By Robert James Taylor
Throughout the annals of history, dogs have been closely associated with the human race all over the world, in so many forms, often beloved as “man’s best friend.”
How many times have we heard the words, dedicated, faithful, loyal, brave, endurance in stories about dogs, especially rescue dogs, dogs used in war and guide dogs? They are an inseparable part of our lives: here are a few dogs that remain unforgettable in our minds.
BALTO Born 1919, Nome, Alaska Died March 1933, Cleveland. Ohio
In 1925, in snowbound Nome a deadly outbreak of contagious diphtheria occurred and the antidote was over 600 miles away in Anchorage. Conditions made flights impossible: the only way the serum could reach Nome was to use relays of dog sleds. This involved more than twenty mushers with their teams, and the final leg was with Gunner Kaassen covering over 50 miles in freezing high winds, temperatures below -40. Kaassen chose a three-year-old black Siberian Husky to be the all important leader. His name was Balto. The journey was perilous; whiteouts made navigation hopeless – Balto would have to find the way. And he did. The whole journey took six days (that normally took 30) and Balto was celebrated across the entire nation for saving the lives of many children. Balto passed away in 1933: his legacy lives on through a memorial in Central Park.
HACHIKO Born: Nov. 1923, Shibuya, Japan Died March 1935
Hachiko was an Anita Inu who lived near Odete, Japan and whose master was Professor Ueno at Tokyo University. They had become inseparable in the three years together. The Professor returned every day at the same time at the train station and each day Hachiko would be waiting at the station to greet him and accompany him home.
One day in May 1925 the Professor suffered a fatal hemorrhage at work, and Hachiko waited in vain. A former gardener took Hachiko home where he slept every night, but Hachiko returned to the train station every day at the same time. He did this every day for nine years. In 1935, Hachiko died peacefully and alone on the street in Shibuya. He is the most celebrated dog in Japan and has his own statue outside Shibuya train station.
BOBBIE Born 1923 Oregon, USA Died 1927 Portland, Oregon.
Bobbie, (often called the Wonder Dog) was a mix of Scotch Collie and English Shepherd, and belonged to the Brazier family who lived in Silverton, Oregon. In 1923, during a family road trip to Indiana, Bobbie became separated and lost. The heartbroken family, after an intensive search, returned to Silverton, never expecting to see him again.
Six months later, looking bedraggled, with feet worn to the bone, Bobbie appeared on the doorstep of his home. The journey he took during the winter covered 2800 miles. The local paper picked up the story which spread to newspapers across the country. Letters came from all over, and many confirmed the sighting of the dog from the photos published. Much later, at the Portland Home Show, 40,000 went to see Bobbie. He died, in 1927, somewhat prematurely, no doubt brought about by his arduous journey. Rin Tin Tin, the famous German Shepherd, laid a wreath at his grave.
LEX Born 1999, Texas Died 2012, Mississippi
Lex was a German Shepherd who was with his handler, US Marine Corps, Cpl. Dustin J. Lee, in Fallujah, Iraq when they were attacked. Lee was killed and Lex was seriously wounded. In spite of his wounds, Lex would not leave his partner and had to be forcefully removed to be treated by medics. Lex survived, but with such devastation, his career was over. Cpl. Lee’s parents appealed to the US Military to adopt Lex, to which they assented. Lex spent his remaining years as a therapy dog in military hospitals, still with 50 pieces of shrapnel in his body. He was awarded an honorary Purple Heart. He died of cancer in 2012.
Ed. Note: For those who might be interested, one of the most touching tributes ever penned about a dog was written, not so surprisingly, by the immortal poet, Lord Byron. It can be found on the Internet.