Posts tagged ‘history’

He isn’t too ordinary

“The dog is a very faithful animal and is held in high esteem if he isn’t too ordinary.”
.                                                                           –Martin Luther

My friend Rob pointed out the odd resemblance between these two portraits to me today.

While it might seem strange to link Martin Luther to a dog, Luther had a dog named Tolpel and though the word loosely translates as fool or lunkhead after reading dog-related quotes ascribed to the man, I get a strong sense that he was quite fond of the animal.

And in an odd bit of coincidence, the best known of these refers to a dog’s rapt attentiveness.

When Luther’s puppy Tölpel happened to be at the table, looked for a morsel from his master, and watched with open mouth and motionless eyes, he said, “Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish, or hope.
Luther’s Works, Volume 54, Table Talk (Philadelphia: 1967), pp. 37, 38. May 18, 1532

I may be a lapsed Lutheran but I agree whole-heartedly. The kind of intense, rapt attention a dog is capable of focusing on meat (or in this photo, his master) is something to aspire to.

William Graffam wrote a book for children about Tolpel’s observations on Luther which appears to be quite hard to find. I’d love to find a copy because LibraryThing lists it under the tags ‘Lutheranism’ and ‘comics’.

As I finish this post I realize that the many generations of Lutheran church basement ladies I am descended from would very heartily disapprove of the comparison I’m making.

Some things never change…

July 21, 2011 at 8:54 pm 7 comments

Vizsla a volánnál!

Vizsal at the wheel!

A wonderful bit of video from a Hungarian newsreel site via my friend Andrew who blogs over at The Regal Vizsla:


Sadly, while I could grab screenshots, the clip isn’t embed-able, but go. Watch it. I’ll wait.

In 1948 ‘special effects’ largely consisted of expert training, handling, driving and editing skills. And even though I’m sure I could see the handler’s knee guiding the wheel in one scene, I still think that this is a lot more impressive than the computer animated version we’d typically see today.

The dog in the video appears to be much darker in color than any of the modern Vizslas I’ve seen. Susu looks like a dog whose seen a bit of field work. And his attitude toward work very much reminds me of the OddMan.

We love working dogs.

June 21, 2011 at 8:15 am 2 comments

Photo Friday

Shepherd with his horse and dog on Gravelly Range Madison County, Montana, August 1942. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Russell Lee. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress Color America

From the Denver Post’s July 26, 2010 plog feature Captured: America in Color from 1939-1943.

These images, by photographers of the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information, are some of the only color photographs taken of the effects of the Depression on America’s rural and small town populations. The photographs are the property of the Library of Congress and were included in a 2006 exhibit Bound for Glory: America in Color.

August 13, 2010 at 9:23 am 6 comments

Dorsey the Mail Dog

We *heart* working dogs

Quirky travel site Legends of America brings us the story of the most famous resident of Calico, California – Dorsey the Mail Dog:

Dorsey was found in 1883 by Postmaster Jim Stacy, when the hungry and footsore black and white shepherd was lying on his porch. Stacy quickly adopted him and Dorsey became his faithful friend. In addition to his postmaster duties, Stacy also had an interest in a mine in nearby Bismarck. On one occasion, when Stacy needed to get an urgent message to his partner at the mine, he tied a note to Dorsey’s neck and sent him up there. Before long, Dorsey returned with a reply. Dorsey was soon carrying messages back and forth to the mine frequently, when Stacy had the idea to make the dog a regular mail carrier. Soon, the dog was carrying all the mail from Calico to Bismarck, bearing his load in little pouches strapped to his back. For three years, Dorsey covered the mail route between the two camps and became so valuable that Stacy was offered $500 for the dog, to which Stacy replied: “I’d rather sell a grandson.”

Dorsey’s legend was revived in a 1972 album entitled “The Ballad of Calico” by Kenny Rogers. The song was called “Dorsey, the Mail Carrying Dog.” And, of course, in haunted Calico, he has been revived in another way – the “spectral dog.” On several occasions, Dorsey has been seen as a shadow-like apparition at the cemetery and near the Print Shop that stands near the original location of the post office.


Some say Dorsey was a Scotch Collie.  He looks like he could also have been an English Shepherd or a Border Collie.  Since he was a stray and most dogs of the time were bred for purpose rather than pedigree – he could have been just about anything.  Regardless of his pedigree (or lack thereof) Dorsey was a fit, bright, hard-working dog.  The trek from Calico to Bismarck consisted of a very steep, rugged mile-long trail that the miners prefered to avoid.  Dorsey faithfully carried the mail three times a week for two years and only retired when the mine closed and his services were no longer needed.  And he performed his duties nearly flawlessly:

There is only one instance of possible misuse of his office on record. One Christmas Herman Mellen was living in a cave near Bismarck and his mother sent him a box of candy and sweets. Stacy had tied this box under Dorsey’s neck, and when he arrived at Bismarck the bottom was out and the contents missing. Whether temptation had proven too strong, the goodies had been hijacked or whether the package had broken open, allowing the contents to spill out was never determined.

When the Stacys left Calico they gave Dorsey to San Francisco financier John S. Doe, who owned interest in the mine. I hope Dorsey enjoyed a long, happy and – most of all – interesting retirement.

September 12, 2009 at 1:52 am 7 comments

Hapi Puppy

A friendship that will truly last  forever

Today Discovery News reportsthat a puppy mummified 2,300 years ago was recently discovered lying at the feet of an Egyptian mummy.  The mummy’s tomb was inscribed with the phrase “Hapi-Men” prompting University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology staff to name the young dog “Hapi-Puppy.”

