A Few Famous Dogs Who Deserve to be Remembered
Dogs have shared our lives for thousands of years, so it’s only normal that they are included in our history.
Let’s take a look at several dogs who deserve to be remembered.
Balto Leads the Final Run to Nome
Balto, a black and white husky, was born in 1919 and was a working sled dog in Alaska. In 1925, doctors warned of a diptheria epidemic in Nome, Alaska, but the only plane available to get the serum to Nome was frozen in the cold weather. Officials then decided to use multiple teams of sled dogs to get the serum north. More than 20 mushers and their dogs ran through a blizzard with snow and strong winds, and temperatures lower than 23 degrees below zero.
Gunnar Kaasen, a Norwegian, and his team led by Balto ran the next to last leg of the run, and Balto showed his worth by leading the team through near white out blizzard conditions and almost entirely in the dark. In addition, when Kaasen’s team made it to the final stop prior to the run into Nome, he found the last musher asleep. He had Balto start up the team again and they made the last leg into Nome with the needed serum.
Afterwards, the public made Balto a hero. However, there were many heroes in that run. Leonhard Seppala and his team, led by Togo, came from Nome and picked up the serum from another musher. Many historians say that Togo led his team over the longest and most hazardous part of the trail, although they didn’t get as much recognition afterwards. In truth, although Balto got most of the recognition, all of the dogs and mushers who made that run deserved credit for their herculean efforts.
Balto died in 1933 at the age of 14. A statue of him can be found in Central Park in New York City.
Many Soldiers Owed Their Lives to Sergeant Stubby
Stubby was born in 1916 or 1917 and was of uncertain heritage and breed, although later some called him a Boston Terrier. He hung around Yale University where the members of the 102nd Infantry Battalion were training and he was befriended by Robert Conroy. Conroy, not wanting to leave his canine buddy behind, snuck Stubby aboard the troop’s ship to Europe. The small dog served with his troops in France for 18 months beginning in February 1918. He alerted his men to attacks of mustard gas, located wounded soldiers, and warned of incoming artillery shells. He was wounded several times and was gassed in a poison gas attack. Each time he was transported behind the lines for treatment and, after recovering, was transported back to his troops. He was given full credit for the capture of a German spy.
To get back home, he was again smuggled by Conroy aboard the troop ship. Thankfully both had survived combat.
Once home, Sergeant Stubby was honored in several parades and met Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge and Warren Harding. His perseverance, dedication and heroism made him a public hero.
Stubby died in 1926. His skin, mounted on a plaster cast, is in the Smithsonian Museum.
There Were 12 Dogs on the Titanic
The ill-fated Titanic had a kennel on an upper deck where most of the passengers’ dogs resided. A kennel man fed the dogs, cleaned up after them and saw to their welfare. The Titanic’s captain, Captain Smith, brought aboard his Russian Wolfhound, Ben. However, Ben was one of the lucky ones; he was taken ashore at the Titanic’s first stop prior to heading across the Atlantic.
According to news reports, many of the passengers visited their dogs daily, including Ann Elizabeth Isham, who visited her Great Dane, whose name isn’t recorded. When the Titanic began sinking on April 15, 1912 and life boats were lowered, Isham found a place in one of the lifeboats. However, when told her Great Dane could not accompany her, she got out of the lifeboat. Her body and that of her dog were found three days later, still together.
The three dogs who survived the ship’s sinking were all tiny dogs; two Pomeranians and one Pekingese were smuggled aboard the life boats under coats or blankets.
Laika: From Street Dog to Space Dog
Laika was a stray dog of unknown heritage (she appeared much like today’s Rat Terriers or Jack Russell Terriers), found on the streets of Moscow. When she was estimated to be about three years old, she was selected by the Soviet space program to be the occupant of Sputnik 2 to determine whether a living mammal could survive space flight. Some still believed that animals (including humans) would be unable to survive the launch of the space craft or the actual flight, which in this case would be orbits around earth.
Although Laika was destined to be launched into space, there was no way to bring the spacecraft back to earth, so it was assumed that Laika would at some point die. A few hours after the launch, she died due to overheating. The cause of her death wasn’t made public for 45 years. After the flight, it was widely reported that she died on day six of the flight due to a lack of oxygen or that she was euthanized prior to the oxygen running out. However, in 2002, the report was released to the public that she died much sooner than reported and to a different cause.
In 2008, a statue of Laika was built near the military facility where she was readied for space flight.
This small terrier’s sacrifice caught the public’s attention. She is alluded to in many science fiction stories and is even the focal point of some. Take a look at “Laika’s Ghost” by Karl Schroeder and “Lie, Laika, Lie” by Janet Sarbanes. It’s an unwritten rule among those who favor science fiction that Laika’s name and memory will not be abused.