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Hail our wag-nificent pals on National Dog day

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Hours after insurgents killed 26-year-old British soldier Lance Cpl. Liam Tasker in Afghanistan earlier this year, his military war dog, Theo, collapsed and died of a seizure.

The pair had been inseparable, and unearthed a record-breaking 14 stashes of bombs and weapons together, likely saving countless lives.

And when 20-year-old U.S. Marine Cpl. Dustin Lee was killed in a mortar attack in Iraq in Dec. 2007, his combat partner — a bomb-sniffing war dog named Lex — was so overcome by grief that he had to be removed from the soldier’s side by other servicemembers so that the medics could reach him.

Also, it took the wiles of a super-dog to bring down a super-rat, and when President Obama personally thanked the mighty SEALs who killed Osama bin Laden in a daring May 2 raid, only one of the elite commandos was identified by name — Cairo, the military war dog who led the troopers to the world’s most wanted terrorist.

August 26 is National Dog Day, and a time to remember Theo, Lex, Cairo and all the other dogs without whom the world would be a lot less wag-nificent.

Whether a pet or a service dog, man’s best friend is also a good Samaritan, toiling around the clock to save our lives, keep us safe, and bring us joy and comfort. Even as you read this, a dog somewhere is busy assisting law enforcement, helping blind people “see,” guiding a disabled child to recovery, gently extricating victims of catastrophes from rubble, and preserving our security by sniffing out drugs and improvised explosive devices — or literally going to the depths of the earth for us.

Upstate seniors Eve and Norman Fertig can thank their pet pooch, Shana, for saving their lives.

The Fertigs, both 81 years old, were tending to sick birds on their property in Oct. 2006 when a snowstorm plunged a crisp fall day into a wintery nightmare, trapping the couple in a wilderness of snapping trees. Neither of them was dressed for the sudden turn in the weather, and both were prepared for the worst, when Shana — a half-wolf, half-German shepherd — sprang into action, spending two hours digging a tunnel back to the house about 200 feet away, and another three hours pulling the pair to safety — with Eve tossed across Shana’s back and Norman holding onto his wife’s legs.

Shana received the Citizens for Humane Animal Treatment’s Hero’s Award for her bravery, an award usually reserved for humans.

Courageous canines have deservedly been cherished in bronze for future generations to marvel over, too.

The statue of Balto, by Brooklyn-born sculptor Frederick George Richard Roth, immortalizes the Siberian husky sled dog on a rock outcropping in Central Park, north of the zoo. Balto helped to transport urgent medicine to Alaska when a terrible outbreak of diphtheria struck the city of Nome in 1925, leading mushers through a blinding blizzard across 674 miles of harsh terrain to deliver the life-saving supplies.

National Dog Day is an opportunity to take a moment out to celebrate these skilled, smart and woof-tastic creatures, who have improved our lives and shaped our destinies — while showering us with unconditional love — like no other force of nature.

Sabruzzo@cnglocal.com

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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