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If you have children, nieces or nephews, or are in any way around children, you probably have seen this common school project in action: A kid is assigned some famous history figure, learns about them, dresses up like them, and presents a little report to the class about this person’s life. It’s a project that I had to do when I was a kid, years ago (my report was on Susan B. Anthony, if you were wondering). Sometimes when I think about all those famous people in the history books, I can’t help but wonder what kind of dog they had. And that gets me thinking – why don’t we have dogs in the history books?
Last update on 2018-11-17 at 19:15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
After all, dogs have been a huge part of our country’s history. From serving in wars alongside soldiers, to helping white settlers conquer the Wild West, dogs have been part of every part of our growth. So why don’t we have a whole section of history books devoted to these marvelous creatures? Here are the 11 dogs I would include in the books. If you’ve been following along with my pit bull series on the blog lately, pay attention! Several of these dogs are pit bulls.
Most of the dogs that were part of the military during the Vietnam War did not return home. Whether they were killed in action, or they were just not deemed healthy enough to return due to fear of spreading illness, there are many dogs in Vietnam today that have ancestors from America. However, Nemo was the exception. This dog was part of the Airforce, and he served throughout the entire Vietnam War. His story is pretty incredible.
One night, his handler was attacked by shooters, and was shot in the shoulder. Nemo himself was shot in the face. The bullet entered his face just under one of his eyes, and went out through his mouth, injuring some of the most sensitive parts of a dog. Instead of hiding or giving into the pain, Nemo ran after the attackers. This gave his handler time to call in for backup and that is what saved the day.
After the incident, Nemo was flown home so he could get medical treatment, and lived out the rest of his days helping train other Airforce dogs safely in the States. That’s one dog that deserved a big bucket of treats and plenty of attention!
The name Lassie may be the most famous dog name in the country for people of a certain age. Everyone grew up loving this heroic dog, even if she was a fictional dog. However, when the book about Lassie became a movie, it did take a very smart dog to pull off all the great things that fictional Lassie did. This was a dog named Pal – a boy, actually, who portrayed the fearless Lassie perfectly.
In 1925, diphtheria was ravaging the population of Alaska, and the horrible weather was making it impossible for antitoxin to be delivered to save lives. Dog sled teams were used to transport the medicine part of the way, but every time, they would get waylaid by weather. In January of that year, a dog named Balto led his dog team on the extra-dangerous, extra-long final leg that delivered life-saving medicine to people in Nome.
Balto had to go through a blizzard that included temperatures more than 23 degrees below zero, and extremely strong winds at that. This run was also performed by Balto’s teammates, and another lead dog by the name of Togo actually transported the medicine through what was the most difficult portion of the path. But Balto is the name that gained fame for this feat, and it was well deserved. With temperatures like that, this was one dog that needed some weather-proof booties and a nice hot place to sleep!
I was trying to keep this list focused on American history, but I can’t make a list about famous dogs without mentioning the first dog to go to space! Laika was a Russian dog that went up in the satellite Sputnik 2. Her story is very sad. This adorable little astronaut arrived in space just fine, but she was never meant to come home. The Russian space exploration team had only intended for this to be a one-way trip, and the satellite she was in did not survive the re-entry to Earth. Her entry to space was able to teach space exploration groups around the world about how complex living creatures would handle space travel, so her sacrifice wasn’t for nothing.
A great many dogs served throughout the World Wars, in a lot of different ways. But Chips was the most decorated dog that served in the entire war. He was in the Army, and served as a sentry dog. This means that he helped patrol the borders of camps and kept soldiers safe from enemy attacks. He went to North Africa, France, Germany, Sicily, and Italy. At one point, Chips ran into a group of attacking men with guns, and was so fierce that the group surrendered to the American soldiers.
Chips was awarded a Silver Star and a Purple Heart, and later a Theater Ribbon, an Arrowhead, and eight battle stars. And then, three years after this wild ride in war, Chips got to go home to his original family and live out the rest of his life. I imagine he deserved the most comfortable bed by the fire that the family could find!
