Polk County

Seaman Glen Hopkins


Getting Around with Ted Ashby

SEAMAN GLEN HOPKINS, 18, of the U. S. coast guard and 1184 Eleventh, can look deep into the eyes of a dog and know its disposition. If the animal doesn’t show potential viciousness, Seaman Hopkins isn’t interested. It is his business to make a mean snarling, ripping, tearing beast of the dog. He’s a member of the coast guard sentry dog patrol, and is home on leave from Pensacola, Fla.

THE DOGS ARE SUPPLIED by civilians, who lend them for the duration of the war. Generally speaking, Dobermanns (sic), German shepherds and various types of collies are best, though a number of cross-breeds have made the grade. Your coast guard sentry patrol dog arrives at that training camp in Nebraska, gets shots for rabies and other animal diseases, gets a serial number tattooed on its right flank. Then its tests and training begin. “First tests,” Seaman Hopkins said, “which include those for alertness and gun-shyness.”

IF THE DOG IS AFRAID of gunfire, it is useless. To test it for alertness, its trainer might be walking casually along with the beast at his side. A flag might be waved from a distant hill. The dog should catch the soundless movement. Its reaction to a noise in the brush behind it is another alertness test. The dog’s basic training starts with simple commands like “sit” or “lie down.” It is taught to crawl on its stomach, said Hopkins. These commands are accomplished by hand signals. The dog eventually learns to obey just the signal.

”IT TAKES ABOUT A WEEK to make a dog mean,” Hopkins explained. The last dog Hopkins had was a farm collie. It wasn’t mean enough and had to be sent home. You give it that surly disposition by hitting it. The man who does that wears a heavy quilted coat that comes to the knees. It has a high collar, which turns up around the throat. The man wears ordinary leather gloves. He may pull his cap well down toward his eyes. His lower legs and feet are unprotected. The dog doesn’t go for the lower legs or feet, Seaman Hopkins said.

THE SENTRY PATROL DOG is trained to leap for the right arm – the gun arm.

”In teaching it to attack,” the seaman resumed, “you make the movements toward it with the right arm. The reason the dog doesn’t go for your feet is that it attacks the movement. If it sinks its teeth into the gun arm, it either will make use of the gun impossible or shake The piece loose from the grasp.” Some of the dogs aren’t in any hurry to let go when given the command. They are apt to hang on several moments.

To prevent the dogs from fighting each other, they are kept to themselves. Each has its apartment in a long house, and each has a fenced yard in which to think things over. Occasionally, of course, something happens that gives a couple of them a chance to get at each other. And, brother, there’s a fight! To discourage a couple of them that have decided to have it out, once and for all, trainers grab them close to the collar and walk them around with their noses together. That works most of the time.

THE WAR DOG gets four pounds of raw meat (usually horse) and meal mixed. Sometimes it’s cooked. Sometimes it isn’t. The feeding is at 10 a.m. daily. The dogs get to drink whenever they choose from pans of water. They sleep inside their kennel or out, depending on their own viewpoint. They keep the name they had in civilian life. Seaman Hopkins loves animals, but never had a dog. “I think it’s fair to the dog to try to keep it in a residential district,” he put it.

ASHBY SAID he wondered whether the war dogs wouldn’t be inclined to make a Pearl Harbor lunge at a trainer who had made it vicious. Seaman Hopkins said no, that the dog wouldn’t attack its trainer unexpectedly, but would really administer the business to anyone else. The coast guard man on sentry patrol walks with his dog on a leash. The leash goes around the patrolman’s right shoulder and diagonally across his body. It is fastened under the dog’s collar with a trigger attachment. To release the animal for the attack, the guardsman simply pulls the trigger.

Source: Des Moines Evening Tribune, Des Moines Iowa, December 14, 1943