“A man said to the universe,
‘Sir, I exist!’
‘Excellent,’ replied the universe, ‘I’ve been looking for someone to take care of my cats.”
― Henry N. Beard, Poetry for Cats: The Definitive Anthology of Distinguished Feline Verse
Lolo, which means crazy in Hawaiian, was a black, gray, and white banded, pumpkin-headed tom when I first met him in the late 1980s. Despite his advanced age, Lolo still prowled the spaces between the apartments with a regal air of ownership. Lolo was the last holdover from a time when families and pets were welcome on Johnston Atoll. The last dog had died some years before. Lolo was crotchety and fiercely independent except when an island resident needed an uplifting spirit to sit and talk to. No one knew how many tears he felt on his fur, screams of agony or anger he listened to, or how many secrets he carried. Lolo never talked.
Jack Livingston, an even older island resident, was Lolo’s caregiver. Jack told tales of the days of nuclear rockets, knew how all the old cabling trenches had been used, and managed the island’s real property on 3X5 index cards. He was a holdover from Operation Fishbowl. While Jack could locate a propeller manufactured in 1942 is some remote corner of a warehouse, Lolo kept many from going ‘rock happy’ (a type of claustrophobia that develops as a result of being confined to an island). He consoled those who had lost wives and husbands through divorce and kept more than one person from slipping off the wagon and back into the bottle. When the tears came, Lolo was there. He was adored. Board Certified, chemically trained, medical doctors tended his every ailment and his favorite fish, caught fresh, was delivered daily.
Animals were used extensively during the Cold War (1947-1991) as they have been throughout the history of war. As in wars past, animals were tools in a toolkit during this war; biological programs for intelligence gathering, delivery systems for weapons, personal protective devices, and remote sensing platforms. People can readily summon to mind memories and tales of valiant dogs of war; but dogs are just the tip of an iceberg. Pigeons were used extensively in WWII but the celebrity pigeon during the Cold War was Leaping Lena. She carried a message from behind the Iron Curtain to Radio Free Europe in the mid- 1950s.  Dogs, cats, gerbils, and rats along with dolphins, orcas, and other marine animals all gave their bodies and behaviors to the Cold War technology, strategy, and missions.
The lesser known animal heroes of the Cold War are the companion animals that helped the warriors make it through the long days and nights. In southern Nevada, at the test site, pets were made of ring tailed cats in the tunnels at Rainier Mesa. In the abandoned facilities and spaces tucked into the cracks atop the mesas, empty tins of dog and cat food along with 1950’s pin-up calendars featuring Lana turner and others along with abandoned log pages created an illusion that the inhabitant was out for a walk. Only the layers of dust and grime spoke to the length of the abandonment. On the Tonopah Test Range, horses continue to gather where, in the past, they had been fed; hoping that one day the food will appear again. In the Pacific an old dog kept workers company on Bikini Atoll. Mice were tamed and teased with a rubber band tacked to the floor and encased with a Kraft caramel on the Central Arizona Project during the midnight shift. Everywhere I traveled, from Ghana and Australia to Chile and Guam, workers kept animals that were free to come and go. The animals chose to stay on more or less equal footing; a symbiotic relationship.
The annals of history are replete with similar stories hidden behind commas and semicolons. These animals and their humans deserve more than that. They leaned on each other and gave each other the gift of dignity.
One day, after losing a diver in the Johnston Atoll lagoon, I sat in my apartment shaken at the speed with which an aortic aneurism took a vibrant soul. Lolo showed up at my door for the first and only time during my tenure. Upon entry he jumped on the arm of the chair and purred. I sat on the chair lost in thought and stroking his fur. He was just there. The pain of the loss faded to other questions of responsibility as the hours passed and Lolo left. I don’t know why he came that day but I do know he helped me see.
To all the Cold War critters who helped the warriors welcome yet another sunrise, I salute you. Thank you for your service.
 Cold War Radios; http://coldwarradios.blogspot.com/2011/01/pigeon-power-lena.html