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Last month I wrote about Newfies as mascots and just a couple of days after submitting that column I learned of another very special Newfoundland dog who served as a mascot. His story has to be told even though I am incapable of recounting it without tearing up.

The story is of Gander, regimental mascot of the Royal Rifles of Canada who valiantly tried to defend Hong Kong in 1941. Their last stand began on Christmas eve, 1941. In the midst of this horrible slaughter was a big Newf. He desperately tried to stop the Japanese troops, biting at their feet and legs. To this day we don’t know why the Japanese soldiers didn’t shoot him – for some reason they were not fearful of him. Returning to his comrades, Gander found himself in the midst of grenades being tossed and returned. An eye witness described how one smoking grenade landed where no soldier could reach it in time to throw it back, but Gander could and did; he picked it up in his mouth and carried it away from his friends.

When I told Lloyd Nelson of Canadian Newf Rescue that I was going to recount Gander’s story in Breedlines, he asked that I mention why else Gander was special. Yes, you guessed it, Gander was a “rescued and re-homed Newf”. He was called Pal by his original family in Gander, Newfoundland. When the family decided to give him up, he was offered to the soldiers of the Royal Rifles of Canada stationed there; they renamed him Gander and the rest, as they say, is history.

Or is it? Gander never got the medal that he should have and the Hong Kong display at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa does not have a place for him. He only got a paragraph in the official history of the Royal Rifles of Canada plus the newspaper article last Christmas eve. Canadian Newf Rescue feels that Gander is an outstanding example of “rescue Newfs” and would like his place in history more properly promulgated. The museum officials are sitting on the fence about having a special place for this special dog. It is suggested that donations be made to the Canadian War Museum in Gander’s name to encourage the museum to make the decision to immortalize the memory of this Newfoundland dog who gave his all for his human comrades.

No matter what is officially done to remember Gander, every Christmas eve I will take a moment to think of brave men, their brave dog and the love they were able to share amidst the horrors of war.

Peter Maniate has been writing columns for the Newf News, the magazine of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada, since 1979.  In 1996 he started writing a Newfoundland dog column in the Breedlines section of Dogs in Canada magazine on behalf of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada.  When Dogs in Canada ceased publication at the end of 2011 he continued the Breedlines column in the Newf Newfs.

Permission is granted for re-publication of the preceding article or excerpts from it as long as the author is credited and the name of the original publication and date of first publication is included.

Dogs in Canada

June 2000