Heads up, pit bull lovers! Sargent Stubby is a famous pit bull who was a hero during World War I. His story of enlistment is actually pretty unlikely. He was a stray who just happened to wander into Yale University. They liked his stocky body so they made him their mascot. When the men of Yale began being drafted, many of them wanted to take their beloved mascot along. But they weren’t allowed – so they snuck him into a supply car and somehow got him to Europe without any superiors noticing!
So that’s how this war hero started his career. While he was there, he was able to alert Americans to gas attacks, he saved a young girl from a car, he attacked and captured a spy from Germany, and so much more. At one point, gas poisoning almost killed him – but he was a pit bull. Pit bulls are resilient above all else. He pulled through, and then went home after 18 months of performing one heroic deed after another. He then went on to become the mascot of Georgetown University Law School. He definitely deserved to have as many chew toys as he could ever want.
When the 9/11 attack happened in New York City, many people died. But you may not know that dogs were involved that day too. Not only were there dogs that got injured or killed that day, but there were also many dogs helping rescue people from the rubble. Among the many dogs that were heroes that day, there is one who was awarded the Hero Dog Award in 2011. Her name was Roselle, and she was a guide dog for a blind owner. On that day, she and her owner were on the 79th floor of the World Trade Center. She safely led her owner down every flight of stairs to the ground, and got him out of the building, without any injuries at all – even in all that chaos.
Here’s another amazing pit bull to put in the history books. During the Civil War, Sallie was a mascot for the 11th Infantry from Pennsylvania. She was raised during the war, having been given to a soldier when she was just four weeks old – way too little to be separated from a mother! While we have bottles and feeders to help these days, the soldiers in the infantry had to make do, and they raised Sallie to fall into step with them as they marched. Apparently, there’s even a story that Abraham Lincoln once saluted Sallie during a review.
At Gettysburg, Sallie was lost in the chaos, and the men left from her infantry found her days later, where she was guarding the fallen bodies of the soldiers. Later, at another battle, Sallie was protecting wounded men, and was killed by a shot to the head. The soldiers of her infantry actually stopped fighting to bury her right then and there, even with gunfire still happening all around them.
Not all the stories I have of famous dogs are so sad. Rin Tin Tin is the famous German Shepherd of the silent era of Hollywood films. He was actually a fighting dog as well – during the first World War, he was found on a battlefield in France. An American soldier rescued him, brought him home, and turned him into a star. He was in the movie Where the North Begins in 1923, and from there, he starred in 28 other movies. He is one of three dogs to have a Hollywood star.
During World War II, and for many years after, the Coast Guard also had their own mascot dog. Sinbad served for a full 11 years, including combat, and he was considered a full member of the Coast Guard. He signed his enlistment papers, he had his own ID number, and he was awarded over half a dozen medals during his service. He sailed on the George W. Campbell, and went to places like Africa and Asia.
The final dog that I have on this list of dogs that should be in history books is Chaser. This is a modern-day dog, so you may have heard this story. Chaser is a Border Collie that has proven that she knows, and fully understands, more than 1,000 words in the English language. If you have a pile of toys in a room that include a soft stuffed train and a rubber train that squeaks, you can tell her to find you the “squeaky rubber train”, and she will return with the correct toy. She has proven that she can count, and what’s more, she’s shown that she knows how to learn new words. Give her a pile of toys that she knows, and a stuffed monkey that she doesn’t know the word for. Tell her to give you the monkey, and she will use inference to figure out that the new word must be the toy she’s never seen before. That’s incredible, and is opening up all sorts of avenues of research into how smart dogs really are.
Last update on 2018-11-17 at 19:15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
This is not at all a complete list of every dog that should be in the history books. If it were up to me, history class would be nothing but the study of all the amazing dogs that have lived in the world. In fact, one of my favorite things is learning about famous people in history who had dogs, like Helen Keller’s pit bull Stubby, and Teddy Roosevelt’s Manchester Terrier, Blackjack. I imagine that while these people were living such incredible lives and doing historic things, they must have taken a lot of comfort in just having a dog around to keep them grounded.
You can see this happening in famous people today. Celebrities, politicians, and leaders of all kinds have dogs – like the Obamas’ Bo, Prince William’s Lupo, Stephen King’s Marlowe, and so many others I could name. In just a few decades, will these dogs be as forgotten as the ones I’ve named off today? I hope not!
If you have a great dog that deserves recognition, give them a scratch from me today!