Shankland the dog

Ralph McLean - Canada

In a followup to previous articles about Robert Shankland V.C. the following email was received recently and gives a new twist ... in that the name was given to honour a pet dog!


I asked about Robert Shankland because he is from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. This is where I am from. In WW1 he along with two other soldiers were living on Pine Street in Winnipeg. These three soldiers all won the Victoria Cross, the highest medal that can be given to a soldier for bravery. At the time Pine Street would have been on the outskirts of the city, and it is believed that none of the soldiers even knew each other. Shankland was the only one to survive the war. After the war someone noticed that these three men had all lived on the same street and soon after the street was renamed Valour Road.

Great leader

I collect medals and militaria and am a student of military history. I am also an animal lover. Around four years ago, my old dog died and I was given a pup just a few months later. The pup had been rejected by his mother and she had tried to kill him and his brother, as the litter was too large for her to handle. Our family went looking for the two missing pups and found them in a barn far from the mother and under a sheet of plywood. I kept the one dog and a friend of the family took the other. Being weaned from the mother so young (about 4 weeks) it was up to me to take care of him. He passed the critical point and soon wouldn't leave my side. No one was allowed near me, and he would stand up to everyone and all the other animals if they got too close. When I was picking a name for him I chose to name him after a Victoria Cross winner. "Shankland" seemed to be the most fitting as he was both a brave dog and soon to be a great leader.

Saved life

He lived up to his name at the ripe old age of six months when he saved the life of my father's dog "Blondie". Blondie had come into the city (my parents live on a farm north of Winnipeg in the town of The Pas) to get an operation on her tail to have a tumor removed. Upon leaving the vet's office, we took Blondie home and she proceeded to pass out on the couch, to sleep off the drugs she received during the operation.

Never leaving her side

Around 3:30 in the morning I was awakened by Shankland, with him jumping up and down on my chest (he is only about ten pounds). I rose immediately to find Shankland waiting at the open door of my bedroom, whining at me to follow him. I ran out of bed and into the living room where Blondie was having trouble breathing. She had swallowed her tongue in her doped up condition and her eyes had already rolled back into her head. I opened her mouth and unplugged her tongue and she soon started breathing again. All the while Shankland was standing by and making sure that she was alright, never leaving her side all night. If Shankland hadn't woken me up to assist her I am sure that Blondie would have died that night. For that action I presented my dog with a Victoria Cross (copy of course, as a real one is not available).

Part of the clan

Now as you can see that is what made me seek out your site, as my boy is a part of your clan. Maybe you would like to add him and this story to your database?


Ralph McLean, March 2000