Kell Sarplaninac

A true story about a soldier and the Sarplaninac that saved his life.

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I can never forget what that dog did for me. It was in the

freezing winter of 1988. I was serving in my National Army

Service that year. I was 18 years old and the duty I

pulled that freezing night was to patrol the border between

Macedonia and Albania. The temperature that night was

-30c. My uniform and freeze proof grease didn't seem to

help any at all. I was freezing and badly equipped for my

duty I had no radio, no map, and not even a light. As I

was walking through the woods I became lost, I had totally

lost my sense of direction. I soon noticed someone or

something was following me. I suddenly stopped walking and

loaded my rifle. I was scared and very cold. I kept

looking in the direction the sound was coming from and

pointed my rifle towards whatever it was. All of a sudden

I noticed it was a dog, my first thought was this is a

wolf. So I remained very still just in case it decided to

attack me that way I could shoot it. The animal stood

still just like me. All I could see was its shadow against

the snow and cold moonlit night. I started to make

friendly sounds toward the animal and said to it come on

doggy, come on. It moved slowly towards me and then there

it was. It was a very large Sarplaninac with a full winter

coat. He was wagging his tail happy to see me. I was very

tired and relieved; all I wanted to do was sleep. I gave

the dog a big hug, and felt his nice warm fur against me.

I knew somehow that I needed to find my army base as

quickly as possible, however I was tired, weak and a very

inexperienced soldier. As I walked the dog followed me it

felt good to have a companion by my side. My fear was much

diminished by his presence. As I walked I came up on a

house that had been abandoned. It was in ruins it did not

have any doors or windows on it. I was so tired that I

decided to go in and sleep there. I just couldn't carry

what little equipment I had anymore. I laid on the frozen

floor, and this big dog just laid down beside me, he curled

up very close and I put myself against him. His winter

coat kept me warm. I could feel his bones through his fur

and I knew he had not eaten in a long time, evidently he

had been abandoned by his owners but oh he kept me warm.

His eyes were sad and he never barked when we were together

alone. Soon I fell asleep beside him I don't know for how

long I was sleeping but it must have been hours. All of a

sudden I heard sounds and shouting. It was my patrol!

However I was so weak I couldn't move. I shouted weakly

and the dog began barking. As my patrol came upon me the

dog started growling to protect me from them. I asked if I

could take the dog with me and the answer was No! I asked

if I could give him food, again the answer was No! It was

to be the last I ever saw of that dog, my lonely hungry

friend. I was in the Yugoslav National Service for another

three weeks. I decided then to desert the military and

went to live in the United Kingdom. That dog saved my

life, and I never had the chance to thank him or hug him.

I didn't even get to give him a bone or take him home and

save him as he had saved me. It was my wish that he would

never be alone.


Story by: Frank Samardzija