Barisha raid that marked the end of the brutal reign of Abu-Bakr Al Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS.
During the mission, Conan tracked down a terrorist who proceeded to detonate a suicide vest. The heroic military dog was wounded badly, but has since returned to active duty.
Edo — 2016
Claim to fame: Saving the lives of two children
Bottom line: New Year's Day 2016 could have gone much, much differently if Edo, a police dog for the Los Angeles Police Department, hadn't saved the day.
Police were on the heels of two murder suspects who charged into a nearby home. Edo rushed in after gunshots sounded, confronting one of the suspects who proceeded to commit suicide.
The police later discovered that two children in the house had been shot as well, and likely would have been killed had Edo not intervened when he did.
Ruby — 2017
Claim to fame: Saving a lost teenager
Bottom line: When a teenage boy in Gloucester, Rhode Island, mysteriously disappeared, first responders were stumped. After more than a day of searching unsuccessfully, they called in Ruby, an Australian shepherd/border collie mix.
She found the boy with ease. Funnily enough, the boy's mother had actually worked with Ruby previously at the Rhode Island Society for Protection of Animals.
Bella — 2016-2018
Claim to fame: Helping detectives solve a tough case
Bottom line: A black Lab named Bella is credited with using her remarkable nose to find the evidence cops would never have detected. Her specialty is sniffing out accelerants, like gasoline.
When a body was found in a burned-down house, Bella sniffed out gasoline in the master bedroom, confirming arson and an attempted murder coverup.
Due to the overwhelming evidence, the suspect came clean.
Chi Chi — 2016-2018
Claim to fame: Caring for others even when she was a victim herself
Bottom line: Chi Chi, a loving golden retriever, became a therapy dog after escaping unimaginable cruelty. She was discovered in a trash bag in South Korea, with her legs tied together so tightly they were cut down to the bone.
Despite suffering through multiple amputations, she held onto her happy demeanor. After adapting to custom prosthetics and surviving cancer, she became an inspiring therapy dog.
Diva — 2018
Claim to fame: Finding numerous natural disaster victims
Bottom line: Diva, a Belgian Malinois, works for the Los Angeles County Fire Department as a search and rescue dog.
So far, she has saved more lives than one, everywhere from the mudslides of Montecito to the site of a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Mexico City.