The approximately 2,300-year-old puppy, revealed during a recent CT scan, is thought to be one of the world’s rarest mummified animals. Early Egyptians often preserved cats, birds and even crocodiles, but not often dogs.

Jennifer Wegner, a senior research scientist in the museum’s Egyptian section, explained to Discovery News that unlike some of the other more commonly mummified animals, the ancient Egyptians “had no dog gods, per se, although certain gods, like Anubis, could take the form of a jackal.”

“In this case, we think Hapi-Men simply wanted to be buried with his beloved pet,” she said, explaining that “Hapi-Men” translates roughly to, “The Apis bull endures,” referring to the bull god Apis.

(SmartDogs would like to point out that the statement that early Egyptians did not often preserve dogs by mummification is not entirely accurate.  While most Egyptologists do believe that pet dogs were not commonly mummified and buried with their owners – we do know that hundreds [if not thousands] of Egyptian dogs and jackals were mummified and buried to commemorate Anubis, the god of the underworld.)

The puppy, who is described as being “generally of the Jack Russell type”, may not have been terribly hapi about his own untimely demise.  While the cause of the dog’s death is not yet known, due to his youth, researchers believe that he may have been killed to accompany his master after death.

“We see this as a senseless slaughter today, but in ancient Egypt it would’ve been viewed very differently,” Monge explained. “People then felt life on Earth was very short. Hapi-Men wanted to spend all of eternity with his dog.”

hapipuppy Hapi Puppy

Hapi Puppy may be one of the most ancient mummified dogs yet discovered, but his Egyptian masters weren’t the only ancient culture that honored the bodies of their beloved canine companions after death.  Back in 2006, National Geographic reported that 43 mummfied dogs had been discovered in a thousand-year-old pre-Inca Chiribaya culture cemetery near Lima, Peru.

The researchers found 43 dogs buried in separate plots alongside their human owners, naturally preserved by the desert sands and ensconced with treats for the afterlife.

“We have found that in all the cemeteries, always, in between the human tombs there are others dedicated to the dogs, full-grown and puppies,” Guillen told the Associated Press.

“They have their own grave, and in some cases they are buried with blankets and food.”

The discovery speaks volumes about the high status the Chiribaya culture placed on the dogs, which Guillen says were prized for their skill in herding llamas.

Why does Guillen believe these were herding dogs?  In Red Orbit she is quoted as saying:

“They are dogs that were thanked and recognized for their social and familial contribution,” anthropologist Sonia Guillen said. “These dogs were not sacrificed.”


“We have found similar dogs” to the Chiribaya shepherds, he said. “But it is better to take precautions before confirming the existence of a type of original animal.”

Ricardo Fujita, a genetics researcher at Lima’s San Martin University, said the physical traits suggests a link between today’s’ short-snouted, long-haired dogs and their possible Chiribaya ancestors. But the jury is still out.

“We are conducting DNA analysis on the ancient dogs to compare them to the new ones, but it will be months before there are results for a final verdict,” he said.

BBC News reportedthat the Chiribaya shepherds looked like small golden retrievers with long, golden coats.  Even though the data appears to have been collected three years ago, I wasn’t able to find any reports on the results on the DNA testing of the Chiribaya shepherds on the web.  Oddly, several references to DNA analysis of fleas collected from the dogs were available.

Speaking of mummified dogs – has this storyabout a modern canine mummy – the Hound of Waycross.  

He (or she–now there’s no way to tell) was a four-year-old hunting dog in the 1960s. Accompanying its master on a hunt, it ran off to chase a squirrel or a raccoon. The critter must have scrambled into a hollow chestnut oak tree, because the bog did the same. Only the hound dog could not get out. It was wedged in the tree so tightly that it couldn’t move. It died.

Rather than decaying, the dog became a natural mummy due to the conditions of its “coffin.”  First, all scent of the dead dog went up the inside of the tree like a chimney. Predators and insects never got wind of the hound dog. Second, the dog’s body was well protected (and well-ventilated) in the hollow trunk. Finally, resins from the core of the tree may have helped in the dog’s preservation.

Sometime in the 1980s, loggers were cutting trees in the forest. Without knowing it, they cut down the dog’s tree and placed it on a logging truck. Then they looked inside and saw the mummified dog. Rather than send him to the sawmill, the loggers donated the dog and its tree coffin to the Southern Forest World Museum in Waycross. 

Following his or her un-hapi demise and subsequent discovery, the Hound of Waycross is now on exhibit at Southern Forest World Museum in Waycross, Georgia.

May 1, 2009 at 3:06 pm 3 comments

Dog Jack – Pitbull War Hero

It really is a small world.  Today I went to Terrierman’s excellent weblog and found this story about Dog Jack, a brown and white bull terrier that learned to understand the bugle calls of his civil war regiment.  Read more about Jack here:

In a wonderful ‘small world’ coincidence, it turns out I know the woman who trained the dog that played Jack in the soon to be released movie “Dog Jack“.  Piglet is a 3-year old deaf pit bull who was left by her “breeder” to die as a baby puppy.  Fortunately for Piglet, she was adopted by Tracy Doyle who not only saw Piglet’s potential, but who also had the training skills to make her shine.

February 13, 2008 at 5:32 am 2 comments

Because A Dog’s Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste


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